Instructions not required
One of the great things about the mobile platform is it’s ripe with opportunities for developers who want to create small, narrative-driven or experimental games. One of the worst things about the mobile ecosystem is it’s largely unsupportive of these types of games, with only a handful able to get any sort of traction in a largely free-to-play world.
That, to me, seems to be the great promise of Apple Arcade; that it gives developers the opportunity to stop worrying about monetizing their games and just focus on being as creative as they can be. Assemble With Care is a perfect example of the bright future this subscription service holds.
Assemble With Care (iOS)
Developer: ustwo games
Publisher: ustwo games
Released: September 19, 2019
MSRP: Part of Apple Arcade ($4.99 a month)
Ustwo games is known for its short but memorable mobile experiences and Assemble With Care is no exception. Playing as Maria, a handywoman on a well-earned vacation in the town of Bellariva, you’ll assist a quartet of people who need help not only fixing their things but repairing their broken relationships as well. Assemble With Care is a narrative puzzle game that follows Maria as she repairs phones, watches, handheld video games, and more while learning the significance behind each item.
None of the puzzles in this 90-minute game will provide any sort of trouble or challenge to players, but there is something exceptionally soothing about fixing the various knick-knacks in need of repair. The repair process is generally self-explanatory and Maria inexplicably always has the right materials for the task at hand, but I find a sense of serenity as I pull apart each item and put it back together.
Perhaps it’s because I live in an era where people generally don’t fix anything. Everything from televisions to phones to chairs to cameras is made to be easily replaceable. Something breaks and you just get a new one online. Some things are nearly impossible to self-repair, such as the iPad I played this game on. I think growing up in an environment like that has fostered an inability in me to form meaningful attachments to the objects I buy. Last month when the vinyl on my headphones started to chip, headphones I really liked, I instantly threw them away and ordered a new pair from Best Buy. It never even occurred to me to see if I could replace that part.
With quality touch controls, replacing the parts on the broken items in Assemble With Care is a breeze. The storybook presentation of the narrative comes alive with unique character art, children’s book voice acting, and a soundtrack that would be perfect for one of those YouTube videos that play music you can study to. An additional track by soul singer Martha High, though anachronistic, serves to enhance one of the key poignant moments of the story.
Don’t expect a great deal of emotional depth here though. Ustwo chose to keep things light in service of creating a purely pleasant experience. All-in-all, Assemble With Care is a quaint game and a splendid diversion from the rest of the Apple Arcade lineup. It’s not the type of game people are going to subscribe to the service just to play, but it is a wonderful supplement to the more time-consuming titles available.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game through an Apple Arcade subscription purchased by the reviewer.]