Can we fix it? Yes, we can!
I’m such a sucker for a pretty game.
I didn’t know much about Assemble With Care when it found its way to my Steam wishlist, but I knew one thing for certain: the graphic design was gonna be fire.
Developed and published by ustwo games, the same team that brought the mobile hit Monument Valley years prior, Assemble With Care had a lot to live up to, both visually and mechanically. Could it compete with its predecessor? And, most importantly (for me at least) — would the PC port of this mobile game look as good as it does on an iPhone?
Let’s start at the beginning.
Assemble With Care follows the story of Maria, a repairwoman funding her travels through restoration projects. Having been on her journey for a year already by the time she hit the small beach town of Bellariva, she had been looking forward to a nice vacation. As the saying goes, however, there’s no rest for the weary, and she soon finds herself with more work than she knows what do to with, meeting colorful characters along the way. Can you help Maria fix up the precious items of Bellariva’s inhabitants… and maybe something more?
Controls in Assemble With Care are straightforward enough, as it’s overwhelmingly mouse-based. By clicking on items to manipulate them, you can rotate them to see specific angles, use a screwdriver by moving the mouse left or right to loosen or tighten, respectively, and connect wires to ensure electricity flow, amongst other things. Straightforward doesn’t mean seamless, however; there were more than a few times when I’d mean to click to perform a specific task, only for the cursor to change as I migrated a pixel over, performing a different task entirely. I think the developers did well in terms of porting controls, but I couldn’t help but wonder if Assemble With Care was easier on a touchscreen.
The storyline is short but sweet and absolutely brimming with feel-good charm. As the days progress, aforementioned travelling repairwoman Maria uncovers a few broken families during her jobs, such as two estranged sisters or a father and daughter duo coping with the loss of the mother. As Maria fixes items precious to them, like a tape of the mother’s voice singing a precious lullaby or the projector that housed a slideshow of happier sisterly memories, the people begin to realize they need to fix themselves and the relationships that matter most. In turn, Maria does some reflection of her own, and decides to mend the loose ends she’d left untied over a year ago.
Although the story takes the steering wheel for the bulk of the experience, Assemble With Care is a story-driven puzzle game, with the items requiring repair being the puzzles. The level design was pretty balanced, all things considered, making me feel like I was an experienced restorer despite never having pulled apart any of these items in real life. As each level got progressively more difficult, I found myself reaching for Google only once or twice to look at solutions and completed the entire game in a minute shy of two hours.
The aesthetics in Assemble With Care were delightfully refreshing. Rarely does my graphic-designer husband take an interest in the random indie games I play, but this one had him glued to my screen. The painted backgrounds play with lighting and shadows so gloriously, I had to stop myself from taking so many photos. I felt my mood immediately elevated after some of the more colorful levels, then back down to a soothing calmness in some of the quieter ones. I thoroughly enjoyed the voice acting — the voice actors gave off the exact personalities they were aiming for. The tired dad sounded like a tired dad, the way-too-cool-to-be-legal woman was captivating, and the frazzled cafe owner had stress yet hope in her voice with a ton of range. These characters definitely came to life on screen!
In addition to the slight control frustrations, I do have a few complaints with Assemble With Care, and I’m a little gutted to say that the graphic design was not at all what it could have been. The spacing is noticeably off when it comes to text — the blocks of text are often too far from the accompanying image. When comparing shots between PC and Mobile, it’s easy to see that the Mobile version simply did it better. In any other game, I might let that slide, but it’s abundantly clear that’s what Assemble With Care was going for, so to miss the mark when all that effort was made felt like tripping at the finish line. Check it out:
Honestly this example is pretty passable, all things considered, but it’s what I could find to compare. The spacing between images didn’t bother me at first, but as time went on, it just got more and more noticeable to the point where, had there not been a voiceover reading the text, I would have been too bothered by the spacing to take in what I was reading.
I don’t want to end this review on a low note, because I firmly believe the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to Assemble With Care, so I will say this — attention to detail elsewhere in the game is absolutely charming. My favorite example is the level where Maria fixes a little girl’s handheld video game console, which holds a remarkable likeness to the GameBoy Advance SP. In Assemble With Care, each item, when fixed, shows the brand and name of the item in question, and the “Nintendo GameBoy” was actually referred to as a “Yokoi Pop ‘n’ Play,” referencing both Gunpei Yokoi and his creation, the “Game & Watch,” or Nintendo’s first portable console. Cute!
In all honesty, I wish I had experienced Assemble With Care on my iPhone before playing it on my PC. I don’t regret the experience and still think this is a gem worth playing no matter what the platform, but knowing it was far more beautiful and more intuitive on another device that I own makes me wonder if I’d had a better time with this title. Still, I urge you to pick up Assemble With Care, even on PC, for a touching story about second chances with those we hold dearest to us and that, if it’s worth keeping, it’s worth fixing.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: iOS, PC (reviewed); Developer: ustwo games; Publisher: ustwo games; Players: 1; Released: March 26, 2020; MSRP: $7.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a Steam review copy of Assemble With Care purchased by the reviewer