October 11, 2019

Assemble With Care

Fixing trinkets as a metaphor for fixing relationships.

Maria helps people fix things. Objects, by trade, but perhaps more than that in practice.

Developed by the fine minds at UsTwo Games (best known for their work on the Monument Valley series), Assemble With Care is a contemplative Apple Arcade game about fixing people’s things.

Stage by stage, we’re introduced to two main families in the town of Bellariva, and the game uses puzzles to reveal glimpses of their lives.

By repairing one thing or another for them—solving the puzzles—Maria listens and observes, witnessing and eventually helping smooth over their interpersonal struggles.

She’s running from something herself, and the entire game is a journey through learning to help yourself by helping others.

This all sounds weighty, but the game isn’t sombre by any means. It’s a gentle, quiet story without shocking turns, just substantial enough to make each puzzle feel meaningful.

There are only about a dozen stages in total, with visual novel style story portions in between them. Each object typically requires you to disassemble, observe, replace broken parts, and re-assemble. With care, of course.

Some puzzles take things a bit further, asking you to react to what another character is asking you to do, or experiment with possible combinations and approaches.

The difficulty never spikes, making it an accessible game for younger and less experienced players too. It took me about half an hour or so to play through it one afternoon.

Attention to Detail

Part of what makes iOS such a perfect platform for these sorts of games is the directness of touch.

Other games in the genre have undermined this tactile advantage by limiting the speed at which you can interact with or move objects. This feels frustrating in the heat of a puzzle as the solution finally opens up to you. Suddenly it feels like you aren’t able to solve it at the speed of thought—you have to do it at the pace the game allows for.

I was very pleased to see that Assemble With Care allows you to move as quickly or as slowly as you want. You can make your way through things at your own pace, without feeling like you’re being held back or going too fast.

This attention to detail at the gameplay level is mirrored in the design too; Maria is careful to put loose screws from the various contraptions into a dish so they don’t get lost, and the game uses a mug of coffee to trigger the pause menu—a coffee break.

I also want to draw your attention to the absolutely impeccable sound design in the game. Each interaction feels authentic, the music transitions smoothly from one area to the next, and the fully voiced characters are (mostly) convincing in their performances.

Making Connections

Assemble With Care is a game that uses fixing trinkets as a metaphor for fixing relationships.

It’s a brief, beautiful puzzle game about human connection, and is well worth a play.

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