Developer Ustwo, known for its charming puzzle game Monument Valley, released Assemble With Care exclusively on Apple Arcade in September of last year and now PC owners can play it via Steam. In this puzzle game, players follow globe-trotting fixer-upper extraordinaire Maria, who has just ventured off to the quaint town of Bellariva to feed her urge to travel and maybe find some work along the way.
The player is immediately introduced to the game's main mechanics through the introductory sequence, letting the player pack Maria's suitcase as each trinket and belonging is explained via a monologue narrated by Maria herself. The introduction sets the tone of the game, offers some backstory to the main character, and let's one get set up for what's to come.
Once in Bellariva, Maria hands out flyers across town to try and get some much-needed work and it's all visualised through hand-drawn graphics that reminded us of old children's novel illustrations as Maria narrates what's going on and soothing music plays in the background. This tone is maintained throughout the experience and has one feeling completely at peace. We found ourselves in an almost meditative state as we went through the game's thirteen levels and never once did we skip any narrated dialogue simply because it was so calming, almost as if we were being read a relaxing story.
Maria's flyers quickly bring results, as she's approached by a young girl almost immediately. The youngling is distressed and tells Maria that she has a job for her. After looking through her backpack, the girl pulls out a cassette deck. It's broken and she has no idea to fix it. Not to fret, little one; Maria's got your back.
It starts off easy enough, but wow, there's some instant nostalgia at play here. Equipped with nothing but a pair of batteries, a screwdriver and a pencil, we get to work. The little girl hasn't gotten used to changing the batteries in her electronics, so we start with the basics. We pick up the cassette deck by clicking on it and drag it around with our mouse to rotate it. There it is, the battery compartment, which is screwed shut. Clicking our screwdriver, we hone in on the lone screw holding the batteries inside. Then, by clicking the screw while holding our screwdriver and sliding the mouse in the opposite direction of the thread, we succeeded in getting those pesky old batteries out of their trap.
Following that, we trace our steps back, changing the batteries out for spares, putting the lid back on the compartment, grabbing the screw from the cup we kept it in and then closing it shut. This is really as complicated as it gets mechanics-wise. You simply click, drag and slide your mouse around. As a matter of fact, we played through the entire game using one hand on our laptop trackpad as we sipped a cup of tea held in the other.
With the cassette deck all fixed up, it's time to fix the tape that dwelled within it, and it's easy as pie. Grabbing the pencil, we push it in and rewind the tape, sliding the escaped tape back into the shell. The girl, standing over Maria's shoulder, is astounded. "How did you do that? I didn't see!" she exclaims.
While simple, the puzzles are extremely satisfying to complete, not just because it's clear how much time the developers have spent perfecting them, but also because of all of the aspects accompanying the puzzles. As one plays around with small parts of broken electronics and trinkets, one will be enjoying beautiful, hand-drawn visuals, subtle animations, a beautiful soundtrack, the occasional charming piece of dialogue, and the narrative beats that break up the gameplay are lovely as a pause from one's intense repair work. The narrative is actually surprisingly deep, telling a story about faltering relationships and the road to fixing them.
During our time we helped the mayor and his daughter by fixing trinkets dear to them, which helped them remember someone they'd lost. We even helped bring two quarrelling sisters back together and exploring these characters and their stories was immensely satisfying, as was solving the puzzles themselves.
Assemble With Care is a very short experience, so don't hop into the game thinking you'll get 10+ hours of puzzles to solve. We took our time with the game and clocked in at almost exactly two hours, but we would absolutely play it through again. Sure, the puzzles might be the same as they were and we'd most likely remember where every cog and screw fit, but we found the experience to be so heartwarming and calming that when the credits rolled, we just wanted to keep on playing. Fulfilled and yet yearning for more, we packed our suitcase and departed from Bellariva. If only we had been able to stay there for just a little longer.
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