Assemble With Care (2020)

Games that can be completed in a single sitting are usually fairly pretty personal stories, and you can get the sense that Assemble With Care is one of those types. While it is a very sweet story of a repair woman who is alone in a new small village, you get exactly what the overall theme of the game is quickly and it’s not something that is unique to small indie games of the last few years.

Assemble With Care stars Maria, a repair woman by trade, who loves to travel around and ends up in a small ocean side town called Belleriva. She settles into the hotel with a single suitcase and a couple flyers. While posting fliers, she is asked by a small girl who needs help with a small object, it isn’t working, and you help fix it for her. The game has those interstitial characters, where it just so happens that the very few people you meet, all come together into a single story, and you realize they all help each other in the end. Luckily this is the worst part of the game, it just all feels very simple and too much like it was all planned and written, instead of coincidental. It’s just all a bit too simplistic of a story.

Maria helps the girl, who in turn is the Mayor’s daughter. The mayor needs help fixing a couple family heirlooms, which in turn show that his family is falling apart after his wife has died. While repairing the heirlooms, you give off some whimsical stranger wisdom that completely restores all the relationships. Same with the local cafe, who needs help with making sure the cafe doesn't close down. It just so happens the owner’s sister is coming into town, and wouldn’t you know it, they are having problems in their relationship, and also need things fixed. While fixing it, they learn that even though they are different, they are family and they shouldn’t let the small things get in the way of the love they have for each other.

Then the Big festival takes place, where the mayor judges all the local restaurants. Luckily you are there to help make the winning soup that the mayor and his daughter love, and get the sister’s cafe an award that brings business in, so it doesn’t close down… and off you go to play Mary Poppins in the next town and teach the next village how to love each other. But before you leave, the locals taught you something in return too, that family is important, and you haven’t spoken to your parents for over a year, and it’s time to bury the hatchet.

Like I said, it’s all very simplistic, weaves in between each character that you help, to where it all comes together at the end, and the very small hints that there might be hurt and resentment in your own life comes out at the last moments, kinda out of nowhere. It just is something that isn’t very unique, but probably very personal to the writer/director of the game. And I can’t fault that too much. It’s sad that these same themes and story elements pop up in so many different games, because it really is the same stories over and over again.

Other than the small issue I personally have with the story itself. The game really is just a beautiful little small game. The artstyle of the pastel and painted brush strokes feel refreshing, as someone’s artistic talents are really being displayed. Same with the vocal direction and sound design of the game. For something so minimalistic, the voice acting is honestly phenomenal and doesn’t feel forced. It feels natural and bubbly, like the characters really are that whimsical or downtrodden. They feel like real people and not just some made up archetype character design.

The narration and sound effects in the cutscenes really are the majority of the game, you can tell the director wanted to tell a story more than make a game, but the single mechanic of repairing is directly tied into the game’s story. You are a repair person, and while repairing things, you get little pieces of story while fixing. Maybe it’s my own personal life that made the mechanics a bit too simple as that’s what I pretty much have done since I was a kid was take things apart and fix them. Every item you repair needs to have the screws taken out, dis-assemble the item, diagnose the issue and repair, usually by just taking the damaged part out and replacing it with a new part. Then testing it to make sure it works and reassembling it and screwing it all back together. It never takes more than just a few minutes at most, and again is fairly straightforward.

That leads to the game only taking 90 minutes to complete with the 13 main chapters, and a single epilogue as well. Indie games get different expectations from me because they are much smaller designed games. Assemble With Care is a VERY small game that wants to tell a specific story, and has a single game mechanic attached to it. It’s what makes Video Games as a whole fun and interesting, it isn’t trying to just copy the formula for a shooter or JRPG, it’s doing its own thing. I really enjoyed the game, it's beautiful, sweet and sincere in a way most games aren’t. 90 minutes is nothing in terms of experiencing a story, and to be able to enjoy someone’s art, whether that is visual or as a story, is always something I’ll gravitate towards instead of just picking up whatever some boardroom decided would be the best to market to the broadest demographic. I want many more games like Assemble with Care. I'll take a personal piece of art like it any day of the week.