Welcome to This Is Not A Review. In these articles we discuss general impressions, ideas and thoughts on any given game, but as the title implies, it’s not a review. Instead, it’s an exercise in offering a quick recommendation (or dismissal) after spending enough time to grasp the ideas and gameplay of a thing without necessarily playing it from A to Z.

The subject of this installment: Assembly Required, developed and published by MUTT Studio.

Assembly Required is a simulation/sandbox Tower Defense game in which the player controls a furniture business.

Gameplay involves selecting one of several furniture types,  such as chairs, toy kits and dinner tables, and utilizing them to create maze-like levels in the same way Tower Defense titles ask players to shepherd incoming enemies. Instead of destroying enemies as they attempt to infiltrate your base (in this case, quite humorously, a complaint booth) customers run out of cash spent on furniture as they collapse.

Having a challenging game forego life-or-death situations with violent mechanics can be very refreshing, and it’s one of the reasons I often find myself playing sports titles or puzzlers — it’s sometimes nice to get away from combat mechanics and I think there’s much potential in the idea of giving a Tower Defense title a capitalistic, ‘Tycoon‘-style approach. Here, customers walk through a maze of furniture instead of having enemies walking past gun turrets. However, AR was a chore to play.

To start with, I found the presentation to be awful and the art style lacking thanks to a boring, office-like environment. The yellow employees were also offputting — they’re reminiscent of Despicable Me‘s minions as they do weird dances on desks and seem to belong in a different game.

The audio is annoying thanks to irritating sounds from these yellow employees. The dialogue is cringeworthy with lines like “Send your career into the stratosphere!” and “Mo’ money, Mo’ problems!”, and the sound effects made me want to turn the volume off entirely.

As for gameplay, I found it tough to get into, with too many menus and options from the start — it was too much information given at one time, and overcomplicated the basics.

However, what ultimately made Assembly Required a miss for me were the underlying mechanics. The core of play is similar to most Tower Defense games – the player has to make the route ‘enemies’ travel between a starting point and a finishing point as long as possible, which meant that I had to make my customers run in circles. Unfortunately, I felt limited in creating pathways because the furniture used to create paths and barriers felt too large for the available area.

Tower Defense fans might find a thrill here thanks to how unconventional it all is, but I couldn’t get past these various issues, in addition to long loading screens and a high frequency of crashes. Assembly Required has interesting ideas and novelty, but I’d rather go to Ikea on a Saturday than play it again.

— David Bakker

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