'Assembloids', eh? What's that all about? Well, I was about to find out, as I turned on the Atari Lynx ROM emulator and fired up the…wow, what's this? Those graphics! That funky music! "This is probably going to be quite a fun experience," I thought to myself. Thankfully, I was right. As part of the 30th anniversary of the Atari Lynx gaming competition, the Prior Art group has created this neat little Lynx puzzler that is easy to get into, but a challenge to master… just like any good puzzle game! Lynxers… get ready to "make some faces"!
So, what is the title 'Assembloids' all about? Ostensibly, 'Assembloids' has the player forming "faces" from animal facial parts and pieces, in order to create the most complete pictures possible. This is essentially the "assemble" part of the game. The better the creature's face looks, the more points you get, and you'll get to slowly advance to the next level. Put the wrong piece on a face, and you'll start to make some pretty creepy creations! But keep moving forward… you might even get to make a complete face! Oh, and watch out: if you "waste" a move, or try to place a face-piece on a part of a head that's already formed, that'll land you a "Bad Move" comment… a lost life… and maybe it will end your game!
Assembloids looks good. Really good. The first thing that hits you are those introductory screens, and boy does the lynx (animal) and the title screen animation look stylish! It sets the scene for what's to come, which comes first in the form of a neat menu screen (with digitized faces of the developers for you to discover!). Then, if you like, you can launch straight into the game, where you will be confronted with the cartoony "face pieces" you need to construct in order to score points. When formed, these pictures are humorous animal images, in the form of a pig, wolf, eagle or lizard. Best of all, they are large! This makes them easy to see, which is perfect for someone like me (where eyesight is an issue). I didn't see any other animal types as I advanced, but maybe that's not a problem; you need to memorize these faces fast in order to play more efficiently!
The music accompanying this game is actually extremely cool. It's basically bangin'. I hadn't heard such nice digitized music coming out of the Lynx since 'Power Factor' (you need to wait for the credits to hear that track!). In fact, the music almost sounds like it could belong in one of the iterations of 'Sonic the Hedgehog'. I thought it might be isolated to the title screen, but incredibly, the game also has a stellar in-game soundtrack (rare on Lynx puzzlers!). Big surprise, bigger ear candy! It's also worth mentioning two other pluses: (1) digitized sounds (That pig! That eagle!), and, amazingly, - (2) an in-game volume controller! I think it's the first time we have seen such a thing on the Atari Lynx! You can adjust the music volume to low or high if you like. But you'll probably want to play the soundtrack loud, as it's seriously sweet to the ears.
The game is very easy to control because you are given strong instructions from the get-go. This is because the starting menu screen is a kind of "cross shape" where you can access HOW (how to play), WHO (the game-making team) and select the number of lives you want. Then you can launch straight into the game. It's going to take most players a little bit of time to understand how the game works and controls (I made a few mistakes early on). But after a while, things are fairly easy to pick up. There's really not a lot to remember: just move the face parts left, right, up or down. You will soon form faces, and you are on your way. Simples!
Where the game has the most "oomph" is in the challenge stakes. This game is difficult. Not because it is hard to play… no, no, no. It is tough challenge-wise, and it'll make your palms sweaty - which is a good thing! You are going to have to put in some serious practice in order to create a menagerie of pigs, wolves and eagles to match your puzzling goals. Making a "full face" is as rare as hen's teeth (I have animals on the brain after playing this game). But amazingly, the game will give you a password code as you are hit with the "Game Over" screen, as well as a QR symbol. No, I don't know what that QR does, but it's another amazing contemporary step for a system that is 30 years old and still learning new tricks.
We have heard a lot of strengths - so, are there any weaknesses to 'Assembloids'? I must admit, there aren't many. My only constructive criticism is that I wanted to be immersed more slowly into the game. I felt it was too frantic, too early. Now, some are going to love that about the game, as it gives the game a kind of immediacy. But for me, a "pick up and play" game needs a bit more hand-holding to keep me playing in long stretches. It would have been nice to have some optional slow "tutorial" levels (in a separate zone), or perhaps have customizable difficulty. Still, maybe I'm being a bit of a weakling and I need to put my game-face back on… bring everything, you zany pigs, wolves, eagles and lizards!
To me, 'Assembloids' is another new Atari Lynx classic. Yes, I said it. Though I would have liked a less steep challenge gradient, there is absolutely no denying the sheer quality of this game. Puzzle fans will love it, and everyone else will be drawn in by the game's style, substance and ingenuity. It is a cracking achievement by Prior Art, and a game that is 100% worth checking out as a downloadable ROM and regular Lynx play. And I think it has hands down the best music and sound of a Lynx release I have heard this year, as well as many previous years. In the next few weeks and months, I would not be shocked if 'Assembloids' is on the list of many Lynx fans' top puzzle games. It certainly beats several original release Lynx puzzlers I can think of. Stop reading this review right now and get assembling!
What a year the Lynx has had.Score Card
This review was submitted by Jon Mc from JMac Productions