Developer: Broke Indie Guys
Price: $0.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPod Touch

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★☆☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★★½
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★½
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★½

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Remember when you were a kid and you had all those building blocks? I’m not talking about the giant squares with the letters on them, but rather the triangles, rectangles and all those other crazy shapes that you could use to build genuinely cool structures. Assemblage is a lot like those blocks, tasking you not with tearing things down, but rather building them up. The best thing about it is that this is one of those games that brings out the kid in you, while still challenging you at every turn to build a sturdy structure.

Each level in Assemblage starts with a bunch of set blocks already in the play area and then a set number of shapes which you must integrate into the stage. The trick is that you have to use every block provided, and once they’re all in place the whole structure must remain standing for five seconds before your victory is counted. Thus it’s not as simple as throwing a bunch of shapes in a pile, but rather figuring out how all those disparate parts fit together into one cohesive unit. Call it architecture lite, but with less math and fewer lives on the line if you screw up.

What makes the game truly entertaining is the fact that in a lot of stages there is no right answer. If you and a friend went after the same level then you’d likely solve it in totally different ways, which adds a lot to the replay value. This is one of those games which truly rewards creative lateral thinking, and there’s no greater joy than when an unorthodox plan clicks together to help you pass a previously impossible challenge. It’s simple, but it’s also a great deal of fun.

The only real problems with Assemblage are the bland visuals and a music loop so annoying you’ll want to pull your own ears off after a few minutes. While the simplistic graphics can be dismissed as trying to capture a certain childlike aesthetic, there is absolutely no excuse for this grating music loop. Thankfully you can override the soundtrack by starting up your iTunes music, but the inability to simply mute the sound entirely without muting your device is still an oversight.

One other tricky issue that may frustrate some gamers is the fact that each level doesn’t unlock until you’ve beaten the one before it, so no skipping ahead if you’re stuck. The general gamer retort to such an issue is “stop sucking so much,” but that’s never really been a fair request to make of the gaming populace at large.

Ultimately, Assemblage does a great job of capturing both the simplicity and complexity of building something and making it last. The game is challenging but never frustrating, and once you pick it up it’s rather hard to put down. Simple yet sophisticated, it has all the hallmarks of a truly great iOS game.

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