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by David Welbourn

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by Ben Kirwin profile

Fantasy, slice of life

(based on 23 ratings)
11 reviews

About the Story

Today has been an extraordinarily long day. You picked up the keys to your new apartment in the morning, you went shopping for furniture in the afternoon, and you've spent the evening putting it together.

And you're almost finished -- there's one box left.

ASSEMBLY is a story of magic and adventure. Can you assemble a small table? Can you save the world from the vengeance of ancient gods?

Content warning: supernatural themes and mild peril

Game Details


9th Place - 29th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2023)


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Number of Reviews: 11
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Most Helpful Member Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
In his House at I’kea Dead Cthulhu Waits Dreaming, December 22, 2023
by JJ McC
Related reviews: IFComp 2023

Adapted from an IFCOMP23 Review

This work is a masterful mashup of Elder Gods and Ikea-based gameplay. Sure, I know what you’re saying. “sniff At this point, haven’t we had pretty much Allll the possible Elder Gods + X mashups?” Yeah, that’s what you sound like with that question. Because NO. We have NOT had an IKEA and Elder Gods mashup, Captain Buzzkill! As with most mashups of this kind, the glee comes from the wildest possible disconnect between Elder Gods and X, where X here is deeply in the sweet spot of ridiculousness.

Assembly makes the crucial decision to commit to its bit completely and totally straight-faced. It has the (justified!) confidence of its premise to not apologize for, nor snark at, itself, the best way to completely sell the conceit. It commits not just tonally, not just as reflected in cutscene backgrounds and scene setting, but in gameplay itself.

See, if you divorce the outre’ aspects from this, what you are left with is a pitch perfect parser IKEA simulator. Not an outright reimplementation, but an interpretation that replicates the feel of the experience through the unique milieu of parser IF.

And prefab furniture is a right of passage for most young adults at this point, no? Those weirdly efficient fasteners, precisely milled parts and cartoon instructions. An endeavor that despite the exacting Nordic engineering and studied graphical communication, can go horribly wrong with the slightest misstep. Assembly distills that experience down to (usually) three precise steps that you better follow to the letter. ATTACH X to Y is the given instruction, but if you ATTACH Y to X, you are suddenly asea, falling in a deep space you only had the thinnest of tight rope wire to support you through. Just like real life if you stray from your cartoon orders! Assembly has reduced the IKEA assembly experience to its essence, distilled and streamlined it, translating it representationally to parser IF play in a way direct transcription would fail. Could you imagine a 40-step sequence of fussy parser tool work?

Then it repeats the feat with the shopping experience! The “twisty little maze” (chortle) of showroom is both unnavigable and forgiving in gameplay, giving you the essence of the box store experience without falling into parser-nav hell. You are introduced to a handful of inexplicably named furniture, then it is pure IKEA/parser gameplay. It is all very tightly integrated, paced well with a few VERY organic puzzle variations, then out before its welcome starts wearing.

It feels ungenerous to rate it shy of Mostly Seamless, because it has taken on the Herculean task of representing half a dozen or more pieces of furniture, each with multiple components and fasteners, and not falling into the “Which screw do you mean, the screw, the screw, the screw, or the screw?” trap. It is a testament to the author’s diligence and creativity that it fails so infrequently. Perhaps inevitably there are glitches though, most notably with the instruction books. Toss in a handful of unimplemented nouns and just shy is where we land.

But those complaints are nits that do not detract from the Engaging experience. The combination of inspired gameplay engineering and unblinking straightface against its ludicrous premise is winning.

“That is Not Assembed, Which Leftover Parts Can Lie”

Played: 10/9/23
Playtime: 1.5hrs, finished
Artistic/Technical ratings: Engaging, short of Mostly Seamless
Would Play After Comp?: No, experience seems complete

Artistic scale: Bouncy, Mechanical, Sparks of Joy, Engaging, Transcendent
Technical scale: Unplayable, Intrusive, Notable (Bugginess), Mostly Seamless, Seamless

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Follow the manual, November 30, 2023
by Victor Gijsbers (The Netherlands)

There’s an old chestnut in adventure games: the recipe. You’ve got to make a magic potion, and you have a recipe, and now you have to first collect the ingredients and then follow the steps of the recipe exactly… and you’ll get the potion. I’m pretty sure King’s Quest has that kind of stuff. Or maybe it’s a real recipe that you’re trying to make, as in Savoir-Faire. It’s not very engaging – usually the real gameplay is getting the ingredients, or getting things ready, and then actually following the recipe is more a little task you need to get out of the way before you get the reward. You don’t want too many of such tasks in your game. It bogs things down.

So it’s bold to build a game that is all about following instructions! Assembly is such a game, although its not recipes we’re following, but IKEA instruction manuals. It’s like having little walkthroughs in the game, telling you how to construct, and also deconstruct, many of the objects you meet. Our protagonist is good at following such rules. Indeed, they’re incredibly bad at not following rules, being unable to unscrew a light bulb without an instruction manual showing them how to do it.

This could have been very boring, but Assembly keeps the instructions short, gives us frequent rewards for successful assembly and disassembly, and, especially, gives us a series of nice puzzles around these mechanics. This is no doubt the only game where finding an IKEA instruction manual feels good – although, come to think of it, All the Troubles Come My Way has this too, so scrap that. The puzzles are good, starting with some simple ones, moving on to slightly more difficult (Spoiler - click to show)(such as the lamp puzzle), and ending with one that is both simple and over-the-top and yet completely logical, applying IKEA logic to IKEA itself, giving us the comic reward we deserved.

Well, I guess it ends with one that went the least smoothly for me, (Spoiler - click to show)because I didn’t realise there was a flatpack box in my location, and it felt a little bit like a regression after the great scene with the collapsing stacks… but that’s a nitpick. This game is fun and light-hearted. There are some Elder Gods involved, but it never goes to dark places… at least, not to dark places you can’t illuminate with a good STRĹLA.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
IFComp 2023: Assembly, October 9, 2023
by Kastel
Related reviews: ifcomp2023

This game is a box of good ideas.

All of the puzzles revolve around following IKEA instruction manuals in interesting ways. They don't test your general puzzle-solving skills but rather how well you understand the logic of the world. If you're able to internalize it, solving the puzzles feels effortless.

Every eureka moment I had deepened my appreciation of this game. It understood and exploited the greatest strength of text-only games: the ability to conjure up truly strange images. The fact it was all my doing made it better. And I also thought the gimmick didn't wear out its welcome either; it was explored just enough to feel satisfying and to keep the narrative moving forward.

While the game was never going to focus on the story, the writing and the action were quite engaging. I was curious about the world and the tantalizing little details we got seem to evoke a larger cosmology.

Assembly is a humble work of genius. For such a simple conceit, the game unfolds in so many surprising ways and I can't stress enough how clever the game is. It's a clean and refined game that's easy to get into unlike the furniture it's inspired by.

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See All 11 Member Reviews

Assembly on IFDB

Recommended Lists

Assembly appears in the following Recommended Lists:

IF for Japanese visual novel fans by Kastel
A bunch of my friends into Japanese visual novels asked me repeatedly over the months about my IF recommendations. I should actually compile them instead of being lazy as usual...

New walkthroughs for October 2023 by David Welbourn
On Sunday, October 29, 2023, I published new walkthroughs for the games and stories listed below! Some of these were paid for by my wonderful patrons at Patreon. Please consider supporting me to make even more new walkthroughs for works...


The following polls include votes for Assembly:

Outstanding Game of the Year 2023 by MathBrush
This poll is part of the 2023 IFDB Awards. The rules for the competition can be found here, and a list of all categories can be found here. This award is for the best overall game of 2023. Voting is open to all IFDB members. Eligible...

Outstanding Debut 2023 by MathBrush
This poll is part of the 2023 IFDB Awards. The rules for the competition can be found here, and a list of all categories can be found here. This award is for the best game of 2023 by a new author. Voting is open to all IFDB members....

Most Sequel-worthy game of 2023 by MathBrush
This poll is part of the 2023 IFDB Awards. The rules for the competition can be found here, and a list of all categories can be found here. This award is for the most sequel-worthy game of 2023. Voting is open to all IFDB members....

See all polls with votes for this game

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