Restore. Every now and then I pluck the watch apart and fix it. It only takes a few minutes. The backplate with its four screws and engraving that reads, “Love always.” The cracked movement with its gold and silver. The face, untouched, and the shattered crystal. It’s a brisk business, and very easy on the ear. The busy whir of the screwdriver, the dance of screws in the china cup that keeps them from getting away, the rushing, back-and-forth tick of the watch itself springing to life, so many parts meshing to create something entirely whole. Restore, the game says, and in some quiet way… This is the pleasure and the privilege of fixing things.
In Ustwo’s Assemble with Care, the watch is not simply a watch – it’s also a key to the watch’s owner and the relationship they had with the person who gave it to them. In UsTwo’s next game, Alba: A Wildlife Adventure, you go bird-spotting on a beautiful Catalonian island, and the birds are not simply birds. They are the first interaction with nature, the start of a journey that leads to tidying the place up and starting to understand it. There’s a story here, in which you collect signatures to stop a posh hotel being built on a nature reserve, but the real narrative is one of re-engagement. You start to notice the natural world and uncover its various pieces. You seek to restore. Again, the pleasure and the privilege of fixing things.
Pinar del Mar is a wonderfully snug open world, but it’s also the Spanish holiday island of everyone’s dreams: small enough to come to inhabit in the mind, but varied, with a church, an old fort, farmland, lakes, a town centre with cafes and shops and a bleached promenade. Flamingo inflatables are hitched to metal racks on sale down by the sea, while real flamingos totter and stalk through the reeds inland. There’s a forest where the trees create cool shadows on the sand. There are cats rolling around in the heat and napping under faded canopies.