Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto
Let’s get this out of the way; Main Assembly will simultaneously make you feel very smart and very, very stupid. It combines a little bit of Portal, Banjo Kazooie Nuts & Bolts, and Kerbal Space Program. Initially, you boot up the tutorial and you are given a brief glimpse into the surface level that Main Assembly can offer. You control a small (customizable) drone that can squeeze through gaps and attach themselves to vehicles or objects. You must flip over a car; then you’re allowed to dock to it, giving you full control, then you drive it to its destination and leave for a new area. You’re not meant to grow attached to the car and you’re taught to change them regularly to be more efficient. This is a great way of introducing you to the universe.
The tutorial voice and world feel very much like the world of Portal; there’s this weird dark undertone below the bright lights and quirky music that realistically ties back to the uncanny valley, everything feels so human, yet there are none in sight. This is a fully functioning world without anyone to see it. You and your equipment are dealt with like stock and can be changed as needed. This opens the world up to humour that feels both alien and rather warm. It’s funny but not over the top and has references to pop culture without shoving them in your face, much like the aforementioned Portal.
Rage against the machine
After tutorial levels introducing you to how cars control and are spawned, you’re taught about some of the more complex aspects of Main Assembly. The chassis of each vehicle is entirely customizable and so too is the programming. You are given cars with issues and are told to fix them and while initially this just involves adding wheels or a chair, it later comes to include customizing the chassis and much much more. Making a car that’s 7 feet tall entitled “Long Boi” or a tiny tank with eight huge wheels really expresses how far this system can go. The chassis can simply be pulled to fit parameters, and new angles and joints can be added to increase the options available.
Speaking of options, there are plenty to be found in Main Assembly. Pressing “P” when you’re building opens up the vehicle’s programming. In here, you must assign certain controls to certain actions like W = Power forward. Going through and testing each part when there’s a mistake or intuitively figuring out why things don’t work is perhaps the most rewarding concept in the entire game.
Danger, Will Robinson
Making mistakes is an essential part of how Main Assembly works and is fully embraced by its design. Getting to use your creativity and knowledge as you learn can make way for impressive inventions such as moving mechs and flying planes. It thoroughly encourages you to build the most impressive thing you can imagine while using a wide array of joints and motors. It’s easy to envision a community for this much like the kind that made a working calculator in Minecraft.
This is a game that will be wildly different after the first year as more minds come together and figure out how the game ticks. Main Assembly looks and runs very well with minor issues, and there are promises to add much more content over the next year. I’ve been enjoying myself immensely, and I know I’ve only just scratched the surface.
[Reviewed on PC]