Friday, 17 July 2009

'And Yet It Moves' review for Game-Debate

If you were gaming at any point before or during the mid 90's it's very likely you will have played at least one 2D platformer. Probably having aligned yourself to a particular game during the great console war of the time. If you were a SEGA person this would have been Sonic the Hedgehog, while a Nintendo gamer would have been playing Super Mario. Those die hard fans of the PC would argue that there was even a third option, Dizzy the Egg.

We all know the format. Get from one end of the level to the other by running, jumping and generally avoiding anything that can cause death. You may enjoy your 3D graphics and your action adventures but in our hearts we probably all still enjoy the delights of an easily accessible, 2D adventure.

This is where 'And Yet It Moves' (AYIM) comes in.

The game began life as a university Computer Science project, which ended up winning awards at various independent game events. From this success the guys behind AYIM decided to work on a full version of the game and now it's available for you to play.

What's it all about then?

Well, as mentioned, it's a 2D platformer, but it's a bit different to the norm – you could say it turns the genre upside down, which it does quite literally. Not only do you run and jump but by pushing the directional keys you can rotate the level by 90 degrees at a time. This mechanic adds a novel puzzle element to the game – the ability is useful and often essential.

Think that cliff face is too high to jump down? Why not rotate the world round so you can simply walk down it? Simple ay? Well it is to begin with, but AYIM gets increasingly difficult as you progress further into the game.

Here in the real world, gravity of course makes things move downwards. It's why we don't go floating off to an early death in space when we jump. AYIM uses this idea, the fact that gravity causes things to fall (not the space death thing), during some of the puzzles. You'll need to rotate the world around in order to feed monkeys, light fires and in one case even escape from a strange hamster beast. These challenges do involve a bit of thinking while still being good fun.

However, when you reach the later stages of AYIM the game often crosses the fine line between challenging and frustrating. You'll often see your little paper man being ripped apart after being squashed, falling too far or being set on fire because you haven't quite correctly timed that jump or rotation. There are plenty of checkpoints and unlimited lives, so at least you don't have to play through entire levels again and again just because of a small mistake. Still, trying that jump for the 5th time and dying, again, can be annoying.

The beautiful graphics more than make up for any frustrations: the worlds are put together with a unique paper collage style. Each image, be it an object, plant or animal has been taken directly from a photograph and the result is very easy on the eye. There are so many pleasing colours that each world is a joy to play through. Both the ambient sound of each level and the music are also charming. The clicks and the pops occasionally made me think of Doug (a Nickelodeon cartoon from the 1990's for those that don't know him.)

One minor criticism is that there is no story linking the levels together into a cohesive whole. You are just making sure your little paper man makes it to the end of the level. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, because it's the graphics and gameplay are the main focus of AYIM. However, I would have been interested to see an over-arcing story pulling everything together.

The game is a bit on the short side with a completion time of about six hours. However there are reasons for replaying. Once you have completed a level you have the option of playing it in competition mode. This is essentially a time trial mode where you can upload your score to online leaderboards. There are also achievements to complete offering up plenty of scope for replay, and you may want to do this anyway just to look at all the pretty colours again. It's certainly worth the $14.95 Gamersgate price tag.

And Yet It Moves is a fun game to play, with the rotation element definitely making the game unique. Casual platformers may be happier sticking to a more traditional game, but if you like your games challenging this should certainly be in your collection.

The icing on the cake is that this is an independent production, so you get a warm, fuzzy feeling when you buy it.

(Orginally written for Game-Debate and published on 14/05/09)

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