30: And Yet It Moves

Hello and welcome to another exciting edition of Indie Platforming Hour with your host: a great big pixellated retro face. Joining me today is the Indie Platformer known as And Yet It Moves, or AYIM for short. Nearly everyone has acquired this at some point, it’s been part of numerous bundles and as far as I can tell hundreds of people got it purely for that Steam winter achievement. Looking further at the achievements gives an illuminating insight into just how many people have got the game with no intention of ever actually playing it: while 34% have finished chapter 1 (the first half hour), only 4% have finished chapter 2 (the next hour). With that in mind, let’s see how it stands up to prolonged play.

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Every Indie Platformer needs a gimmick, and AYIM has gone for the old favourite of gravity control. This is implemented differently than in VVVVVV, as it’s not just the gravity flipping but the whole world spinning, either 90 degrees clockwise or anticlockwise. At its most basic you are a glorified mountain goat, scrambling up vertical walls, wandering along the ceiling, with a simple flick of the rotation switch. As the game goes on the challenges increase and multiply and so you find yourself being flung around at increasing velocities. The thing that makes it difficult though is not the obstacles you have to navigate, but the flimsiness of your character. Should he slam into the earth at any speed above a light trot, he disintegrates in a shower of limbs. Or he could be set on fire, attacked by bees, or just fall off the map into nothingness. Mostly, though, it’s the disintegration, you’re essentially trying to find the fastest safe route through the universe. Checkpoints are frequent and for this I give thanks, it fits into the good side of the difficulty curve because of this. Yes, you die, you die a lot, but because failure isn’t punished beyond “try it again” and because those save points happen so often, there’s reduced scope for frustration.

Reduced, though, not entirely eliminated. Despite the simplicity of the controls, I found it very hard to intuitively know whether I wanted to spin the world left or right. Every time I came back to the game I had to reacclimatise, earning many horrible unintentional deaths for my troubles. It’s not a gamestopper but I don’t think the central mechanic is as elegant as something like Braid or VVVVVV, with their binary switches of up/down, where it was always obvious what button you had to press to do what you wanted. The relatively analogue idea of spinning around just doesn’t fit as well in my head, though that may just be me.

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Excellently, there is no plot whatsoever. You just spawn as paper guy, and try and get to the end of the level. When you have completed all the levels, you win. Take note, Indie guys! “But what are you meant to keep playing for if not for a paper thin terrible plot”, you may be wondering, your slack jaw filling with rain as you forgot the umbrella again because you are an idiot. You keep playing because the game stays fresh. There’s an outstanding job done keeping the challenges distinct and interesting. Aside from your undignified scrabbling, the three hours of campaign will give you objects to direct (funneling a banana to an obstructive monkey, or guiding rain to a root for instance), swings to swing on, jumps aplenty, a colony of bats to shift, bamboo to bounce on, flames to guide through a forest, spinning, contracting mazes of all sorts and some interesting challenges where you have to get both you and your mirror image home safe. They’ve even put in musically-themed parts, where your jumps must match the rhythms in the background. Essentially I feel like every screed of potential has been firmly wrung out of the gimmick, and the campaign is quick enough and changes enough that you don’t feel bogged down doing the same thing a dozen times.

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Every Indie Platformer needs a unique style and AYIM settled on a sort of mishmash of cutouts of paper and cardboard. The stuff in the background, though you can’t interact with it, provides a nice-enough backdrop to your daring adventures. Enemies, when you encounter them, are generally poorly scissored photos of what they represent, with very few actual moving parts. Even your main character has very little in the way of animation, either standing still, running, or putting on a ridiculous gurn and furiously swinging his arms when he jumps (see below). The aesthetics change occasionally as you progress, with the last few levels played through psychedlic hues and pulsating lights, a far cry from the earthy forest you started in.

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Aside from the campaign, there’s plenty of stuff to *do* should you be so inclined, though none of it is interesting to me. There are a series of modes that you can bolt on to what you’ve already done, trying to set your best time, seeing how far you can get without dying, that manner of challenge. One last good thing the game does is save not just your times, but also the ghost of your run. Should you so wish, you can load up the speedruns of AYIM specialists and see exactly how they did it, trying to keep pace yourself. The game isn’t difficult enough that you’d need it to show you how to actually complete a level, but it should point out the things you just don’t see.

Essentially I feel like AYIM firmly lives up to its potential, problems with the controls aside. It’s not aiming for brilliant, it’s aiming for decent, and it makes it there in some style. You do probably have this, somewhere in your collection. If you’ve nothing else to do, well, you could do worse than play AYIM.

3 stars, 3 hours spent (campaign finished)

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