I, GAMER: Big Wheel Keeps On Turnin’

And Yet It Moves Teaser from mml on Vimeo.

I_GAMERAvatar_1.jpgBY ADAM BONANNI I don’t subscribe to the notion that every game released needs to be fed into the pretty little hype machine.  In the magical world inside my head where Amber Tamblyn is my girlfriend, I’ve longed for the day when a game can stand on its quality, and doesn’t need McDonalds toys or a Mountain Dew tie-in to sell.  Developer Broken Rules might also have a similar vision, since, in lieu of big marketing and large-scale hype, they went ahead and quietly released And yet it moves; a title that could have easily deserved it.  And yet it moves is a simple 2-D platformer, in that you jump from platform to platform in order to make it through each level, that mixes things up in a big way by letting you rotate the world 90 degrees at a time to scale obstacles and get to the end of each stage. So let’s call it two and a half D. What initially started as a computer science course project developed into a full game, and offers up a pretty fresh twist on the tried and true run and jump mechanics of its genre.  And yet it moves, aside from sounding like one of Ed Wood’s lost masterpieces, sports some pretty remarkably appealing visuals, and strong level design that fully capitalizes on its unique mechanics.

Rotating the world 90 degrees at a time ranks up there with Fallout 3’s VATS system and Max Payne’s Matrix-style 01_indiana_jones.jpgbullet time in the category of “things that should get old real quick, but never do”.  A device like this is the perfect fit for an indie game since it offers the opportunity for the developers to think outside the boundaries of the genre, opening the door for a heap of new gameplay possibilities of which they take pretty interesting advantage. The game focuses mainly on run and jump action, but there are a few puzzles thrown in that really make good use of this mechanic to solve. Gravity is your worst enemy; you’ll have to make sure that by flipping the world to reach a high ledge, you don’t send the poor main character tumbling to his death.

The game is broken up into 17 stages across three different environments. The length of each stage is pretty good, playing each one never becomes tedious, but they don’t add up to much.  My first playthrough took me a little under four hours to complete and left me wanting more. There’s an option to replay each individual stage upon completing the game to beat your best time, but I never got the feeling that this was a game well suited for racing against the clock. The stages are designed to make you take your time and plan your way through them carefully, since every time I tried to blow through quickly, I got launched off a swing or decimated by some environmental hazard. Speaking of the stages, they are extremely well-paced. You’re always along a set path, and there isn’t much you can do in the way of exploration, but this means that the linearity generated by the game has the ability to deliver a very tight focus on creating a fun experience, which the game does. There are plenty of memorable scenes that make you want to keep pressing onward just to see what the game will throw at you next.

W(jump)A(left) and D(right) will control your character, while the left and right arrows will spin the world. If it sounds simple, I assure you that is misleading since rotating the world is pretty disorienting and unforgiving. Your character’s momentum is conserved when you send him in a new direction, so if you mess up and send him falling the wrong way, by the time you correct your mistake he’ll have picked up so much speed that there’s no way he can be saved. I was dying up to the last stages of the game on simple little jumps because the world was always turning the opposite way that I wanted it to.  There’s the option to invert left and right, but when I tried this on a second playthrough, half my brain was trying to master the new controls, half was stuck on the old ones, and the other half wanted some coffee from wawa. It just led to more confusion. If you’re having trouble early on, it might help to switch them, but expect to lay the blame of a good amount of deaths of the learning curve of the control.

I referenced earlier that And yet it moves has some pretty unique graphics. The best way they can be described is if somebody went and printed about 400 of the same image of grass and rock, hastily cut them all out, and glued them on top of each other.  The world has a very appealing “layered” paper craft look, and the placement of these lifelike images in this artificial world lends a really odd, meant in the best possible way, and artistic feel to the game. Although the world looks like it’s made of paper, it feels anything but flat.  Jungle environments feel dense, rocks look textured, and in the later psychedelic-inspired stages of the game, you’ll trip balls. The level of imagination behind the graphical style is off the charts.  The game runs smooth, and there isn’t a graphical glitch to be found. Things may not look as sharp when the camera zooms up close, but it’s rare when this happens.

The sound is minimal, but is used to pretty high effectiveness.  A brief musical snippet will play once you’ve solved aand_yet_it_moves_2.jpg puzzle or are making progress, but the “soundtrack” is heavily reliant on ambient noise and home-made sound effects. There’s a pretty cool instance later in the game where you jump across platforms that disappear and re-appear with the beat of a pretty cool loop, but such instances that use the sound in conjunction with gameplay are rare. For how minimalist the sound is, it fits in very well with the mood of the game.

And yet it moves can certainly be frustrating at times, but never difficult. The handful of puzzles throughout the game are very logical and well-done, so it’s unlikely that anyone could get hung up on them for too long. Platforming is a bit tricky since your jump is a little floaty, and can get downright messy when a few spins of the world are thrown in, but your unlimited lives and forgiving revival checkpoints set up throughout the stage should help.

Not today, gentlemen. And yet it moves has not been rated by the ESRB, but unless you find the ripping of paper to be particularly offensive, nothing’s gonna shock you toughies.

Grade: B+

And yet it moves retails for $14.99 for PC and Mac, and is available for a number of digital distribution platforms, as well as through the game’s official website.  A free demo is also available, so try it the hell out.

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