And Yet It Moves
Review by 47pik
"You spin me right round, baby, right round..."
Indie puzzle platformers are a bit of a cliche at this point aren't they? Not that I'm much complaining; it's great to see a resurgence of the genre, especially when paired with the unparalleled creativity coming from the indie gaming scene these days. And Yet It Moves however, puzzlingly enough, is neither a good platformer, nor does it possess very much creativity.
The basic gameplay is simple enough to explain. Players control their avatar, a little paper man on a 2D plane, through a variety of obstacles until the end of the level. The twist is that in addition to controlling the character, players also can control the world, rotating it clockwise or counterclockwise 90 degrees at a time (or 180 if you are so inclined). By rotating the world, one also rotates the force of gravity accordingly, so that what used to be a wall, is now the floor. As a result, in contrast to a traditional platformer that scrolls linearly left to right, And Yet It Moves features twisting and spiraling, but still very linear, level design.
This mechanic is similar to those found in a handful of other games, such as certain 2D platforming sections of Nintendo's Super Mario Galaxy 2, the zero gravity movement in Visceral Games' Dead Space or fellow indie platformer VVVVVV, by Terry Cavanagh.
However, the use of gravity here is much more in depth, and utilized accordingly. Getting to the ending of a level is not so much about platforming skill as it is about figuring out how to use the rotation mechanic to get you there, making any movement at all involve some amount of puzzle solving, if only rudimentary. In addition, there are several full on environmental puzzles that must be solved, often right before the end of a level, for instance, using the rotation to direct bats towards a lizard in order to scare it away.
It's certainly a neat concept, although not one that is terribly original or mind bending. However, it's fortunate that the game has this interesting mechanic, since the platforming itself is rather weak. The paper man moves around very slowly, and his jump is very weak - constantly in need of being augmented by a world rotation. The big issue I take with it is how easily he dies. When the avatar attains a certain speed from a fall, he will smash into the ground, shattering into pieces. One wonders what type of paper he's made out of, shattering like that. This is not innately a problem, but it really doesn't take much of a fall to kill the little guy, and worse, there's no way to prevent it; no surfaces provide a safe landing haven; once you gain the speed, there's nothing you can do but die. The tutorial informs me that slopes are supposed to cushion the fall somewhat, but the implementation of this leaves something to be desired - even in the tutorial level, I landed on the slope and died a couple times prior to inexplicably surviving on my third attempt, despite doing nothing different.
Given the low survival rate upon falls by the player character, it's difficult to gauge whether or not the little paper man will survive any given jump, which adds a distinct flavour of trial and error to the gameplay. Thankfully checkpoints are frequent, although the frustration that accompanies crashing into the ground and dying right in front of the next checkpoint is not very enjoyable. A handful of challenges throughout the levels are extremely irritating as well, especially in the latter half of the game, although otherwise the difficulty curve is mostly smooth.
That said, one of the reasons for that is that there isn't much new to see as the game progresses. And Yet It Moves contains only 17 levels (which can be played normally, or in time trials), and only takes a few hours to finish, but feels long, and by the end, has overstayed it's welcome. The primary reason is that despite adding a couple new things here and there, after a certain point, levels begin to feel like the same thing over and over again. The three different environments (cave, forest and drug trip) are easily distinguishable from each other, but the individual levels are not, partly because they all play the same, and partly because that unique winding level design doesn't exactly make individual levels memorable, or even distinguishable from one another.
Similar to the level design, the art style is at first quite enjoyable and novel, and then quickly becomes mundane. Much like our protagonist, the levels themselves appear to be made out of paper. It has a nice look about it, but I'd be surprised if there were more than two or three dozen assets in the entire game - levels do not only play the same, and feel the same, but they also look the same.
And Yet It Moves is nifty. I'll give it that. It has a neat mechanic, but squanders it with boring level design, and puzzles that are often more frustrating than fun. But that's all there is to it. There's no plot, or any sort of visual storytellng beyond level progression. At the end of the day, the game has no meaning, it's just a puzzle platformer, and even then, it's not terribly good. It's not terribly bad either, but that's about the highest praise this reviewer can give it.
4/10 - Mediocre
Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 08/05/11
Game Release: And Yet It Moves (US, 04/02/09)
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