Review by c_rake
Though none of its elements truly come together, And Yet It Moves is a solid platformer
What is And Yet It Moves? Apart from the obvious -- a two-dimensional indie platformer -- I'm not sure. It is a game steeped in mystery, for the very sake of mystery. It never gives you any inkling to motives of your pencil-drawn protagonist or how he ended up in this strange world of paper. All you know is that you need to traverse it. Whether the journey will lead to salvation or ruin no one knows.
Such is And Yet It Moves, a two-dimensional platformer from indie developer Broken Rules. A game that indulges greatly in the realm of the abstract. So much so, in fact, that the experience loses any semblance of meaning, the journey you embark on being incomprehensible because it eschews context in favor of the enigmatic. Though you won't have any idea what's going on, And Yet It Moves still manages to grasp a fair level of entertainment.
For the most part, And Yet It Moves is standard platforming fare. It's an easy-going game on the surface, its environments rather nonthreatening and its puzzles light. Obstacles are easily leapt over, despite your character's lacking physical abilities. Small jumps and slow movement limit his exploration prowess, but not to any serious measure. For you see, the protagonist, remarkably enough, has the innate ability to twist the world around at will.
The crux of And Yet It Moves lies here. From navigation to light puzzle solving, everything And Yet It Moves does involves twisting the world around to a certain degree. Come across a large pit? Flip the world on its head and walk along the ceiling then. Iguana blocking your path? Direct some nearby bats toward it by twisting the world around, thus causing them to move to a new ceiling to hang from. In puzzle solving, its use, while occasionally clever, is wasted on the over-simplicity of the puzzles. They don't outright tell you the solution, but they aren't subtle about it either. Using the aforementioned iguana puzzle, for instance, the bats standout as the only solution because there is literally nothing that suggests another alternative. Walking forward only causes the lizard to attack and the tunnel isn't populated by anything else which could be manipulated. All but a couple of the game's puzzles are like this. They drop you into a situation of "clear this obstacle" and give you a very clear solution. Never does the game try to stump you by introducing some new way of using your world twisting ability nor does it obfuscate the solution even slightly. Puzzles here are but mere speed-bumps -- a momentary hiccup in the game's action.
And Yet It Moves' real obstacles come from the platforming. Traipsing about proves difficult because of the momentum that quickly builds up from twisting the world mid-jump. Landing with anything more than the momentum you left the ground with always results in immediate death. Though of its no huge consequence -- you just end up at the last checkpoint -- it's vexing enough during more particular spaces of traversal because checkpoints are just scarce enough to make setbacks like that just punishing enough to enrage. It's an accumulative effect: die enough times on a certain section and you'll be on the verge of going mad. It's like the old-fashioned "lose all your lives and start again" method but without the added torture of having to re-play the entire level.
The gantlets contained within each level prove adversarial because of the precision they demand. You're only allotted so much control over world manipulation (you can only go 90 degrees at a time). With the aforementioned factors to consider -- the pitiful height of the protagonist's jumps, the momentum that builds as you begin descent -- that lack of specific control feels, at times, inhibiting. Failing just short of a checkpoint at the end of a particularly grueling journey because that last leap happened just late enough for deadly velocity to kick highlights one of the game's more annoying failings: it's terrible job of conveying when you've got too much speed or not. The line separating the two is a very fine one. One instance the height you fell from is endurable; the next, that same height crushes you. In such occurrences you're left to try over and over again in the hopes that you can shave that half-second off your time soaring to beat death.
It's frustrating because the game is otherwise completely solid on that front. The time trials especially (the results of which are uploaded to the game's leaderboards) exemplify the grace with which the game contains in its movement. Turning the world to create inventive shortcuts and navigate much more efficiently, for instance, demonstrate the mechanics at their absolute best. It works spectacularly during those moments of fleeting sublimity. And all it takes to undo it is the game's simple mistake of not achieving greater consistency in the causations of death.
But even worse than that is And Yet It Moves' disregard for its surrounding elements. The aesthetic, the music, the setting -- none of it feels like it belongs here. It's a mis-match of dissimilar components all chosen without giving any thought to their effects on the game. Take the art style, for example; though it looks great and grants the game a distinctive look, it doesn't serve any exact purpose. It's an eye-catching design, sure, but that's it. It doesn't invoke a certain tone or setting. It just acts as something to be enjoyed passively rather than actively. Whatever appreciation you could get from it can be obtained just by viewing screenshots, the gameplay having nary an affect on it. The same extends to the music. It's percussion-heavy tracks, while nice and catchy, don't instill or re-enforce any tones presented by the game's levels or the aesthetic. Seldom does it rise, and when it does, it doesn't amount to much more than background noise.
In fact, the game is basically a blank slate on that end. And Yet It Moves is a great game, no doubt about it. Pleasing platforming and an engaging challenge make it a worthwhile experience. It's muddled vision, however, drag it down into a nebulous mess of a narrative. The gameplay is able to carry the experience on its own, but its still a shame that the rest of the game couldn't get its act together to achieve cohesiveness.
Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Product Release: And Yet It Moves (US, 04/02/09)
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