Wednesday, April 8, 2009

notes from blogcation: and yet it moves demo

You may have noticed that the plucky young Alex Boivin posted on Monday morning instead of me - that’s because I’m on blogcation for the next week or two! I didn’t want to tell you because I didn’t want to make you sad, but circumstances have forced my hand.

One of the objects in this blogcation was actually to play some games instead of managing the blog, and to that end I spent some time over the weekend with the And Yet It Moves demo courtesy Greenhouse, the Penny Arcade online game store. What I found was an indie game that follows the recent blueprint for success - quirky art style, strange-yet-familiar core gameplay mechanic - but doesn't quite succeed as do the Braids and Worlds of Goo we are always talking about.

Beginning with said core gameplay mechanic: AYiM is a platformer at heart. You run, you jump, you try not to fall and kill yourself. The twist is that the world through which you run can be turned every which way by the player - if you come up against an insurmountable barrier, you just need to orient your surroundings differently and it becomes easily passable. This is the game's greatest success, as I see it - it's unique, and it's a great idea at its heart. As a side note, I'm amazed what recent independent efforts have done for the dusty old sidescrolling platformer - once exclusively Mario's domain, most people gave it up for the third dimension or for games with decidedly more action than platforming. As a big fan of the genre, I really hope that people keep stretching its boundaries - clearly, there are still ideas that haven't been explored.

But back to And Yet it Moves: as I said, it has a very nice idea and it clearly means well, but the other aspects of its presentation drag it down a bit. Its art style is, again, a good idea, going with a torn paper motif that sometimes looks quite nice, but it's often repetitive and it's not helped by the level design, which seems bland and arbitrary compared to the careful intricacy of Braid.

The game's sound is perhaps its greatest failing - four or five boring and uninspired notes go in one ear and out the other, without any regard for the upbeat, insane World of Goo sound track, the atmospheric and mood-setting Dyson soundtrack, or the lush, classical Braid soundtrack. Of course, this one doesn't even need to be compared to these other games to be considered disappointing - it's unengaging and lackluster, and given that the Braid soundtrack was not original music, there's really not much of an excuse for it.

Those are my thoughts. AYiM is a nice idea, but its execution is flawed. Still, give the demo a shot and form some opinions of your own - it does have some good ideas, it just needs to express them in a more interesting way.