At art college, and all the way through school, I hated collage. For those unfamiliar with the term, ‘collage’ (not unlike montage) is a technique that involves the artist or haphazard chaos wizard using pieces of printed/paper media to create an image. These pieces can be taken from anything, from glossy magazines and newspapers to much loved photos and relatively unloved toilet paper. I hated collage because it was fiddly and, depending on your media and whether you were cutting or tearing it up, a pain to control the size, shape and colour of your mark-making. It was a loose and bitty way of working and produced similarly disjointed results, which perhaps explains why I love the look of And Yet It Moves (AYIM), an odd little platformer originally conceived and developed by students at the Vienna University of Technology.
When I think platformer, I think of grids, axes and regimented rows and columns of solid surfaces; AYIM is fundamentally a platformer but thanks to its torn paper collage aesthetic, it manages to avoid all these things. It’s a peculiar handmade world of rolling shapes and textures supplemented by sparse but fittingly unusual music and sound effects, apparently created solely using the sound designer’s own voice — which is just brilliant.
I think I played the prototype of AYIM back in 2007 (the year it was an IGF Student Showcase Winner) and I later played the demo when it was released as a fully developed title in 2009, but despite enjoying the game’s core mechanic I never felt compelled to investigate the game any further. So what changed? Well nothing really, I just inexplicably had an urge to play it and conveniently it recently cropped up in the Humble Indie Bundle.
AYIM’s core mechanic revolves (no pun intended) around the ability to rotate the world in 90 degree increments shifting gravity in the process, allowing the game’s nameless paper cutout character (who I’m going to call ‘Jot’ from now on) to traverse the hazardous world. Saying ‘hazardous world’ is perhaps a little misleading though, because, while the world is indeed dotted with danger, the game’s biggest hazard is you, the player.
Swinging the world left and right and throwing Jot up and down is great fun, but with great power comes great responsibility. Jot is fragile and easily broken; if he reaches a certain velocity after falling for too long then it takes a small miracle to slow him down enough to stop him smashing into pieces on impact. You could call it Jot’s terminal velocity. It’s this fragility which makes AYIM so tricky and its physics puzzles so clever; you can’t push Jot too far; he’s got to land somewhere before gravity speeds him up too much, so all your manoeuvres have to be measured: keep him in the air for too long and he’s going to break the moment he hits anything. There are also claustrophobic moments where the space around Jot is so tight that rotating the world in a certain direction will snap him. Eek! Thankfully, AYIM features a plentiful supply of checkpoints meaning that your scattered paper appendages are never too far away from being reassembled.
The game takes place across three different environments, starting you off in a cave network where the fundamentals are steadily introduced. Over the course of 17 breezy and tightly designed levels, various mechanics come and go: from tumbling boulders, bamboo springboards and fire, to vine swings, platforms that disappear at certain angles and lizard-pestering bats. Much like Super Mario Galaxy, there are a glut of great ideas here that aren’t lingered on for too long, which is great if you’re not enjoying a section but equally as maddening if you are. For example, my favourite parts of the game are when you have to control two instances of Jot simultaneously, one normal and one a shadow of sorts that reflects your movements (so walking left makes him go right and vice versa). The aim is to get both Jots to switch positions with each other, which is easier said than done. To further complicate matters, gravity is often reversed for your shadow. Unfortunately, these sections are introduced in the latter third of the game and as such they never quite hit their stride which is a real shame because they were immensely satisfying.
And really, that’s my only criticism: that some of the great ideas don’t stick around for long enough. There were certain moments where I got a little hot under the collar but the gentle patter of the game and the forgiving checkpoints choked any frustration I had in an instant. For a two or so hour long experience I couldn’t recommend And Yet It Moves enough; it’s a beautifully presented little game, full of great ideas and really quite unlike anything else.
Also, if your Log of Shame score is unnervingly high then there’s another reason to give it a whirl.
Update: a papery figure by the name of ‘Andy’ came swinging by the comments earlier to tell me his name wasn’t Jot. Sorry Andy!
Developer: Broken Rules | Publisher: Broken Rules | Released: April 2009
Available on PC (version reviewed) and Wii | Time Played: 2 hours
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I bought this game 2 years ago: suck it, log. Of course, I haven’t played it for more than 5 minutes!
Gregg, you rebel! Gold star at the end, no numerical score, no photos of you eating fish and chips in the nude! Could this be the start of something new? Hmmmmmmm……
Just think though penguin, in around two hours you could be +1 up! +1! That’s like, 0.1 x 10.
Also, this is the first review since the site overhaul so this layout could change, although I do like it.
I didn’t even realize I had this until you mentioned it was in the indie bundle. So you inspired me to give it a try!
I’m not sure I’m feeling it. It seems like the challenge of the game mostly relies on having incomplete information and making a lot of blind jumps. I wish it was a little more clear when I was going so fast that I was going to die, versus when a fall was survivable, as the line is pretty fine.
The art style grew on me after a while, though.
The line is pretty fine but I found I got a feel for it relatively quickly. Besides, even if there was an indication that you were going too fast, you’d be hard pressed to do anything about it! I tried to land as quickly as possible wherever I could to reduce risk!
With regards to the blind jumping: I’m not sure whether the screen resolution plays into this (I was playing at 1360 x 768, 16:9) but it was rare for me to not be able to see where I was supposed to be throwing the little fella. I usually did a bit of scouting around if I saw an expanse of nothing and that was often enough to give me some clues.
I forgot to mention that the Wii version apparently doesn’t rotate at 90 degree increments, it rotates smoothly based on the angle of the controller which I should imagine gives the player a much greater degree of control. The Wii version also features three extra levels.
After two levels, I’m with AJ; I’d like more feedback. Even if the feedback was “you’re doomed!” it would be nice to know when I got doomed. Say Jot’s color gradually heated up as he sped up, and he dies if he hits when he’s red: if he turns red just before he hits, then I know that I just need to execute my jump a little better; if he turns red halfway through the jump, I know I need a completely different plan.
But…my name’s Andy, not Jot! 😉
Oh dear! I’m sorry Andy, please don’t send the Microsoft paper clip after me!
(article edited! thanks! ;-))
Oh lord, the blind jumps. I just ragequit in the middle of the forest level where you have to ride a swing that will take you into a black hole; you have to jump off and do some gravity manipulation to land safely on a rock that you can’t even see when you make the jump; you can then move off to a branch where you wind up… making another blind jump. And there’s no checkpoint, so if you mess up the second blind jump you have to start over with the swing jump again! And of course the developers decided that if you quit within a level you lose all your progress.
I wonder how badly mainstream games must mistreat gamers if the checkpoints in this one are praiseworthy. If the player has to repeat a difficult challenge because you didn’t put a checkpoint after it, you are deliberately wasting their time. Ditto if you don’t preserve progress up to a checkpoint when quitting the game. It’s probably the same sort of learned helplessness that has me still playing this.
Sorry matt, I didn’t realise I’d had another comment on this review. Your comment on the Log of Shame page brought me back over here!
Those vine swings were tough to deal with but I don’t recall having any lasting issues with them or their checkpoints, perhaps that says more about my threshold than anything else! I agree though, generally speaking if you’re having to do a certain bit over and over again just to get to the bit that you’re failing repeatedly then it sounds like there’s a checkpoint missing!
Actually, I think I know which bit you’re talking about now. I made a few attempts (and failed) but decided to see what would happen if I made the vine swing go the other way, or ‘over the top’, and I reckon that worked and flung me over the black hole. Sorry to hear the game led you to ragequit though! :-S Did you stick with the game or abandon it in the end? What were your overall thoughts?
I did stick with it and finished it — well, the game claims I have 60-something completion, but when I get to the end and even complete a bonus level I say I’m done.
The last post was written in white-hot post-ragequit heat, but in the relatively cool light of right now I still think the game has some pretty big design flaws. I could perhaps write a short essay about it, but in that particular vine-swing part, I think you had to drop down onto a branch and then there was a checkpoint you could walk to just off the screen. But because of the way the levels are designed, I had no idea there was a checkpoint there. In the parts just above and below it, there was inky void off in that direction, and I had just gone in an orthogonal direction, so my instinct was to keep going that way instead. (I did at some point try going over the top, which carried me to another ledge but so fast that I ripped on impact.)
Which gives two interrelated problems I had — the level design is often confusing and the screen view is often so zoomed in that it denies you crucial information. Obviously in a game like this there isn’t the simple momentum that you get in the level design of Mario (“go right”) but part of good level design is communicating to the player where to go next — what the problems are, if not how to solve them. Unless, perhaps, it’s a game about nonlinear exploration, but this ain’t that. (And even those games should give you hints about what to do; a locked door you know you have to come back to, a glimpse of an inaccessible area you’ll have to work your way around to.) This had the pointing figures at the save points, but too often it was unclear to me where to go once I’d got any distance from them. — partly perhaps because I have a crap sense of direction and don’t know which way I’m pointing after a few rotations. Not to mention that sometimes you could get killed by a hazard effectively coming in from offscreen; “Tabula Rasa” was a huge offender here.
Did I say I could write a short essay? This wasn’t it, trust me. There were things I liked, especially the visual design and some of the puzzles, but there were also some big sources of frustration.
And on the other thread I commented about how it seems unfair that I get the same score for this as Steerpike did for Dead Souls, but I died more in this than Steerpike did in Dead Souls. %-S