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18. November 2010

Indie Attack - AYIM Flattr this

While I'm taking it serious with delivering two comics per week, shame on me for blogging just once every other month or so. As you might have noticed, the original german page is 'slightly' bigger in terms of categories. - We not only happen to publish my comics but also review video games 'n stuff. At least for today, there'll be a change. Since a new 'FNG' will be starting a new category, named 'Indie Attack' today, for once there'll be an english review. If you like it and want him to built an english 'Indie-Page' tell him in the comments! ^_~  -  DS_Nadine So, but now, here's his review:
AND YET IT MOVES

AND YET IT MOVES [ PC / Mac / Wii ]
Up to now we almost exclusively reviewed games from major publishers or form Apples AppStore. In order to wide our scope (and escape accusations of mainstream-whoring) we decided its about time to review games from independent developers. Our new category “Indie Attack” will try to give a glimpse of the vast world of independent developers by showcasing their games.

The first game in this series is And Yet it Moves (AYIM), which is available as WiiWare download (since last month) and through myriads of distribution channels (e.g. Steam) for Windows/Mac OSX and Linux.


Risky Woods

AYIM, developed by Viennese Indie-Studio Brokenrules, initially started out as a student project for a computer science class at the Technical University of Vienna. After wooing the involved professors and co-students the game became an Indie phenomenon by receiving several nominations at Indie-Game festivals, winning the 2007 Independent Games Festival Student Showcase and last but not least being presented at the E3 2007 in the category “Independent Game Showcase”. Encouraged from these overwhelmingly positive reactions Felix Bohatsch (CEO) and his team decided to polish the existing prototype and create a retail game out of it, which they could publish on Steam etc.

The gameplay of AYIM is pretty easy to describe: think of a 2D Jump’n Run with correctly simulated physics, which enables you to not only control the lead character but also the level-orientation. The closest comparison in terms of handling could be made with Little Big Planet with its physics-driven gameplay and controls.

The ability to mirror/rotate levels has been around since a long time, be it the upside-down switches in Mickey’s Castle of Illusion on Sega Genesis, or the rotating cages in Super Ghouls’n Ghosts.  While this games allowed for a limited interaction in terms of orientation, it was only possible to make adjustments on pre-defined spots for pre-defined rotations. AYIM is taking this whole idea one step further by giving enabling players to change rotation whenever they like. Together with afore mentioned Physics Engine the possibilities for level and interaction design are endless.
Besides rotating, which is without a doubt the main feature of the game, the visuals and overall art-direction are what sets it apart from the masses. The whole game looks like it is made of torn photos. In stark contrast to the realistic environment textures the main character is sketched in black and white. This turns out be a very clever design decision as it enables us to effortlessly locate our character on the screen.


Rohrschach test

With 17 levels in the original version and 20 on the Wii, the game is not as short as someone would expect from a small developer. Furthermore Brokenrules came up with quite some additional extras in order to keep the player busy after the first playthrough such as speedruns, Steam-Achievements, Puzzle mode with restricted rotations etc.

PC vs Console: The Wii version of AYIM allows free rotation of the levels, whereas in the original Windows/Os X version it was only possible to rotate in 90° steps. With finer controls comes better playability, however as the levels were initially designed for a 90°-rotation experience the overall difficulty of the game decreases quite a bit on the Wii.


Abstract art

Conclusion: AYIM provides a lasting expression – both in positive and negative terms. If you checked out the preview trailer, which features one section about the numerous death experiences in the game, you might think this is a joke. However around two or three levels in the game you will suddenly realize that the developers were not joking but rather preparing the player for the inevitable – trying and dying. While this type of game is build on the premise of trial and error, many deaths could have been avoided by choosing a flatter learning curve or simply providing more gameplay-relevant information in the first few levels.

 

Nevertheless AYIM is a one-of-a-kind experience in a genre with little to no innovation. This becomes especially evident at the numerous puzzles, which not only require old-fashioned Jump’n Run skills, but pose a real challenge to the players creativity. At these moments the game really shines and reminds us of Nintendo titles with their player-rewarding experience.

Due to the above-described weaknesses the game receives (only) 4 stars. Given its fresh approach and look’n feel we are looking forward to Brokenrules’ next creation, which is - together with their own game engine - currently under development. -  Clemens W.

Links:
Developer-Homepage -  Demo-Download

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