Monday, July 11, 2011

And Yet it Sucks - a belated opinion on the electronic game "And Yet It Moves"

Indie games are weird. Not always, mind, but most of the time. Some times they are pretty little things with a very artsy look and everyone - professional reviewers, forumites, youtube superstars, etc - eats them up and myopically praises them for advancing the medium as an art form. But do they really?
Thanks to the Steam Addiction Month, I played through such a game, And Yet It Moves, one that I remember the internet raving about as a work of beauty. Now, far removed from the wave of hype and praise, I kept wondering where did that experience exist to begin with.There's much to be said about building a complex game full of emerging possibilities from simple rules. AYIM gets half of that right. 

You move left or right, you jump, and you rotate the world. Falling accelerates you, and if you pick up too much speed you get splattered upon landing. Here lies my first problem with it. The acceleration mechanic seems arbitrary. Throughout all the ten stages, I could never get a sure handle on how far I could make myself fall and survive. Sometimes all it took to pick up too much speed was turning the world a couple of times mid-jump, while in some other circumstances large falls went unpunished. In fact, a good deal of the game was trial-and-error play.

And there is very little in the way of complexity emerging from simple rules. The game only truly finds its feet on the last third, and more because of it finally upping the challenge a bit, rather than allowing us to discover new stuff to do with the main mechanic. 

Now, of course it looks nice. The paper art style is quite unique and charming, and the few narrative elements are suitably subjective - to me, the white paper sprite's quest to find and merge with the piece of white paper at the end of each stage was a quest to belong, maybe a metaphor for returning home. Beautiful stuff, yes, but it could do with a bit less boring game. I really get the feeling that, first time around, this game got a free pass on account of the artfulness it exhibits. 

It was fun, yes, but only after a slog through two thirds of the game. It is pretty, charming even, and made by a small team that tried something new, plus it is a cheap game, but none of these reasons will magically make a boring game good. There are plenty of innovative, artful indie games that are fun - or scary, or introspective, or whatever they aim to make the player feel -  from start to finish; this is just not one of them.I score it a couple of oranges and a peach.

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