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Review: And Yet It Moves

May 25th, 2009 by

Vital Stats

Genre: Puzzle Platformer
Players: 1
Online: Leaderboards

Developer: Broken
Rules
Publisher: Broken
Rules
ESRB Rating: E
Release Date: 4/2/09

Platforms

  • PC
  • MAC

Fans of graphic novels will have heard about the infinite canvas—the idea that comics on the web needn’t be saddled with the limitations of their paper counterparts. And Yet It Moves is the proof of concept that the same principle applies to video games, although in this case it’s more about the simulation of natural laws than simple space. It’s a game that capitalizes on the freedom inherent in simulated spaces, and the result is smart, lean, and topsy-turvy.

Turnabout Is Fair (game)Play
And Yet It Moves is a simulation of a piece of paper, and more to the point, it’s a platformer that’s been drawn on a piece of paper. So in addition to all the running and jumping you’d expect from the usual genre entry, you can spin the page and therefore the world, swapping what counts as up, down, and sideways ad hoc. Your avatar has been torn out of his rightful place on the sheet and so doesn’t spin with it, so his journey to reunite with the page consists largely of spinning the world so it lands gently beneath his feet. So there you have it, mechanic, story, and frame, all wrapped up in one tight little paper metaphor. Shakespeare had it right: brevity is the soul of wit.

Platforming veterans are likely scratching their heads at this point, because the fear of falling underlies success and failure across most of the genre. And Yet It Moves keeps the trope alive by substituting falling damage for bottomless pits, and your avatar will crater if he falls more than a few inches. Your little paper self retains his inertia in spite of the rotating world around him too, so time you spend spinning only serves to make you fall faster. So the platforming in And Yet It Moves is an exercise in adroit efficiency of movement. You want to find the shortest, softest path to your destination, because detours are fatal.

I don’t think paper normally does this
when you drop it three inches.

You might expect that precision platforming calls for precision controls, but this is only partly the case. The rotating world snaps to the four cardinal directions, but running and jumping are sluggish and you have only enough air control to correct modest errors. This means that the burden of your survival rests on your facility with world-spinning. It’s a design decision that highlights the rotation mechanic, although it also means that your repeat attempts to tackle the same obstacles feel more and more like plodding as they stack up. Thankfully the checkpoints are both plentiful and provide you with hints on navigation through the disorienting environment, so you’ll only find yourself stuck when your skills aren’t up to the game’s challenge.

Inept falling isn’t the only threat that will bounce you back to the last checkpoint; various hazards litter the stages. The paper is torn in some places and has caught fire in others, and careless rotation can result in falling rocks. There are also animals blocking your progress, some hostile and others merely stubborn. In addition to complicating the platforming, these hazards represent the majority of the puzzles you’ll solve. Some problems will even solve each other, so long as you rotate the world at just the right time to optimally foster high velocity problem solving. After all, your avatar may have been torn out of the world’s physics, but nothing else has, and recalcitrant obstacles are no match for rocks and fire.

The gap between the physics acting on your avatar and the world physics actually underlies many of the game’s trickier puzzles. Most objects in the world have no inertia, and will turn on a dime when you rotate the world ninety degrees. Unrealistic physics hardly count against And Yet It Moves though. It’s hard enough to track everything as it flies around the room, and once the walls and floor start moving independently, you’ll be glad of any predictable motion whatsoever.

As the World Turns
It all sounds terribly brain-bending, but that overlooks one of the game’s strengths: its finely tuned difficulty curve. And Yet It Moves has been built with an eye to accessibility, and it shows in the flow of concept to challenge. If you enjoy the rotation mechanic enough to learn the controls, you’ll never be without the skills you need. The controls may still be a significant barrier to entry for casual gamers, but players who enjoy learning them will feel neither betrayed nor ambushed during the game’s progression. The frequent checkpoints make for minimal terrain rehashing as you struggle to nail one tricky part.

The Harrison Ford solution to this puzzle
kinda misses the point.

The possible downside to a gently sloping difficulty curve is that And Yet It Moves is a relatively brief game, and it never becomes significantly challenging. This quality will make the game for some players while breaking it for others. There are Leaderboards and achievements for the challenge-conscious gamer, but this does little to change the fact that the game can be completed in an evening or two of concerted play.

The graphical presentation isn’t terribly notable in And Yet It Moves, except to say that it communicates the paper metaphor well. The whole game looks like it was cut from slightly crinkled construction paper, and your avatar has clearly been cut from his native environment. The art design decisions are both strong and cohesive, though the downside to a construction paper world is that it ends up feeling a bit bland and featureless. You won’t notice it much in all the wild spinning, but the puzzles and clever game design are definitely a stronger incentive to progress than the visuals.

The music is a fun twist on typical ambient themes. With a handful of exceptions, the score is entirely a capella. This sort of composition is hardly unheard of in gaming, though this may be a first for ambient sounds. Like all good ambient composition, the score is unobtrusive, but definitely fits the game’s mood.

Spin Control
And Yet It Moves is a solid tweak to the assumptions you may have about platforming. The game isn’t terribly substantive, but it is clever and fun without demanding overmuch from your time. Hardcore gamers will enjoy the novelty, and genre fans will be amused when the game violates their unconscious assumptions. Casual gamers may not find the game compelling enough for a complete playthrough, but it’s still worth the price of entry.

What It Costs: $10

What It’s Worth:
To The Hardcore: $15 (buy)
To The Genre Fan: $20 (buy)
To The Casual: $10 (demo, then buy)

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