And Yet It Moves

And Yet It Moves feels like a callback to how far we've come in independent games over the last four years. When it came out in 2009 I remember it being sort of a big deal. It was directly after the year often cited as the emergence of independent games with Braid, Castle Crashers, and World of Goo being released. Indie game appetites had been whetted and everyone was looking for something new to digest. It was this context that AYIM came out, but I don't remember much about it besides that. It was later featured in a Humble Indie Bundle, and that's probably where I ended up picking it up.

ayimtitle.jpg

A lot has happened since AYIM came out. The mountain of 2D puzzle platforming mechanics feels like it's been ruthlessly strip-mined for the last four years. The Swapper perfected the art of everyday materials as game graphics. Tools for game creation have become increasingly accessible with every year since the game's release.

For AYIM this unfortunately means that it doesn't hold up extremely well. The mechanics, which felt revelatory at the time, today feel like just another permutation in the possibility set of platforming. The basic premise is that you can rotate the world and the gravity of the world shifts to whatever direction you are facing. There were very few a-ha-moments for me in the gameplay, and certain tasks quickly became aggravating. The graphics feel like a collage assembled from Google search results, and of the 16 levels I completed six in half an hour. With how many games of ever-increasing quality are being released nowadays, it's hard to say this game would see much success today outside of being a flash-game-favorite for a week.

ayim.jpg

In today's indiesphere being average in one aspect is acceptable if the game is bolstered by some other aspect. Puzzle games with unpolished assets are okay, but when we live in the Era of Brough, your puzzles and mechanics really have to be amazing.

The *good* news is that this is totally okay. It means we're moving forward as game creators. After all, AYIM was a student project (which is super impressive). It's hard to say, but at the time of it's release I think I would have really liked AYIM. The best part is that creators Broken Rules have moved on and created Chasing Aurora, and are now working on Secrets of Rætikon. I played Chasing Aurora at last year's PAX Prime and it was a fantastic local multiplayer experience. This year I played Secrets of Rætikon at PAX, and it was even more impressive. It focuses on a core movement mechanic that feels fantastic, and has a beautiful world. AYIM isn't perfect, but it did great things – it introduced more people to indie games, got Broken Rules started as a studio, and has led to much better games, and a better independent ecosystem.

Join me next week as I play Aquaria, the 2007 IGF's Seumas McNally Grand Prize winner!