There's no denying it any longer: I'm an indie apologist.
I'm more willing to overlook a minor flaw in a game if it was designed and programmed by a team of two rather than a team of 50. I appreciate a few hours of unique gameplay more than a month's worth of stale environments and played-out game mechanics. And occasionally, in my weaker moments, I prefer personality to polish. If a game feels like it was made by a couple of guys in their spare time rather than designed by a committee of marketing execs, I'll probably be all over it.
So it's no surprise that I enjoyed And Yet It Moves, the latest indie sleeper hit to make its way onto Steam and Penny Arcade's Greenhouse. It meets all my criteria for essential indie-ness: made by less than five people, vaguely ambient soundtrack, story-less. What surprised me was how much I enjoyed it.
Originally a prototype that won the 2007 Indie Game Festival's Student Showcase, And Yet It Moves has received more than a fresh coat of paint in the intervening years. The Vienna students behind the title have taken the core gameplay concept - rotating the world around your character - and applied it across 16 levels, each with a unique "theme." It's can be a bit rough around the edges in spots, but a little frustration is a small price to pay for one of the most original, visually striking and downright surprising games to come out so far this year.
Beneath all the torn paper, And Yet It Moves is fundamentally a platformer - the object of each level is to make your way through a set of chalk checkpoints to a paper cut-out door that sends you on to the next zone. But with the ability to change the orientation of the world around you, every surface becomes a potential route forward. As in Portal or Braid, And Yet It Moves eases you into the experience by providing checkpoints after nearly every puzzle and slowly ramping up the difficulty. It's rare that you'll encounter an obstacle that a previous setback hasn't prepared you for.
When frustration does hit, however, it hits hard. Many of the games puzzles require you to tilt the world to manipulate the trajectory of other objects - drops of water, bananas or bugs, to name a few. These sections can be unintentionally tricky - while you're focusing on the item that you have to get from point A to point B, your character can build up enough momentum to fly apart the moment he hits the ground. And a few puzzles involving flint and flammable objects didn't fully click until my second play-through.
They're minor issues, though. Any doubts I had about And Yet It Moves quickly evaporated when I began the third and final chapter of the game. Where the previous chapters loosely represented a cave system and a lush jungle environment, the game's finale throws realism out the window in favor of super saturated colors, pulsing shapes and some of the most inventive puzzles in the game. The effect is so convincing that I actually became a little nauseous at a couple points - in a good way, of course.
Bottom Line: Fifteen bucks might seem steep for a three-hour game, but if you measure And Yet It Moves by the number of unique ideas it contains rather than just its length, it's a steal.
Recommendation: If you're still skeptical, download the demo here. Otherwise, just eat in a couple nights this week and pick up the full version, cheapskate.
Jordan Deam strongly advises you not to lick any toads before, during or after playing And Yet It Moves.