And Yet It Moves
By Lewis Denby
I had to take a break between playing And Yet It Moves and writing this review. When I first started typing, immediately after completing this bizarre, puzzling platformer, I just couldn’t shake the fear that unless I pressed the up arrow immediately, all the words would fall catastrophically off the bottom of the screen. This is a game where submitting fully to its twisted rules is the only way to succeed, and removing yourself from its laws of motion is a decidedly tricky thing to do.
The premise is agreeably simple: it’s just gravity. Stuff falls down. But the levels sprawl out in all directions, and you have a powerful trick up your sleeve. Pressing the left arrow rotates the entire world by 90 degrees. Same for the right arrow, in the opposite direction. Pressing the up arrow inverts the whole image, so up becomes down and left becomes right. Whichever way the world is positioned, gravity remains consistent, your character remains upright, and falling too far means instant death.
It’s surprisingly difficult to get the hang of, but at some point towards the end of the first section, everything clicks. The rotation mechanics become second nature, and the focus becomes less about working out how to use these controls and more about how to utilise them to your advantage. Though cosmetically a side-scrolling platformer, it’s actually much closer to the puzzle delivery of Portal, where your velocity remains the same as you flip around the environment. You establish where you need to be, and the puzzle is in working out how to get there. If you fall too far, it’s instant death and back to the last checkpoint, so careful planning is essential to your success. Failing that, just jump in the air, button-mash the cursor keys, and hope for the best. The latter tactic worked at least twice for me.
And Yet It Moves is an incredibly frustrating game that manages to remain joyous and addictive, whether you’re bouncing your way to success or being sucked into the ether. While it’s immensely challenging, it’s almost always fair, and failure is usually your own fault rather than the game’s. There are a few segments that demand trial and error – not to mention a few traps that I’m sure are outright impossible to spot first time round – but thankfully these are few and far between. You learn the rules, and you play by them. It’s tightly designed stuff.
Puzzles develop into ingenious squabbles with wildlife, as you try to bounce a banana into the hands of an angry chimp, or coerce bats into flapping in the face of a prying iguana. They make for a welcome break from the chaotic platforming, though the real joy of And Yet It Moves is in just that: the terrifying, heart-in-mouth moment where, in a fit of exhaustion, you hit the left arrow instead of the right one, and watch everything fall into oblivion just inches away from the next checkpoint.
The real, crippling problem is a complete lack of context to anything. You traverse through a cave, a jungle, and a bizarre universe of colour. But you’re compelled by the desire to solve the next puzzle, rather than by any sort of narrative. It seems a shame, and a waste. The luscious, collaged art design and beautiful, swelling soundtrack are enough to melt the hearts of even the most macho of gamers, but they seem to lend themselves to a sequence of events with a little more narrative substance. It’s the missing link that would have propelled And Yet It Moves into the upper echelons of videogaming. With its release so close to Braid on the PC, it’s a stabbing disparity, an unwelcome exclusion that highlights the difference in class between these two comparable titles.
But, judged purely on the sheer exhilaration of flying around every which way, working out how to clear that next path or how to reach that next platform, And Yet It Moves can only be praised. The time trials in particular are heart-pounding experiences, where one wrong move means failing to improve on your elusive previous best. And, at just a couple of hours long, it never outstays its welcome – though the relatively high price for such a short game may be problematic for some. Though not at the head of its pack, there’s a lot to love about And Yet It Moves, and I defy anyone not to find themselves horrendously addicted within minutes.