[Disclaimer: indie games that I review are done so differently than larger development team games; “AAA” games. This doesn’t mean I don’t hold them to high standards, but rather, I take into consideration different variables, such as the size of the actual development team, or the type of finances that were available]
Armillo was supposed to be out earlier this year, originally slated for a March release, and then a May release. This isn’t an uncommon occurrence with indie games, but it doesn’t help with opening sales. People begin to lose interest or forget about the game, most likely expecting it to fall into obscurity and get cancelled. Aside from the delayed release, another interesting facet of Armillo, which helped it to stand out from the large amount of indie titles on the Wii U, is that it isn’t just another 2D platformer. Yes, there are sections of the game that fit the side-scrolling mold, but those aren’t the main gameplay; Armillo is a 3D action/adventure platformer. Needless to say, there is a lot that Armillo would need to live up to in order to succeed. So, now that Armillo has finally rolled his way onto the eShop, is he worth your time and money?
Visuals – 8.75/10
Armillo looks good. The design of each level is very creative and fun, and the solid visuals help with this. Bright colors, nice lighting effects, the incorporation of both light and dark levels….there is a good amount of variety to be found here. The game runs smoothly as well, with only a few minor hiccups. At various spots throughout the game, though nothing to sway you from the overall visual experience, the frame rate would drop some and the game would chug along for 2-3 seconds. A minor flaw, but a flaw nonetheless. I noticed it would usually happen towards the beginning of a level, when Armillo would drop down to the beginning of the stage, or when the player first began exploring the new level. These instances weren’t enough to drastically affect my experience, nor were they incredibly frequent.
The character designs in the game are done fairly well, too, formed with enough creativity and love to make them endearing. There’s something humorous and entertaining when Armillo jumps and his stubby legs flail beneath him, or when he is playfully hopping upon mushroom tops. The character animations and levels work well together, creating a living world in a very short amount of time. These visual embellishments were a breath of fresh air amongst indie games, as many indie games focus solely on gameplay and not the entire package. One of my favorite levels, and an example for the visual quality and design in Armillo, is found later in the game, titled “Desert Dessert.” The player navigates a snowy level riddled with various types of food (strawberries, cake, pie, etc). While you roll around, eating food and growing larger, snow and food drop out of the sky, floating to the ground and creating a “snowstorm” of sorts. Did the developers need to add this into the level? No, but it sure does looks cool, and adds to the character of the world itself. As far as indie games go, Armillo is easily in the top tier regarding visuals. In fact, I would say that it is “AA” quality; I was pleasantly surprised by how good the game looked and ran.
Audio – 9/10
The file size of Armillo is rather large, and it was revealed by Fuzzy Wuzzy Games via Twitter that the reason for this was due to the audio and music within the game. Music and audio play heavy roles within the core of a game, so when it isn’t given the proper amount of attention, the overall game can suffer. I’ve played many indie games that use about only 5 songs, and maybe 100 audio cues throughout their entirety. Again, Armillo surpassed my expectations.
Firstly, the music is fantastic. It’s an oddly satisfying mix of old school sound bytes and Dubstep/techno; somehow it works. The music changes from stage to stage, rarely ever repeating a song. This is a large feat – that’s a lot of music to incorporate into a game! In addition, the music is used very well and fits each stage; the musical cues are spot on. You may roll into a small area with a puzzle to be solved and the music drops down to bass coupled with a toned down rhythm section. When a boss battle arises, the music picks up the tempo and gets a little louder than normal. The music works WITH the gameplay, and in doing so, it highlights both aspects. I also have to point out that the music found in the bonus 2D stages is superb, and easily some of the best in the game.
Audio is done just as well: Armillo let’s out a high pitched “Woohoo!” when jumping; the metallic sound of Armillo rolling along a steel plate is spot on; the robotic, maniacal laughing and dialogue found by the evil Roto is entertaining. Everything makes a noise of some sort, triggering many different cues, all of which work with not only the gameplay but the music as well. There was a lot of time and effort put into the audio in Armillo, and it definitely shows.
Gameplay – 9/10
I was most worried about how Armillo would play, as I wasn’t sure it would hold my interest, and the controls had the potential to get really wonky, really quickly. Armillo doesn’t disappoint, as the controls are tight and fit the game very well. The player views Armillo at a slightly tilted angle from above while navigating each level-world and rescuing critters. You can move the camera left or right with the shoulder buttons, though I would’ve preferred using the second joystick on the GamePad. Armillo can jump, roll, and dash. It’s a very simple setup that is used very effectively. Also, at certain points throughout the game, Armillo might come across a [freaking] laser beam or a gun that shoots critters; these are nice additions that utilize both sticks on the GamePad.
The level design (which are mini-worlds reminiscent of something you might find in the Mario Galaxy games), puzzles, and obstacles are very well done, offering gradual difficulty as the player progresses further in the story. The first two worlds were fairly easy to move past, focusing more on exploration and making sure the player is accustomed to the control scheme, while the latter worlds provide much more difficulty. The game never feels cheap though. There were many instances when I would think to myself, “They should really put an extra life here,” or, “They should create a way to bypass this puzzle if I don’t want to deal with it now;” and, surely enough, it would be implemented in the gameplay. The game isn’t ridiculously hard, but it isn’t easy either: it walks the fine line between the two.
What really stands out about Armillo is that it is a 3D action/adventure game amongst a sea of 2D platformers found on the eShop. I’m not saying the 2D side scrollers are bad in any way, but Armillo does a great job of being different and separates itself with excellent gameplay. I can’t say it enough that Armillo, as a whole, feels more like a retail “AA” game than a $6 indie game.
On top of the well done 3D gameplay, Armillo also incorporates 2D platforming in the form of bonus stages. I really enjoyed these levels, and adding them as extra content was a splendid move. There are enough stages – each well designed – to keep the player entertained without going overboard and making the levels chores. They are treats rather than a main course, and they fit very well.
If there’s one complaint I have about the gameplay is that there isn’t enough of it. I was able to finish the game at 56% in about 4 hours, completing the story mode. But this is a minor complaint, as there are tons of collectibles and levels I still have yet to get. Otherwise, the controls are very tight, the level design is well done, and the core game mechanics are innovative amongst indie games.
Entertainment Factor – 8.75/10
There are no online capabilities with Armillo, but this is the type of game that doesn’t need it, and though I would’ve enjoyed a couple more worlds, the game still has plenty of content to keep the player busy for some time. Something else Armillo has going for it is that it appeals to a large audience: children, adults, men, women…there’s something for everyone in Armillo. I greatly enjoyed Armillo on multiple levels – gameplay difficulty, design, cartoon-like fun, and a decent story with a few moments of humor that legitimately made me laugh. There’s a question I ask myself for every game I play: do I want to play the game more after I’ve beaten it? In the case of Armillo, I did play it more. I wanted to unlock and play all of the 2D bonus levels. I wanted to get gold medals for each level, and rescue all the critters in every world. I wanted to accumulate every power up I could get. If a game entices me to play it more after I’m “finished” with it, then it has done an exceptional job at keeping me entertained.
So, is Armillo perfect? No, it’s a little short with a few bugs here and there. But, is Armillo worth your time? Absolutely. I highly recommend this game on all fronts: solid visuals, exceptional music and audio, and innovative 3D gameplay. You’ll have fun with Armillo, especially for the price, so make sure to pick it up! Armillo rolls onto the Wii U eShop on July 3, 2014
Overall – 9/10