QCF: Armillo

hake your head all you want but the fact just simply remains that even after the introduction of Wiiware and eShop; the realm of indie games is still strange territory for Nintendo to cross—at least it seems like it with the way they’re going about it.

Thankfully, the big N is still trying to improve their approach towards their relationship in indie game distribution, and one of the products that’s especially benefited from their efforts in this campaign of exposure is an indie game about a space armadillo—a friggin’ sweet space armadillo.

Fuzzy Wuzzy Game’s Armillo channels the light-hearted spirit of character driven games of the 32-bit era, and humbly creates an adorably minimalistic atmosphere of challenge and colors that will universally appeal to the simple instincts and drive of platforming in a surprisingly intriguing way.

We’ve naturally arrived at point in gaming to where players are subconsciously compelled to compare and contrast any new game they try to another one of like-minded design. A plethora of games like Pac-Man, Super Mario Galaxy, Sonic, and more come to mind, and  Armillo possesses the charm of being a giant melting pot of subtle inspirations and elements and ingeniously incorporates them into an organic gameplay system that not only gives it's own identity that instills a flair of distinction from the properties it places muse from but one that also happens to simply work as well. Every stage will pit gamers into a spherical world constructed with various tracks, runways, and stunt-jumps displayed through a fisheye lens perspective that boasts a liberal range of angling and camera control—still with me, good.

The little character, Armillo, rolls through, boosting, and jumping through the obstacles and enemies in the aforementioned conditions, and manages to convey a dynamic of agency through mechanics that would normally be opaque by general standards, and makes it work instead. Specifically, in the a similar sense of Super Mario 3D World’s execution (not as smoothly mind you) Armillo marries traditional platforming dynamics from older platforming titles like Sonic the Hedgehog and Jumping Jack, to the sensibilities of modern 3D stage design and pacing, filtering the blend in a manner that achieves of the depth of accessibility and skill.

While the foundation of level structure are mostly the same, it’s all the set pieces and chaotic obstacles that peppered in between that help make each level more distinctive than the last. The moment to moment challenges can pit the crimson furry into a variety of things, and considering the sheer size and length of the levels, the adrenaline charting the gradually growing size and length of these levels never seems to overstay it’s welcome during play and drag on. From quipping him with a bazooka to blast away specific targets to a gyrating pinball course with explosive bumpers and a relentless enemy, aggressively stalking you as you try to bounce and roll to safety, Fuzzy Wuzzy has managed to create a path finding level structure that’s constantly turning players on their head without ever overwhelming them in the process.

Aside from the unique, and engaging design to the space maze formula, the benefit of the surreal world of the eponymously named heroic rodent is that the presentation gets free reign to get weird and vibrant with the environments and visual designs, and Fuzzy Wuzzy Games gracefully seizes the opportunity.

The surroundings found within Armillo are notable for being able to standout out through their uses of color and the various combinations applied with them in spite of the minimalistic details of texture and effects involved. The bright aesthetic of the stage lends a great deal to the gameplay and it’s because of the embellished palate that the on-screen flair of momentum and velocity adds this deceptive sensation of intensity to the action going on.

The old-school approach to constant movement and player agency is indeed a breath of fresh air, but unfortunately, with every solid convention that Armillo utilizes, it takes a step backwards from some familiar misguided design decisions that were just best left in the past where they belonged.

As the levels gradually go on, the fast pace of gameplay can awkwardly come to a halt at times from the awkward tasking of collecting and shitty scavenger hunt-esque objectives that only manage to take way from what actually makes playing Armilo so fun more so than it ever supplements it.

Collecting and earning orbs does a great job of satiating the natural greed that comes with chasing down every shiny bobble you see, but the spirit of gathering them gets tainted with the need to farm for them at times when it comes to buying certain feature or unlocks that factor into progressing the game. To elaborate, the collect-a-thon aspects are a necessary evil at times with these type of affairs, but Armillo unfortunately gets obnoxious with it the further you go.

In spite of certain hindering speed bumps during the ride, Armillo is a game built on the weird premise of delivering fast moving dumb fun through surprisingly deep course design that will test both mental and muscle reflexes alike. The eShop is slowly coming into its own in spite of some of the flaws that still surround it, and this nifty little indie platformer stands as a testament to that, especially at the steal of just eight bones; don’t wait for a sale, just buy it now and thank me later.

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