Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Armillo (Wii U eShop) Review

Our first review of July is an indie game that many were following ever since its announcement. It's the Wii U eShop title Armillo from Fuzzy Wuzzy Games. Will you have a ball playing Armillo, or is it a game better left for roadkill on a desert highway?

Letting the Good Times Roll,
One Armadillo at a Time

The Nintendo eShop on the Wii U started off slow with but a trickle of support in the early goings. Now, we're seeing an abundance of new software that really showcases the amount of work Nintendo is putting in with indies to develop for the Wii U. While indies aren't a 100% replacement for big third-party studios and their games, their titles fill a hole that Nintendo can't possibly fill on its own. One such developer to fill the gaps in Nintendo's release schedule is Fuzzy Wuzzy Games. Their first Wii U project, Armillo, rolls onto the Wii U eShop and is a surprisingly well made game.

Armillo has you playing as the eponymous armadillo, rolling around large spherical planets that make up the levels of the game. What makes Armillo so brilliant is how it creatively uses a simplistic control scheme (left stick or accelerometer to roll, one button to charge, one to jump) and premise, and creates so many different scenarios based off of both where you're constantly amazed by what obstacle and challenge awaits you next.

Careful, Armillo. You don't want to catch
a cold out there in the rain!
At its core, Armillo is a 3D action-platformer with a lot of puzzle elements to it. When you're not carefully maneuvering around narrow pathways, leaping off of moving blocks which precariously hover over black pits, avoiding getting pushed off a platform by an enemy, dodging the lasers and fireballs of automated turrets, or smashing through blockades, you're doing a lot of work with your mind too. You're finding the right colored key for a locked door, pushing blocks around in a particular formation, rolling across switches in the correct order to open gateways, and discovering hidden paths that lead to alternate routes.

Each planet successfully feels
like its own unique place.
Throughout the game, Armillo earns new abilities and comes across new power-ups. He can grow to massive size, making once impassable roadblocks able to be passed through like they weren't even there; he can don a helmet that fires a laser or stream of bullets at foes and obstructions in the path; and he can explode into the air like a firework, perfect for taking out airborne distractions.

Who needs a theme park when you've
got a wild ride with Armillo?
Armillo's adventure lasts five worlds, each spanning four levels apiece. Levels themselves last around five minutes at most for a first go-around, and every final level of a world is boss level. Armillo's campaign is really at a perfect length, as it doesn't end too short and it doesn't overstay its welcome. It's just enough to make for a meaty adventure, well worth the price.

Even after the game has been beaten (which takes a few hours), you're nowhere near finished with Armillo, as there's plenty to unlock. The game's Critter Shop allows orbs found in levels to purchase new goods, such as extra health, extra lives, and lasting abilities that can be found nowhere else in the game. Special items resting inside levels unlock so-called Secret Levels, further giving players incentive to replay levels .

This level has the climate changing
from hot to cold and vice versa. 
Unlike the 3D sphere-traversal levels Armillo's story mode possesses, these Secret Levels are pure 2D affairs. These require much more skill and dexterity than what is found in the story. As these levels are timed, you need agile thumbs, quick reflexes, and a cool head. That said, these levels don't control and tightly as their 3D counterparts, unfortunately, so sometimes the more precision-based jumps can become an effort in aggravation.

The Secret Levels are enjoyable and challenging,
but the latter is partly due to how Armillo handles.
In addition to simply beating the 3D and 2D levels of Armillo, you can attempt to earn a gold medal on each and every level in the game through scoring enough points. At the time of this writing, some of the medals are glitched, not authorizing the awarding of a gold medal despite the fact that you've earned more than enough points to break the threshold required. This will undoubtedly be patched, so it's not that much of a long-term concern.

The worlds and areas Armillo rolls about on are full of impressive details, satisfying textures, and cool particle effects here and there. While Armillo generally runs at a steady 60 frames-per-second. at certain inexplicable times, and especially when a lot is happening on screen, the frame-rate will take a quick, noticeable hit. It's nothing that destroys the experience, but it is easily apparent to the eyes. Armillo's soundtrack consists of electronic music, and the highlight and real treat to the ears comes in the Secret Levels, where chiptune music is king (or queen, if you prefer).

Did you know that synchronized rolling
is a retired Olympic event? Look it up!
Armillo is a game that looked impressive mid-development, and it's such a welcome thing to have the game defy the already positive expectations I had for the game. It's charming, it's a wonderful value, and it mostly plays superbly. The amount of content for the low price is staggering, so it's no question that you should definitely roll on over to the Wii U eShop and pick up Fuzzy Wuzzy Games's Armillo today.

[SPC Says: 9.0/10]

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