It’s hard to not compare indie games to the good titles of old, often they’ll be graphically similar, with a distinguished 8/16/32-bit graphical style, but Armillo draws comparisons for a much different, but arguably better reason, the gameplay. You’ll see and feel the echoes of  ’80s and ’90s games, but don’t worry, Armillo isn’t stuck in the past, and shows that it is possible to cram in several ideas and influences from other titles and make a spectacular game, one to even rival the creativity of Nintendo’s EAD employees.

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From the very start, comparisons to Super Mario Galaxy, Super Monkey Ball and one of the more obscure Sonic games will be made, due to the fact that you roll around on spherical planets, but the first title that came to my head when playing Armillo was in fact “Marble Madness. This is a new Marble Madness“. I’m wrong, of course, but controlling the game’s orange protagonist Armillo (and later on, his blue brother), is like stepping back into the past, where you roll around terrains and planets made up of different ideas and concepts.

The first world you visit, titled “Armillo’s World” gives you the basics, there’s no boring tutorial, controls are accessible to everyone and easily picked up (there’s an option to use the GamePad’s accelerometer should you be up to the challenge). You’ll quickly be smashing rocks and enemies by “boosting” into them. There’s two main actions you can perform, jump and boost, which, when tied together, can be used to give yourself a lengthier boost. I can see this game being very popular with speedrunners in the near future. In Armillo’s World and later ones, power-ups will be scattered across the land mass for Armillo and his brother to use. These power-ups will have various effects, such as making Armillo bigger, smaller, giving him an extra life or a heart, or even extra time.

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In each level, there are portals to a parallel universe, a sort of dark world, where Armillo only has a limited amount of time to find the exit. These portals open up all sorts of puzzle elements and boy does the game make use of them. Sometimes hints will be given in the dark world, which you’ll need to utilise in the “light” world, such as X marks on certain spots where crates need to be placed. It’s certainly challenging and puts you under a lot of pressure. Once you’ve come to the end of a level, you’ll find essentially a sort of boost pad, which, according to how many of Armillo’s blue critter friends you’ve saved along the way, will give you a certain amount of time to collect as many orbs as you can on the moon. These orbs are collected throughout all levels and levels’ moons, and can be used in the in-game shop to boost Armillo’s powers, such as making him stronger, giving him extra hearts or giving him additional seconds.

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The strongest part of this game is how many different gameplay elements it has in it. You’ll sometimes be required to pick up the dynamite power-up, which gives you three seconds in order to get back to the rocks you want to blow up, so you’ll need to carefully navigate back to the right position. Some enemies will shoot at you, which will either damage you, or make you much slower, or even inverse the controls. There will be times where you’ll shrink, or even get much bigger. Puzzles will need to be solved, lasers will need to be dodged, platforms will need to be jumped on and off. Sometimes you’ll need to turn into a cube to get past enemies or rocks, or use boosts in order to get over a large gap, or you’ll need to use a gun in order to destroy the Darkbots. Armillo has a lot going on, and it’s easy to make all these elements feel excessive and unneeded, but the game blends them to good use.

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The game has plenty of replayability, it harkens back to the days of N64 platforming games where each levels has hidden items. There’s a specific number of Armillo’s blue friends in each level, which, don’t all need to be saved, will surely needed to be found in order to achieve the best score possible and get a gold medal on each level. Also hidden on each level is an item than unlocks arguably the best part of the game, its 2D levels. The 2D levels take as much inspiration from 2D predecessors as do the 3D levels. Once again, Sonic vibes are present throughout, as well as, of course, Mario. In these 2D levels, Armillo has to navigate his way to the end of the level over platforms, dangers and using power-ups to find the red orb, which unlocks later 3D levels. I haven’t managed to finish the last 2D level, it’s difficulty is similar to that of Super Mario Galaxy/ Galaxy 2‘s final level, really. I’d love to know how many people on the QA team completed it. It’s more terrifying that the games’ Darkbots.

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Each solar system, presented in a Star Fox-like hub, has a general theme to it, my favourite being the traditional fire and ice worlds, where the you’ll manipulate the weather in order to progress through the levels. It’s not the hardest puzzle to solve, but they do require some thought pattern before attempting them, especially if you’re going for 100%. Accompanying all these worlds is an exceptionally great soundtrack, which I wasn’t expecting at all. The 3D levels have great ambience to them, and the music only adds more glamour to them, but again, it’s the 2D levels where the soundtrack stands out. Tunes that will take you back to the arcade, they’re addictive to listen to and will only make you replay the 2D levels even more. Fantastic work with the soundtrack, I have it on in the background as I write this now.

I’ve been very surprised by Armillo, from the story, I was expecting the traditional “Orange Armadillo saves Pink Armadillo”, to the sheer amount of ideas and creativity expressed in the levels,and the brilliant 2D levels as well as the soundtrack, I’ve been blown away. I’d love to play lots more. Fuzzy Wuzzy Games have done a superb job in making a new IP which doesn’t stick to the traditional 2D, 16-bit indie platformer forumla. This fast-paced action and puzzle adventure should be on your list of games to buy soon.

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Armillo is set for release tomorrow on the Wii U eShop, July 3rd, in both Europe and North America for an introductory price of $6 /€4.50 / £4.00 until the 24th. Thank you to Fuzzy Wuzzy Games for providing me a review code in order to produce this review.



Author

Daniel Switzer
Daniel Switzer

@PushStartMedia editor and Nintendo specialist.