Published on July 17th, 2014 | by Lee Davies
Format reviewed: Wii U eShop
Other formats available: Timed exclusive
Developer: Fuzzy Wuzzy Games
Publisher: Fuzzy Wuzzy Games
Price: £5.50 (Introductory Price £4.00)
Armillo, a rolling 3D puzzle platformer, encompasses large rotating planetoid environments that draw heavily on influences from games such as Mario Galaxy, Hydroventure, Nightsky, and even sections of Metroid, think Morph Ball.
Invasion! The Dark Bots, headed by the evil Roto, have invaded your home planet and nearby Solar Systems in search of valuable energy giving Orbs. Your brother, Bolobol is taken captive and it’s up to you, and your rolling skills, to put an end to the tyranny of this Dark Bot army.
This storyline pushes the main content of the game, collection, puzzling, and more collection. Your collection prowess will be augmented with, on the main part, Blue Orbs, as well as time limited Green Orbs, and explosive Red Orbs, that allow access to Level Bosses. Then, there’s the Critters to collect, blue planetoid dwellers who help you on tasks.
Once World 1-1 is complete a shop opens up, headed by the Blue Critters you have rescued. The shop, Critter Corner, is where the Orbs collected can be exchanged for valuable power-up’s, such as extra starting lives, explosive rolls, etc.
It’s in the main story 3D levels where Armillo shines. Movement is pixel perfect, and once mastered you’ll be threading your rolled armadillo through mazes of exploding barrels, dodging laser attacks, and fighting enemies, albeit with a little stuttering and freezing in the frame rate at sporadic and infrequent moments. Armillo moves by pushing in the desired direction on the GamePad’s analogue stick. If you prefer you can adjust Armillo‘s movement to gyroscopic tilt control, but I found this far too fiddly to comprehend on later levels. He jumps with a press of A or B, and boost rolls by pressing X or Y. The boost attack is your main offensive maneuver against the majority of enemies. The camera can even be rotated with the L and R shoulder buttons.
This is where my biggest gripe with the 3D segment of the game lies, and it’s only a small gripe. Its confusion of location. Mario Galaxy executed perfect rotation and rarely left me thinking where the hell I was in relation to anything else. Armillo, on the other hand, does not. The biggest times this is evident are when death occurs, and the game simply restarts you back at the last checkpoint, which thankfully are frequent. You roll on and have no indication on which direction to travel because the camera has rotated off the alignment you were moving before death, and you have collected all Orbs in that area, so there’s no immediate way to know where you‘ve been or where you are going to. A small gripe that left me confused on more than one occasion. More often than not, frustration was my own fault due to some of the more difficult stages putting my skills to the test.
Each level, take for example 1-1, is split into 3 different parts. There are the main parts based on Armillo’s real world, where you can take your time to collect everything around you. At particular points you’ll come across swirling purple vortexes that suck you into the Dark Parallel Worlds, these play quite differently. Due to Armillo’s lack of longevity in the harsh atmosphere of the Dark World, these are all about speed. It’s very easy to miss an important pick up due to the relentless countdown of your impending doom. You’ll be flicking back and forth between reality and Parallel Worlds very often on later levels. Upon completion of a level, you are given a bonus Dark Moon based collectathon. Depending on how well you performed in the main level, you are given so many seconds to collect as many orbs as you can.
At the end of each level a breakdown of all Critters, Orbs, Containment Units collected, as well as you time taken is given. This, through multipliers, is translated into a score and you are given a medal on your performance. However, there are no online leader boards for a score attack bragging rights mode, so only local competition and posting your scores through Miiverse are left. Leader boards would have been a very welcome addition.
The way that new puzzle mechanics are thrown at you throughout the game, with little repetition, is impressive. Each level adds something new to the mix, such as flipping gravity, explosive jumping, double, triple, and even quadruple Armillo’s, twin-stick shooting, time based speed runs, fog of war style, smashing everything in sight, boss based dodging and attacking, and so on. Armillo succeeds in doing what it does best, puzzle based 3D platforming.
One thing that seriously caught my attention early on was the sound of this game. The first level is eerily quiet in the beginning. You arrive on Armillo’s homeworld with a backdrop of rain and thunder claps. This slowly progresses to some really nice upbeat tunes that had me swinging along throughout his adventure.
Menus are crisp and clutter-free. The main menu, for example, gives you the limited options of ‘Single Player’, ‘Credits’, and ‘Options’. It’s in the level selection menus that things go more grandiose. Each World is based on a Solar System, with the camera swooping around as you select the particular level you wish to take on. There are 5 Solar Systems for you to choose from at first, all but the first locked until completion of the Boss Level of the previous system. Each Solar System is based around a theme like lava, ice, etc. Within each Solar System there are 4 levels available to play through, the last one being based upon a boss, but playing in a similar puzzle mechanic to the others. Armillo himself gives a quick description of each level through Star Fox style dialogue boxes that ooze charm.
You don’t need to be a mathematician to see that 20 levels are available to play. That doesn’t seem like much on offer I hear you say, well then don’t fret, Armillo, through other collectables, such as Containment Units, can unlock Secret Levels that are accessible in the Critter Corner. One Secret Level is available for every level in the normal game, but this does not include the Boss Levels. The secret levels are not the full 3D globe rotating affairs that you’ll be used to, but 2D platformer speed run levels with very different puzzle mechanics, such as a double jump that is time based. You can only double jump once and then have to wait for your boost meter to power up before execution of another can be done. It is due to this mechanic, and the fact that the camera is zoomed in way too close to your character, that these Secret Levels can be far more frustrating than the main 3D affairs. Add to those frustrations with rotating 2D levels and some become hair-pullingly infuriating.
Whilst playing on the TV, the GamePad is relegated to being used to show you how many lives and hearts you have left, as well as showing you what and how many things you’ve collected. Not too shabby as this leaves the TV clutter free, but I found myself, on more than one occasion, wanting the Heart Indicator to be placed on the TV screen, and not relegated to the second screen where I very rarely looked at it. The game can be played Off-TV with a simple press of an icon found at the upper right corner of the GamePad. However, strangely this icon is only available during the menus and not while playing a level. So, if you want to quickly change from TV to GamePad in level, you will have to pause the game and go through the options menu to make the change. A strange oversight.
Even with all its content Armillo can be completed in around 6 hours, for the completionists out there you’ll have an extended level of depth in finding all Containment Units within the Parallel Dark Worlds, and the Red Orbs in the game’s unlockable Secret Levels, plus other bonuses.
At its best, Armillo pleases with it’s accurate movement mechanics, wonderful sound design, affordable price point and sheer variety of puzzle types on offer. At its worst, it’s frustrating 2D levels and sporadic frame rate freezes bring down an overall enjoyable puzzle platformer.
Summary: An enjoyable, affordable, and clever 3D rolling puzzle platformer, annoyingly frustrated with confused 2D levels and an infrequent freezing frame rate.