Version tested: Wii
There are moments during And Yet It Moves that snap you right back to the very first time you started playing videogames. When everything felt fresh, surprising and unfettered by expectation, and you figured things out not through learned responses and experience but pure, wide-eyed intuition.
There's no dumb back-story to wade through. No feeble attempt at scene-setting exposition. Just you, trying to gently coax a badly drawn boy through a ripped-up two-dimensional world to an elusive exit. With the press of a button, you can pause the action and literally tilt the entire environment through 360 degrees - and everything in between.
As the world flips around at your command and gravity shifts your character's orientation, what were once walls and ceilings become viable platforms for you to traverse. A once-impossible maze suddenly becomes a physics playground to careen and slide your hapless traveller around.
But death is everywhere. Tilt the cardboard playground too violently - or at an unfavourable angle - and your fragile passenger risks being shattered by the crippling velocity of the fall. Even in abstract worlds such as these, the well-worn rules of platforming apply.
Gradually, mere plodding exploration becomes something of a gentle luxury, as the game throws up ever more complex and bizarre obstacles between checkpoints. Angry gorillas bar your progress, demanding a hearty banana main course before they'll shuffle off. Sometimes it's just a case of applying dumb brute force, shepherding rocks (or, sometimes, bats) and using gravity to smash through blockages, or creating a chain reaction of fire to clear a hornet's nest.
Just when you feel like you're getting a handle on the game's eccentric demands, developer Broken Rules resorts to the freakish and sinister, accompanying increasingly acid-fried psychedelia with throbbing, spongy soundscapes that seem specifically designed to peer into one's dark recesses.
For maximum disorientation, you'll find yourself oscillating gently on pulsing columns of sound, rotating through insubstantial environments where platforms vanish no sooner than they've appeared. Where inky voids threaten to suck you into the abyss. Where inverse dopplegangers demand that you simultaneously guide them to the door that you just emerged from. If it feels like you're losing grip on reality, don't worry - you are.
Before long it's not merely the world that you're able to twist and rotate, but entire platforms. What was once reliably nailed down coils and uncoils with predictably unpredictable effect. It's one thing sliding down momentarily onto something that periodically disappears, but another thing entirely when the mere act of rotation distorts the very item you're hoping will break your fall.
From there it only gets stranger. Criss-crossing, shape-shifting items of organic garishness provide a seemingly impossible cage to negotiate. Somehow you squeeze gracefully through the narrowest of gaps, only to find yourself crushed and exasperated at your own lack of care.
As fiendish as the game can appear at times, there's always comfort to be sought from failure. It's a game where the tightness of the level design dictates that it's generally your fault if you screw things up. Even if it isn't true, you always have the sense that you'll do better next time. This steely determination sets in early on, and the forward momentum carries you through all three chapters (plus an epilogue) across the three hours that it'll take you to barrel through.
Even when the Journey is over, there are the other play modes to draw you back for more. Survival tasks you with solving each level with a maximum number of lives, while Time Trial forces you to reach each checkpoint within a strict time limit. Elsewhere you'll unlock Limited Rotations, where you only get to manipulate the environment a specific number of times. As with everything else, harsh doesn't even cover it. But the more familiar you become with each level and the unique demands of the control system, the more you'll embrace the fearsome challenge.
Interestingly, the various control options have a surprisingly distinct effect on the game's playability. By default, the game suggests you play with the Wii Remote held sideways, with d-pad for left/right movement, 1 to stop the action to allow you to tilt, and 2 to jump.
It seems simple enough, but actually, the other options that employ the nunchuk seem to offer greater precision. With the nunchuk used for movement, and the remote pointed at the screen, you can either rotate the world as if you were turning a key, or by pointing and dragging - both are superbly intuitive, and it's strange that the game doesn't make more effort to flag them up. Regardless of the option you choose, though, it's a game that's a natural fit for the Wii.
It's remarkable to find a game of such effortless brilliance showing up in such an unheralded fashion. Similar to Limbo's rather low-key arrival on Xbox Live Arcade last month, games like And Yet It Moves add weight to the growing feeling that the indie scene has never been such a vibrant and exciting place to explore. It also inspires a mute sense of frustration that mediocre boxed games in done-to-death genres get all the marketing dollars, but that's another story. The public gets what the public wants, apparently.
The fact that games hell-bent on breaking all the rules appear to be showing up on an increasingly regular basis across multiple download channels is genuinely heart-warming. If, for whatever reason, you missed out on its PC release last year, or have held off buying a WiiWare title, now is definitely the time to make amends. At this price, there's no excuse not to reward Broken Rules for its fine efforts. And if you're still not convinced, just watch the game in action.
9 / 10
And Yet It Moves is available to download now on WiiWare, priced at 1000 Wii Points - £7/€10.