Developer: Fuzzy Wuzzy Games
Publisher: Fuzzy Wuzzy Games
Platform: Wii U
Release Date: July 3, 2014
ESRB: E for Everyone
The era of video game mascots is largely over and has been for some time, but having played through Armillo, you almost wouldn't know it, and that's a good thing. Developed by newcomer Fuzzy Wuzzy Games, Armillo is a 3D action platformer that takes inspiration from platformers and mascot games new and old, and stars the titular round, brown, space armadillo. Taking on a genre like that is no small task, especially for an indie studio, but fortunately this title proves its worth and then some. What you'll soon discover is that this game easily makes a title for itself as the best 3D platformer on the Wii U eShop today.
Armillo begins with the title character investigating an invasion by an enemy force known as the Darkbots, who have invaded the galaxy because they've over polluted their own worlds and need more energy. Upon Armillo's first encounter with them, they also end up kidnapping his brother, Bolobol, who looks similar in appearance but is blue and wears shades. Surprisingly, the story is not just an excuse for the gameplay but is actually kept at the forefront at all times from beginning to the end. Just about every level contributes to the story in some way, and there's also a twist or two thrown in that may surprise players.
Each level (or planet) plays out on a sphere-like planetoid that is divided up into several areas; in many ways, each planet is like a giant maze that you'll need to guide Armillo through to get to the exit, solving different puzzles, avoiding obstacles, collecting orbs, and defeating enemies along the way. In addition to rolling around, Armillo can also jump and dash forward, the latter of which can also break down some obstacles and assist in long jumps. There are also certain power-ups you will find throughout the game that will give Armillo special abilities, such as a cannon that straps to his body and can destroy most obstacles and enemies, an ability that makes him cube-like and heavy, thus being able to crush enemies and obstacles, and yet another that makes him giant-sized.
In general, most levels are unique and introduce new gameplay elements that help to shake things up and keep the game interesting. The first world is more reminiscent of more Mario atmosphere-like planetoids from Super Mario Galaxy, but then things progress to fire, ice, and generally more sci-fi themed planets in later levels. One of my favorite levels had Armillo switching the planet from ice to lava-like in order to proceed, and yet another had him flipping through panels on the topside and underside of the world to progress. Even though some of the ideas aren't wholly original and may have been seen in other games before, they're executed well in these instances.
Levels also contain many hidden areas that you may likely bypass or not find unless you really seek them out by revisiting the area. Furthermore, each level has a secret item to acquire that unlocks a secret level. These secret levels are 2D platforming affairs that have a retro flair to them (both in appearance and music) and each generally has a design that makes that specific level unique (like one that has rotating gears, one where the level itself rotates, one where the level continuously grows in size, and more). Some are especially fun to play through and can offer a nice break from the usual 3D gameplay of the normal levels, but they're also often quite difficult as a timer often makes it difficult to get all the way through with minimal mistakes.
Also of note is the inclusion of an option to use the Wii U Gamepad's accelerometer in order to control Armillo's movements. This puts a unique spin on the gameplay, making it more Super Monkey Ball-like in nature and thus more challenging. However, Fuzzy Wuzzy does note that it's best to play through the game with normal controls first (a suggestion that I would also agree with as well). And of course, being a Wii U title, off-screen play on the Gamepad is an option presented on the title screen should you wish to play it that way.
Unfortunately, the game does have a few faults. The biggest is that there are certain areas where the game will hang for a second or two; it isn't hugely interruptive and won't affect your overall experience greatly, but is noticeable. Thankfully Fuzzy Wuzzy Games is working on a fix and should have it patched at some point in the near future. Another thing that mildly bugged me was when restarting from a checkpoint, the camera angle is usually different, making it a little difficult to discern where you came from and where you need to go; this is just a minor nitpick on my part, though.
As mentioned at the outset, Armillo does a great job of harkening back to traditional 3D platformers of yesteryear. The game itself has an appealing, cartoonish visual style. It doesn't quite reach Super Mario Galaxy levels of detail and polish, and it's obvious that it was developed on a limited budget, but it's definitely one of the more impressive-looking games on the Wii U eShop right now. Even more impressive is the game's varied soundtrack, which dabbles in everything from ambient sounds to electronic, hard rock/metal, and even dubstep and more; if the soundtrack were made available, there are definitely some songs that I would love to listen to on their own.
In the end, Armillo is a great first effort by Fuzzy Wuzzy Games. It's fun, and more importantly, packed full of content. After completing all 5 worlds, you'll likely have plenty of secret levels (of which there are just as many as the normal levels) to discover and play through as well as a few secret worlds that house offer some great surprises that I won't spoil here (you'll have to experience it yourself). Armillo is without a doubt one of the best values on the eShop (at only $8) for what it gives you in return, so if you're a fan of 3D platformers and or are simply looking for something for a good game to play on the eShop, definitely consider rolling with this one.
+ 3D platforming gameplay is fun
+ Lots of extra content
+ Good soundtrack
- Some frame rate issues, hanging in certain areas
- Camera angles can be a little confusing at times
- Controls can be a little too floaty, especially in 2D levels
Overall Score: 8 (out of 10)
Armillo marks a strong debut for Fuzzy Wuzzy Games as one of the Wii U eShop's more exceptional titles. If you're looking for a fun 3D platformer with echoes of retro-inspiration and lots of content, definitely consider a purchase here.
Disclosure: This game was reviewed using Wii U downloadable code provided by the publisher.