Frustrated by the lack of first party Wii U releases this summer? Or maybe you've already blown through the nostalgia fest that is EarthBound Beginnings and want something else to while away the lazy days of summer? If so, then Fuzzy Wuzzy games is here to help with Armillo, a 3D platformer about a planet-hopping space armadillo.
At first glance Armillo looks simple enough: you guide a space armadillo named Armillo through various planetary systems in an attempt to fend off an invasion by the mysterious Darkbots. To do this, you must move through each level while navigating around obstacles and enemies. Each level is a maze-like sphere, with boundaries reminiscent of the metal rails of a pinball machine. Wide open spaces are rare and usually contain enemies as well as puzzles. One-way gates, switches that put you on the inside surface of a level, and holes that take you underground are just some of the puzzles that help keep the gameplay fresh. Because of the enemies, puzzles, and level design, some areas require you to explore slowly and methodically to avoid hazards, while others can be sped through without much care.
Like similar platformers, Armillo contains a checkpoint system. When you pass a checkpoint, any collectibles you've obtained are logged, so if you lose a life, you'll restart at the last checkpoint and will only need to collect anything you had gathered since then. For the most part, Armillo's developers did a great job of preventing needless frustration by placing extra lives just after checkpoints going into some of the most difficult sections of the game. So if you lose a life in these sections, you just restart at the checkpoint, grab the extra life, and repeat this process indefinitely until you've reached the next checkpoint. This shows great foresight on the part of the developers, but there were a few places where they didn't do this that left me scratching my head and wondering "Why not?" It's not a major issue, but it was noticeable.
Making it to the end of each level isn't your only goal. As you explore, you're tasked with freeing cute blue beings known as critters. The Darkbots have been using these poor creatures as energy sources, locking them up in see-through containers throughout Armillo's levels. To free the critters, you just roll or dash into their capsules to break them. Along the way, the critters help Armillo in numerous ways. He must rescue a specific number of critters to unlock the final level in each system, and sometimes he'll even find a critter launcher in some levels that turn these cute blue creatures into living ammo.
The critters aren't the only collectibles in the game, either. Scattered throughout each level are glowing blue orbs. At the end of every level, Armillo blasts off to that planet's moon for a timed minigame of sorts, where he can collect even more of them. The more critters you've rescued in that level, the more time you can spend on that level's moon. All these orbs act like currency that can be used to purchase power-ups from a shop run by the critters. If you're having trouble with a level, these power-ups can increase your maximum health, number of lives, and more. Don't think you can just replay the first level to get enough to buy them all, though, because there is a limited number of orbs in the game. Replaying a level only gets you more of them if you collect a greater number than you did the last time you completed it.
There are other reasons to replay a level, though, even if you've already collected all of its orbs and freed all of its critters. Within each level is a portal to a parallel universe version of that level where the air is toxic and whose layout is somewhat different. You can only remain there for a limited time, but exploring those areas is important, because hidden within them are Critter Capsules containing a 2D secret level. These are mostly the same as the 3D levels, except that they're timed and Armillo can double jump as well as dash. Beware, though: your ability to double jump is tied to the same meter as your boost, so it has to refill before you can double jump again. In practice, this means that you have to wait about half a second after doing a double jump before doing another. It's not a huge issue, but it does take some getting used to.
Why should you play these 2D levels, then, other than to listen to their awesome music or collect their orbs? Simple. Completing a secret level gets you a red orb, a certain number of which are needed — along with the required number of critters — to unlock the final level in each system. Completing secret levels can even unlock worlds in a hidden planetary system. I only played through one such world, but it was packed with Easter eggs referencing various game series for which someone at Fuzzy Wuzzy Games must have a soft spot. Which games might those be? It's a secret to everybody.
The Verdict: A High Quality Indie Platformer
All in all, Armillo is a fun little indie game that manages to be fresh and original, while at the same time reminding players of the many great platformers that came before it. The puzzles, enemies, and mechanics are unique, while the gameplay is engaging and fun, with just enough familiarity to put a nostalgic smile on your face. Armillo's visuals are a perfect complement to said gameplay, drawing you into a world where armadillos can travel through space, and its awesome music will make you never want to leave. Every part of this game, from the title screen to the end credits, just oozes charm. It's a quality platformer that's well worth a look. Whether you're a platforming enthusiast or you just want a fun game to help you unwind and relax this summer, you can’t go wrong with Armillo.