The indie game And Yet It Moves was recently released on Steam and Greenhouse. It's a platformer in which you puzzle your way through the levels by jumping and falling, with the ability to rotate the world itself in four different directions.
It's another example of the self-conscious formal invention that characterizes more and more indies. And its implications are pretty cool -- where "normal" platformers have you manipulating a body that is continually, perilously in danger, in this game the "body" is the combination of figure and ground. Where effective navigation -- platforming -- once required fluency with the given environment, here success requires fluency with platforming conventions. When can up become down? Which walls can effectively be turned 90 degrees to become platforms that can be jumped across? How can you fall gracefully, without dying? The shape of the world is not horizontal or vertical, like in other platformers, but essentially circular. You never can tell whether you end a level (by finding the exit door) in the same orientation as you started it.
In other words, your sense of what is in danger is not the imperiled body amidst the platforms, but rather your ability to keep body and world both in the proper upright position until you find the exit. To draw out the metaphor, it's as if your own, real body is trying to find its feet in this flat, foreign world. Ultimately the game might be read as a sort of platformer sim. What would it feel like to be a 2D figure in a flattened space, where up, down and forward were the only dimensions that made sense? Kind of like playing And Yet It Moves. The game's surfaces even appear to be made from shreds of photographs, like the woods in my childhood backyard were mashed into a single plane.
My one small gripe with the game is that its paper cutout aesthetic does not quite match its twee electronic soundtrack. The website emphasizes the handmade quality of the game, but it's one too many signifiers of DIY creativity. Ditch the artistic aura, and you're still left with that elusive artistry, with mechanics becoming metaphor.