Amil


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Rating: 4/5 (88 votes)
| Comments (20) | Views (604)

Mikemike-amil-screen1.pngAmil is a good guy to have around. Sure, he may look like a footlocker and have unsettling pink bags under his eyes, but if your dog or cat or other pet should ever fall down a mine shaft leading to a subterranean geothermic engineering project of dubious provenance, Amil is your go-to fellow. Created by Robert Stone, Amil is a gravity-switching platformer with retro stylings and just a scintilla of RPG flavor.

The game begins after a brief tutorial and a slightly less brief prologue. The [arrow] keys make Amil move and jump about, while the [spacebar] lets him talk to folks, enter doors, and otherwise interact with the environment. When you finally enter the mines, the heart of the game begins, where you can switch gravity to overcome obstacles with the [WASD] keys. Avoid pitfalls, spikes, and treacherous lava flows, while escorting poor Tony's animal chums safely to the surface.

Analysis: The prologue and epilogue to Amil are a little strange, as they feel for all the world like an RPG, with Zelda-like conversations with townsfolk pertaining to the backstory of the game. Amil's world is very richly realized, and I feel like there is much more to explore, yet it all seems ancillary to the main game, which is an unadulterated action platformer. I get the sense that Amil was originally a much more ambitious project that was scaled back a bit, but as a consequence a lot of thoughtful background was rendered sadly superfluous. Perhaps we will see more of Amil's world further developed in future games.

Let's not dwell on what Amil could have been, and instead focus on what it is: a clever puzzle platformer with a nifty gravity mechanic. Now there have been a lot of gravity manipulation games lately, but Amil stands out, in part because of the controls. For simplicity, many gravity games opt to exclude jumping as a means of movement. Amil opts to make jumping an important part of navigating the levels. This is a boon, because it means there are a lot more choices than simply switching gravity to follow a pre-determined path, which allows for much more complex and satisfying levels.

mike-amil-screen2.pngIt's also a bit of a curse, because you have to think about moving and jumping and gravity-switching, and it takes a bit of adjustment to keep those three modes of movement straight. There is also the perennial issue of how to orient controls; many gravity games set the controls relative to the main character, such that left and right are relative to which way gravity is facing. Amil opts for an absolute perspective, such that the [arrow] keys always move Amil in the same direction on the screen, no matter where he is standing. This works pretty smoothly, actually, but it leads to some mind-bending situations, like pressing the [left] arrow key to jump if gravity is facing rightward. I completed the game just fine, but I never did feel completely comfortable with the controls.

The game is decidedly old-school in both it's look and gameplay, even with the more new-school use of gravity switching. The graphics are colorful and pixilated, and the soundtrack is full of groovy chiptune music. The levels are chockablock with coins, hearts, spikes, and lava pits, hoary retro warhorses all. Even the prologue, with its "Welcome to Corneria" interactions with the townsfolk, facilitates the nostalgic vibe.

The levels are finely designed, with few extraneous elements cluttering up the tightness of the puzzles. It's mostly just spikes, gravity, and ferrying tiny animals from one waypoint to the next, and I appreciate the elegance. I also appreciate the difficulty; the levels are thoughtful without ever being frustrating, so you will gladly play until the end. If you have an hour or so, finishing the game should not be a problem. This is good, because the game does not really have any sort of save mechanic. There are level codes, but they are only accessible when you lose all your lives, a strange choice.

Amil is an excellent example of the burgeoning genre of gravity platformers. Moreover, it offers the promise, however imperfectly realized, of a cool new world to explore. May we see more of Amil and his world in the future.

Play Amil

20 Comments

Grant Thurston March 16, 2010 7:04 PM

Meh. The beginning really interested me, with the way it had a plotline and so many characters, it felt like they were really trying to set the scene. But once the actual game started, all the plot seemed to totally end there and it just became another platformer. Collect these, avoid these, timed platforms, timed obstacles, spikes, it just feels so overused. I gave up on the last level because of the sudden lack of checkpoints. It just becomes too much to remember, all the timing. Maybe I'm the only one getting sick of it, maybe it's just my taste. But the game left me feeling rather disappointed. :|

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Anybody else unable to get past the first screen of the tutorial? I've tried in both Opera and Firefox, and I'm stuck just sitting watch my character continuously fall to the right, as a box tells me what the controls are. No matter how many times I press any of the controls, nothing changes.
A bug, or a deep commentary on the futility of fighting the forces arrayed against us in life?

Very conceptual.

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Anonymous March 16, 2010 8:40 PM

WASD keys are ZQSD on french keyboards.
It's hard enough.
I guess people who own arabic or chinese keyboard can't play.

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Hey, what is this?

There is some remixed Animal Crossing music!

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Well at-least it has some sort of plot or story to keep the game going a bit. Most flash games these days are just game-play and nothing else. I loved the graphics, music and setting and I thought that the game-play wasn't that bad either although there have been a lot of gravity type games done recently.

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zbeeblebrox March 17, 2010 1:20 AM

It always makes me sad when games don't give you the option to mute them. I like playing my own music through my computer. Hm. Oh well, it was cute though. Not a bad game overall.

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How do you get the wrong way achievement?

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dallinpd468 March 17, 2010 2:12 AM

@alaira:

During the scene where you can gravity-switch to one of the four paths, choose the one that is not where the arrow is pointing. You will fall to the end, die, and receive the wrong way badge.

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Cool 8 bit Animal Crossing remix, bro.

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A nice and pleasant game although I couldn't find a save or password system and since I've got too much work on to justify more than 20 minutes on I've had to quit although it doesn't look like it's saved my progress. I suspect I missed some glaringly obvious button to save.

I found it an enjoyable game nonetheless!

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LodeRunner March 17, 2010 11:32 AM

@zbeeblebrox: agreed. Playing flash games is usually the background to listening to music, not the other way round. :)

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I really, really liked this until I got to a certain point. There was one level that was just spikes and lasers, and it was nearly impossible to get through. Then it kinda popped into my head: They're all like that, with only spikes and lasers.

In other words, if the creator had included some more plot, or even a bigger variety of challenges, I would have loved it. This time though, it just didn't have enough in it.

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@dallinpd468: Thanks. I'd chosen the correct path on that level in my first play-through, and by the time I got to the end and realized that I'd missed an achievement, I'd forgotten the level existed.

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It was interesting that the author added some story and a setting, explaining where you are, what this place is and why you are there. Usually puzzle games have no backstory, it is just some random character/thing at a random place solving puzzles for no reason and at the end there are just a "congratulations, you won".

Even though the story is an interesting twist to the genre, I do think it could be improved by making the plot advance on the middle of the game (not just at the beginning and ending. If there are a sequel to this game, I hope this happens :)

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I thought there was a lot wrong with this, most notably the collision detection.

Somehow I managed to resist the urge to rage quit as the levels became unfair (and unfun) in the last quarter of the game, I finished with 14 lives.

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I ended up dying several times and getting a game over, primarily because several of the deaths were a result of me trying to move a tiny bit to the left, falling and dying.

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Not to blatantly insult others' works, but this game is just horrendous. At first, after the dream, there's no platforming, mostly storyline. Then you get into platforming with NO storyline. In addition, if the game capitalizes on the ability to collect items, such as coins and apples, it should allow you to replay levels if you missed some.

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On the pink level, the one with a laser almost at the bottom and the level directly after the one with 4ish key, you have to die once to get everything. They also give you a key mid-level, yet you can't redeem until you actually lose, which isn't likely... Fail... At the end, Diana should say "doesn't", not "isn't"... In summation, I did not enjoy.

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I rather liked it. The control scheme was much easier than other gravity-style platforms I've played. The levels were challenging without making me want to toss my keyboard out a window.

I agree about the backstory being lacking, right up until the "halfway point" I thought that the cavern was just one challenge of many.

My main gripe is that the display for items sometimes blocks where you are or something important -- I died a lot in the level where you started up at the top.

Also, there should be some way to advance the text instead of just turning it on or off with the spacebar.. I skipped a lot of dialogue because the text speed was too slow.

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Bob Barley March 30, 2010 9:04 PM

I can not control anything on the first level!

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