Armillo is the first title from Fuzzy Wuzzy Games and is a fantastic experience. Retro gamers and newcomers alike will love the 90s-inspired platformer with modern gameplay mechanics, such as scaling 3D worlds. Armillo has become a fan-favorite game between myself and Jason Lepine. We have held an interview with Yannis Fyssas from Fuzzy Wuzzy Games (coming soon!) and Jason also held an Indie Corner for the game , but I felt it would be fun to examine the structure of the game to see where I feel it draws inspiration from.
Sonic 3D Blast has the dubious title of being both the first “3D” Sonic game and being the only Sonic adventure game to appear on the Sega Saturn. While a let-down in those respective areas and widely considered mediocre at best, I feel this game was actually an important influence on Armillo, whether the designers realized it or not.
The main facet Armillo draws from Sonic 3D Blast would be the speed of Sonic. Both Sonic and Armillo share this characteristic, especially when being in a ball formation, which Sonic is well known for. The key difference boils down to the game mechanics, however; whereas Sonic was usually too fast and slippery for the general game, Armillo’s speed can be easily controlled when necessary. Sonic 3D Blast suffered from very slippery controls and Armillo manages to avoid this pitfall of game design.
Also, we have to look at Sonic the Hedgehog himself as a character design. One of the biggest draws to me personally is the Armillo character himself, who brings up memories of the “mascot era” of mid-90s gaming. Every company wanted a mascot, with such characters as Bubsy, Aero the Acrobat, Rocky Rodent — even the Noid from Domino’s Pizza was an attempted mascot character that never caught on. With the rise in technology, the mascot genre outside of Mario and Sonic dwindled considerably, but Armillo himself remains of a shining example that when done right a mascot can be a beautiful thing in a game.
The Super Monkey Ball series may have fizzled and faded, but the tight level design is unmistakable. By guiding your “monkey ball” through a tight level with dips and turns, you try and achieve the fastest time possible while collecting bananas to achieve higher ranks. In order to achieve Gold rankings on all the levels, Armillo has to complete levels in a timely manner while rescuing all the critters and collecting orbs. The levels are shorter in Super Monkey Ball, but the core concept feels very similar to tasks Armillo must undertake in order to achieve a higher completion percentage.
Marble Madness first appeared in arcades back in 1984 and was eventually released on several platforms, including the NES and the Genesis. A one-and-done game, it was well received upon release but never released a sequel, due to changing market conditions and arcades being overran by games like Street Fighter 2. Marble Madness may have never had the sequel it deserves, but Armillo manages to capture the spirit of the game in some areas.
In certain levels, you are elevated to higher plateaus to endure a roller coaster-like course, which Marble Madness was the first game to perpetuate. Another key element would be in the level design pitfalls. If the marble rolls off the level, you are docked, similar to how when Armillo falls in a pitfall, he loses a heart. The final inspiration comes from the fact that Yannis himself told us that Marble Madness was a key inspiration for the game, as one of the developers was a huge fan of it.
Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)
Super Mario Galaxy was a bit of a deviation from other Mario games that ended up going over very well with fans. Aside from the earlier mentioned “mascot” era of the 90s, the unique level design shows a bond between Armillo and Super Mario Galaxy. Many of the main levels of Super Mario Galaxy take place on a “3D sphere” that rotates in relation to where Mario is on the level. Aside from the hidden levels, Armillo also takes a place on similar levels, albeit with more pitfalls and less attacks. Both Mario and Armillo can use platforming to jump and avoid tight spaces and both have a bright, colorful, and varied level design that really help it stand apart from other games with similar mechanics.
As a whole, I wouldn’t say there is one specific game that Armillo is most inspired by, but I feel a good guess who be both Sonic 3D Blast and Super Mario Galaxy. One could easily make the argument that the hidden 2D levels are also very reminiscent of NES platformers, such as Super Mario Bros, Castlevania, and even Mega Man with its tricky jumps. At the end of the day, Armillo is a game that maybe wouldn’t have received too much attention at first in the mid-90s without playing the game, due to the oversaturation of “mascot” games, but in 2014, Armillo is exactly what gaming needs: an identifiable mascot that isn’t a war-torn hero or a grizzled, bearded, muscular white man, just a fun creature with classic gaming elements that seem to have been lost over time.
For our full review of Armillo by Fuzzy Wuzzy Games, be sure to follow the link here.