Flappy Bird swooped its way into the mobile gaming world late last year and became a sensation last month, topping download charts and shitting on the productivity of people worldwide, ‘ruining lives’. Obligatory avian references aside, let’s take a look into the game itself.
You take a somewhat cute little bird, tap to flap it’s wings and guide it through a series of pipes, trying to get as far as you can. You’ve got all the makings of a really addictive game right there. Add in leaderboards and it only makes it worse. There’s competition between friends, competition worldwide. You’ll want to get further and further, beating your own score and your friend’s scores.
Flappy Bird is by no means a new concept. It is simply another variant of one that has been around for a long, long time. Six or seven years ago, I remember playing the Flash game classic Helicopter during my breaks at high school. The same game arrived on mobile devices long before Flappy Bird. The aim of the game was the same, as were the controls with the slight variant of holding down the click/tap rather than frantically tapping. But Flappy Bird has encountered success in a way no other version of these games have. But is it a good game?
“Well I downloaded Flappy Bird and never got past the 1st pipe now it’s deleted! I don’t know the hype about that game!”
One of the biggest features, and indeed criticism, is the difficulty of the game. I’ve played the game myself and I’ve never got past the second pipe. Difficulty in gaming is a fantastic thing, something that is becoming increasingly lost. Dark Souls, Spelunky, Super Meat Boy and most recently OlliOlli for the PS Vita, these games are heavily praised for their difficulty. I highly recommend each one of them. These games do difficulty right. They have difficulty by design, whereas I believe Flappy Bird is difficult because of design. The position of the pipes are far too close, and the flawed control system doesn’t help combat that. The constant necessity to tap makes it extremely frustrating. I understand having to time the taps, but a good portion of the time it’s almost impossible to actually get right. You can be in the middle of a pipe, but because of the design of the game, you have to tap to keep yourself in the air. So you’ll either fall onto the bottom pipe, or tap and hit the top pipe. A lot of the time it’s just not possible to go further. And I don’t want to go further because of it. Compare that to Dark Souls. I’ve died countless times on Dark Souls, in fact, I’ve been killed by more things than I’ve killed. But I always want to go back and try again. Because I know it’s possible. I know that if I do something differently, I’ll get through it. I don’t have that on Flappy Bird. On Spelunky, I’ve only just started making it to the second zone, but each time I die it only spurs me to go on and on. This is difficulty done right.
Now obviously there’s people who are getting further on Flappy Bird. The game has gone viral with videos of people getting high scores. There’s no denying the popularity and success of the game. In terms of success, it’s done game has done fantastically. But as a game itself, I can’t say it’s good. It’s poorly designed, and I’m not going to start on how it’s ripped off Super Mario. All I’m going to say is I dread the day when a kid says “Hey! That’s the pipe from Flappy Bird!” when they see a Mario game. But it is addictive, and in the world of mobile gaming, that’s exactly what is sought after. People will play it to death. They will have their lives “ruined”. But a good game, no. I personally consider it the avian flu of gaming.
Now, if you’re one of the people who despises this game, or even if you’re not, I have some mobile games for you to look at instead. If you like the tap and flap nature of the game, but hate the way it’s done or find it overly frustrating, check out BADLAND. In BADLAND, you control it the same way, but the game has a beautiful art style and the aim of it is not to get as far as you can, but to get to the end of the level. It’s not difficult or frustrating, but it is a fantastic game. It’s a bit more like Angry Birds in the way you score and the end of the level. If you’ve heard of LIMBO, it looks a lot like that. It does cost £2.49, but it is considered one of the best games for mobiles. Alternatively, look at the game I spoke of earlier, Copter Classic. Same game, same aim, less stressful and free.
However, if you like the ‘get as far as you can’ nature of the game but despise Flappy Bird, look at a wonderful game called NS-SHAFT. In this free game, you make your way down a shaft trying to avoid the descending spikes, using platforms to avoid falling to your death. During your descent, you’ll encounter spike pits, flipping platforms and conveyor belts. The aim is to get as far as you can without losing all your life or falling to your death. It’s nowhere near as infuriating as Flappy Bird and it’s a hell of a good game. Highly recommended.
Ultimately, I think Flappy Bird is a terrible game doing terribly well.