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Complimentary Failure: Flappy Bird

Creative Director

Published: Thursday, February 6, 2014

Updated: Thursday, February 6, 2014 21:02

Bird

Courtesy of GEAR Studio

Birds

Courtesy of GEAR Studio

Flappy

Courtesy of GEAR Studio

Game: Flappy Bird

Platform: Android, iOS and Windows Phone (coming soon)

Release Date: May 2013

Developer: Hanoi

Publisher: GEARS Studios

Grade:A-

 

Anger and bright colors: two things that normally aren’t associated, unless you’re playing Flappy Bird.

Flappy Bird is the latest trending smartphone game, but it’s not your traditional popular casual gaming experience.

The objective is simple: tap the screen to make your bird flap its wings and fly in between pairs of pipes. But it comes with no tutorial, instructions or guidance – you learn to play by failing, a lot.

The side-scrolling game seems friendly at first with its familiar, Super Mario World-esque graphics, vibrant colors and rewarding sound clips.

But there is nothing amiable about this game.

The learning curve is minimal but mastering it is insurmountable. The course continues to be randomly generated until you fail. You can’t finish or beat Flappy Bird.

Through your first 20 trials of Flappy Bird, I’d be impressed if you received a score higher than three. The game is unforgiving and punishing, but you can feel yourself progress and gain an understanding that ultimately reels you back into giving the colorful bird one more flight – and another after that.

After achieving a respectable high score, you develop expectations for yourself. So on your next flight when you hit into that first pipe, a fire ignites inside of you, forcing you to frantically tap the area of the screen where the restart button is going to show up.

It’s easy to fail upward of 15 times in just five minutes, making it a game of repetition. But I achieved some of my best runs the first time I picked it up after not playing for several hours. Sometimes after playing many times back to back, you can lose focus and feel like you’re looking straight through your phone – it’s time to step away and regroup.

The Android and iOS versions are nearly identical, with just a few subtle differences. For a game with such simplistic functionality and very few resources on-screen, the iOS version has a noticeably worse frame rate than its Android counterpart. This doesn’t break the game for iOS users, but when looking at the Android version in comparison, it’s buttery smooth and makes for a small pacing difference. The iOS version also has pause functionality, while the Android version changes the color of the bird and background from run to run.

Although Flappy Bird is difficult and grueling at times, it’s never unfair. The game’s consistent hit boxes on pipes and the bird along with the identical vertical and horizontal spaces between pipes make this game a true test of concentration, preciseness and skill.

Flappy Bird currently sits at the top of both the iOS and Google Play free app charts, with a Windows Phone version currently awaiting approval by Microsoft.

It never holds your hand. Those who think it’s a bad game aren’t good at it. But those who are good at it respect it.

 

email: arts@ubspectrum.com

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