My Flappy Bird review in one word: Futile.
History may look back upon this Super Bowl weekend of 2014 as the weekend where so many of us watched the futility of a legendary sports star while simultaneously experiencing futility ourselves as we watched a one-eyed bird bonk into a Mario pipe 435,872,198 times. While the Broncos imploded on my TV I practically tapped a hole through my S3 chasing a Flappy Bird high score of 16.
If you've never played Flappy Bird the object is to keep a bird aloft by tapping the screen while navigating a random series of pipes. Take a look.
Flappy Bird high Score Video
The top Flappy Bird high score on the Play Store is 2,147,483,647 and belongs to Alex White. I have no idea how this is possible since my personal best is 16. It's hard not to imagine some sort of hacking/cheating going on among the top scores. So if you're aim is to get an outrageous Flappy Bird high score it seems that hack or a cheat is the way to go.
(NOTE: iDigitalTimes Cammy Harbison has some of those Flappy Bird high score cheats and hacks, if you're interested.)
But this Flappy Bird review isn't for the hacks and cheats who want phony bragging rights. It's for everyone who ever entered into a bizarre sadomasochistic relationship with a video game and been lost for hours on end. Who saw their worst self emerge at the hands of lifeless, uncaring machine. If you've ever dropkicked an NES over Battletoads or fist-hammered a PS2 because of that damn Shinobi then Flappy Bird will bring you home again.
Flappy Bird feels like the Rogue-like version of Angry Birds. The objective is simple, the controls are basic and the only thing standing in your way is the blinding, impotent rage that builds inside of you after about twenty seconds. If it had a coinslot and a 1987 release it would've made millions one quarter at a time. It smacks you in the face early with a "you can't beat me" attitude that will drive away a lot of gamers. But if you're the type who takes losses personally and is prone to rage quits then you will love how much you hate Flappy Bird.
Flappy Bird captures the genius of a great mobile/tablet game. I call it the grandma test. If you can explain the game to your grandmother in under ten seconds then you've got yourself a good mobile game. Flappy Bird takes half that time. Tap the screen. Don't crash. Simple. I love it.
The bare bones design adds to the mystique, as does the reclusive nature of the developer 29-year old Nguyen Ha Dong. He has a runaway mobile hit but isn't giving interviews or tweeting about it. In fact, the dotGEARS homepage no longer even lists Flappy Bird as one of its products. This is the exact opposite of what you'd expect from the person behind the hottest mobile game in years. Flappy Bird released in April 2013 but began its rapid ascent around January 5, 2014. It went from a few thousand downloads to a few million in a few days time.
The why and how of Flappy Bird rise are largely unknown, and are likely causing nosebleeds in mobile gaming offices around the country. Mobile gaming is a multi-billion dollar business. And right now we're watching a free app designed by a reclusive twentysomething from Vietnam storm the charts. There are going to be quite a few six-figure brains sweating it out in meetings Monday morning.
It's a scary game for the industry to behold because the secret of Flappy Bird's success is that it could never come from a Zynga-esque thinktank orgy of investment capital and synergy. Flappy Bird is evil in its addictive, rage-inducing mechanics but a lily-white angel when it comes to marketing and money. Other than a few ads the game is devoid of revenue streams like microtransactions. It's not broken into digestible easy levels and then impossible-unless-you-pay-for-answers ones. It's a difficult, pointless game with no story or frills and never once tries to be anything else. For that reason alone, I like this game.
Flappy Bird gives you something to chase and, unless you're a hacker or a savant, you'll likely never get much further than the mid-to-low teens. But your Flappy Bird high score will become a badge of pride and the only other feature of the game is the ease of sharing your score with friends. It's a good way to divide your contacts into sane/insane categories.
Flappy Bird will bring out the worst in you but also brings out what's best in indie gaming. It is a game we love because it is a game we found, not a game that was given to us through clever marketing schemes. Flappy Bird will always be free, always be fun (for a few minutes anyway).
At it's best it kills time that would otherwise be spent waiting and bestows a sense of triumph and the occasional bragging right.
At it's worst, it'll let you know how it felt to be Peyton Manning one lonely Sunday night in the February of '014.
Obligatory Score: 9/10 (tough to find a more addictive, easier-to-learn mobile game)