I adore the game Tiny Wings, which was among my first true loves in iPhone gaming. I understand why people enjoy the Angry Birds series, though I’ve never much cared for it myself. But right now, the big bird-related smartphone question on everybody’s lips is: Why did everyone love Flappy Bird?
The game soared to the top of the iOS charts – perhaps because of the retro graphics, or perhaps it was the ridiculously simple gameplay. Whatever the reason, everyone was playing this game. Until the developer mysteriously pulled the app down, of course. Despite the game being grounded now, we still thought it was worth giving it a review, as we suspect it might reappear before too long. And the phenomenon of Flappy Bird is worth examining in greater depth in terms of defining exactly what its appeal might have been.
You will die
When you play Flappy Bird, you will die. You will die when you nose-dive into the ground. You will die when you plough beak-first into the green Mario-esque pipes that dot the landscape. You will die either from touching the top or bottom of the aforementioned pipes that you must fly through in order to score one point.
Someday, you will die for real, and you’ll only do that once. But in this game, you will die many, many times.
To avoid dying, you tap the screen to “flap” (hence the name) and propel yourself upwards. But sometimes you will have to grit your teeth, lift your finger from the screen, and endure the nauseatingly fast plunge downwards. Why? Because the small breaks in the pipes through which you must pass are placed randomly along the screen’s Y-axis.
Each time you pass through a pipe you’ll be thrilled and excited, then you’ll die again, but you’ll have earned one point. Sometimes, you might even pass through several pipes and earn several points. My personal best is five, though I have seen people do much, much better.
The screen I see each time I die (and I have seen it many, many times) indicates that I might win medals if my score is high enough. I can also share my score with friends, and view worldwide rankings but in all honesty I’d rather not. The chances are that you will not get a high score playing this game, but you can try.
I did notice that the game was slightly easier to play on a full-size iPad – as I discuss in my tips on how to get a high score on Flappy Bird – but it looked and played fine on my iPhone 4S. Weirdly, the game crashed each time I died when I played the game on my iPhone 5C. A quick re-installation fixed this issue.
One last point: Flappy Bird was supported by ads, but they weren’t intrusive ones. If the game is resurrected, it’s likely that there will still be ads, as apparently the developer was making a reported $50,000 (£30,000) per day from them. I was also pleased to see that Clueful Privacy Advisor rated the Android Version of Flappy Bird as a low privacy risk and noted that it only requests to access the Internet.
To me, Flappy Bird never felt like it was difficult by design. That’s what makes it so markedly different from really hard games like Super Hexagon. There’s a method to Super Hexagon’s madness, and you can learn its secrets and actually get better at playing the game. Flappy Bird just feels slapped together.
In truth Flappy Bird isn’t “impossibly” hard. YouTube is full of videos showing people playing the game ludicrously well. However, to me it feels like being really good at using an abacus to do your taxes – sure, you could do it, but why bother?
- Nostalgic graphics
- Breathtaking and frustrating difficulty