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Flappy Bird (Android) artwork

Flappy Bird (Android) review

"Admit it: this is the review you've been waiting for!"

Flappy Bird (Android) image

About a year ago, a phenomenon swept the world that had everyone tapping angrily on their smartphones and swearing in public. A freeware game entitled Flappy Bird had begun its moment in the sun, and society responded by continuing to ignore one another so they could make just one more try...

Daily downloads were through the roof and acclaim came from both critics and players. Some even claimed that the game was a sign that modern developers were overthinking the process of game development and that they could stand to learn from Flappy Bird's simplicity. However, just as the game's popularity peaked, it disappeared from mobile markets. An interview between developer Dong Nguyen and Forbes revealed that the game's addictive nature was to blame for its discontinuation. You would think that a collective irritated groan and maybe a few small complaints would suffice as a response to this decision, but in actuality gamer feedback ranged from ecstatic (mostly from the game's detractors) to apoplectic to opportunistic. Some folks took to Twitter and believed that heaving empty death threats at Nguyen was a rational course of action, while more economically-minded folks attempted to sell their Flappy Bird-loaded mobile devices online for thousands. As to whether or not any of these items sold, I cannot say, but one man did list his iPhone for $100,000.

With all of this hoopla, you'd think that Flappy Bird would be the second coming of gaming. In truth, it's just a standard Canabalt clone, except with ninety percent more tapping...

Flappy Bird puts you in control of--get this--a bird. Said avian automatically takes flight as you start the game, but requires nudges from your thumb to keep him afloat. With each collision between your digit and your phone's screen, the animal flaps his mighty wings and ascends. After each successful upward motion, the fowl takes a dip, requiring you to continue tapping if you want the creature to live. Of course, it just wouldn't be a game without some kind of peril. Flappy Bird pits you against the nefarious... insidious...
Flappy Bird (Android) image

...pipes from Super Mario Bros.?

The rules are simple: for each pair of pilfered sprites tubes you safely fly past, you gain a point. Unfortunately, accomplishing this task isn't always a breeze. The game's physics, as in any halfway decent arcade-style title, are wonky so as to facilitate a somewhat stiff challenge. In other words, your bird soars as though he's made of lead and tends to descend more quickly than he ascends. Because of this, you must be conscious not only of when you tap, but how severely. Let me tell you: it's tricky, but also doable.

That simple nature leads to an addictive game. You might convince yourself every time you fail that you can easily shatter your high score if you put forth a modicum of effort. One more play becomes seven more tries becomes "Holy crap, I'm going to be late for work!" Before you know it, Flappy Bird is an obsession and part of your daily routine.

...and that's when you realize it's not that great of a game. After a while you might feel a peculiar emptiness, as if you could be spending your time on something more worthwhile. No, I'm not going to bust your chops about playing a video game when you could be out rock climbing or being social, but even within the hobby of gaming, there are far more substantial titles you could be spending your time on. Flappy Bird is a vapid adventure, as evidenced by its lack of depth.

Sure, we've come to expect the mobile platform's free products to be rudimentary, but Flappy Bird takes shallow to new levels. For starters, there isn't much in the way of audio or visual qualities. The game is silent, save for the rhythmic beating of wings, an obnoxious tone that sounds whenever you score a point, and a slapstick-ish thud heard when you crash into an obstruction. The absence of melody gives the game a lackadaisical feel, which sours the experience after a while. Worse than that, the environment seldom changes. While it does occasionally shift from day to night, you still have to stare at the same background and sprites for miles and miles, well past the point that the cast of sprites has overstayed its welcome.

I suppose I should address the game's most obvious flaw: repetition. Yeah, tons of mobile games are repetitive, but many such titles usually do something to keep the experience fresh. Flappy Bird doesn't. There are no new hazards, unfamiliar scenarios, or anything that might give the game the illusion of depth. You simply guide a bird between numerous pairs of pipes for eons until you die and curse because you keep thinking that you could easily have lasted longer.

Honestly, I don't see what all of the fuss was about over a year ago. Flappy Bird isn't groundbreaking--it's basically another Canabalt or Bit.Trip Runner, except with flight--and it certainly isn't thoroughly entertaining. It's addictive for a while, to be sure, but that isn't necessarily a sign of quality or substance. Flappy Bird is merely a primitive score attack title whose banality becomes more apparent the longer you play.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (May 15, 2015)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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