Flappy Bird Review: I Want To Hate You But I Can't

By Pete Haas 2014-02-11 14:47:47 discussion comments
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Tap, tap, tap, shit.

Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, crap.

Tap, tap, goddamn it.

Tap, tap, tap, tap, what the hell? I didn't even hit the pipe!

Tap, tap, tap, oh screw this.

I considered making this entire review just an entire page of this with a score at the end. It would be gimmicky but it would fit. Flappy Bird itself is just one big gimmick - not that that's a bad thing.

In Flappy Bird, you have to guide a mildly deformed bird between sets of vertical pipes. You tap to make the bird float higher, or stop tapping to let him sink. If you make contact with the pipes or the ground, the bird dies. The game then tells you how many pipes you passed and reminds you of your high score.

The game's harder than it sounds. Thanks to the finicky collision detection on the pipes, the margin for error is slim. You have to constantly adjust your tapping rhythm to account for the random placement of the pipes.

That's the entirety of Flappy Bird, though. You tap a lot, die, and then either A) jump back in, determined to beat your high score or B) delete the game and wonder why it's currently topping the charts on iOS and Android.

Make no mistake, the phenomenal success of Flappy Bird is the only reason the game has received any media attention, including this review. Everyone's puzzled over how such a simple game became such a sensation. Did creator Dong Nguyen use hacks to goose the game to the top of the charts? Is it a symptom of society's boredom? Is Flappy Bird just further proof that mobile games are nothing more than fads?

Everyone's looking outside Flappy Bird to find out what made it so successful but you can find reasons within the game itself, too. It's easy to grasp but hard to master. The emphasis on high scores lends itself to competition between friends. The cartoonish sound effects and visuals gave me flashbacks to playing Super Mario.

Granted, Flappy Bird just barely fits the definition of a game. It's a single challenge (avoid pipes) and a single goal (get a higher score). Part of me is glad that Nguyen didn't try to complicate the experience. Complication in mobile games, after all, usually results in a developer rattling their cup at you. If this was an EA or Zynga game, you'd pay $2 for a top hat for your bird or $5 for an invulnerability potion.

The lack of progression or variety don't make Flappy Bird a minimalist work of genius, though. They make Flappy Bird a simple game. There's nothing new or interesting enough about the game to make us remember it a year from now.

Flappy Bird flies over the low bar it set for itself. In doing so, it somehow became a global success. Whether it deserves that success is irrelevant. The game may not deserve attention from everyone but it deserves attention from someone. Flappy Bird provides entertainment while asking for little of your time and none of your money. It's a fad I can't hate.

Players: 1
Platforms: iOS (reviewed), Android
Developer: .GEARS Studio
Publisher: .GEARS Studio
ESRB: Everyone
Rating:
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