Flappy Bird falls short (and it didn’t hit a pipe)

Turns out pipes aren’t the only thing that dislikes the little guy.


The often seen game over screen in Flappy Bird.

Right now, if you were to look into almost any classroom (especially those not doing work), you would see a multitude of screens displaying a blue skyline covered in green pipes. Simply put, you’d see a lot of people playing that iPhone app that has all but exploded in popularity at school this month, Flappy Bird.

For those of you who don’t know, Flappy Bird (by .GEARS studio,) consists of the player attempting to navigate an artist’s attempt at a bird through pipes littering the skyline. The player is awarded a point for every pipe wall they fly through, with 10 points awarding you a bronze medal, 20 points awarding you a silver medal, and some higher score probably awarding you a gold medal, but seeing as I don’t know of anyone in the school who has gotten one, this is only speculation.

The difficulty of this game is hard-bordering-on-impossible, being a game that is intended to make you get angry enough that you stop playing until the next session (otherwise referred to as rage quitting). If you play the game, expect a lot of dying, and a lot of dying with point values in the single digits. And this difficulty is one of its major falling points.

Now, it is not specifically the difficulty I am opposed to in this game. Like many others, I sometimes enjoy games with nearly impossible levels of difficulty, such as Super Meat Boy or VVVVV (yes, those are both real games, and good ones at that), but Flappy Bird is not simply this. Flappy Bird is a game which hides poor programing and bad design behind the facade of intended difficulty.

That’s right, Flappy Bird is a horrible game. From the programing to the mechanics to the art direction, Flappy Bird manages to fail in almost all categories that define a good game.

First of all, I will go back to that point I digressed from earlier. The programming in Flappy Bird is by far some of the worst programming I have ever seen in an iPhone game. From the falling speed being drastically faster than the rising speed to the way it seems to preemptively kill you if you are headed toward a pipe, the faulty mechanics are responsible for almost all of the game’s difficulty. .GEARS appears to have taken the EA standpoint of “it’s not a bug, it’s a feature!”

But by far the worst of all these bugs comes with the character model. Most people probably haven’t noticed, but despite Mr. Flappy Bird being an oval, his character model is still a rectangle. That’s why you will sometimes collide with a pipe despite the bird having never actually touched it. The square model would be fine for most games, but in a game where dodging things is your number one priority, it’s detrimental. If I wanted to navigate rectangles through a course of other rectangles, I would play Thomas was Alone (which is another fantastic game).

Though, while I’m on the subject of the character models, let’s talk about the actual looks of our friend the flappy bird. Despite the name of the game (it’s Flappy Bird, in case you’ve forgotten), the unnamed protagonist does not look anything like a bird: it’s a yellow circle with an eye taking up a fourth of its body, containing gigantic red lips and tiny posterior wings that are not big enough to lift a bird half its size. It really looks like a profiled emoticon meant to convey distress that someone pinned cloth wings into. I like to imagine that the main artist has been kept in an underground bunker all his life, while being forced to do artwork for games, and therefore had never seen a real bird. Seriously, I don’t know what it is, but it’s definitely not a bird.

The only real redeeming point of the game is the social aspect of it. Much like my motivation to play Temple Run, most people play Flappy Bird with the explicit intention of beating their friends. And I will say that in that realm, it excels. The only places you can go from the game over screen are the main menu or the high scores page, which displays your ranking among your friends and your ranking compared to the world (I’m currently in the two millions). The world scores are incredibly irrelevant, though, since enough people have found a way to cheat their way to 9,999 that the entire list of top 25 players have that score, ranked only by the order of how long it took them to figure out how to do it. That leaves score among friends, and while I agree that there is some satisfaction present in knowing you’ve beaten your friend’s score by three points, the satisfaction is not long-lived or big enough to make the game entertaining.

The biggest thing that bothered me while playing, however, was the complete lack of context present for what you’re doing. I will admit that I’m the type of person who enjoys a well thought out story in my games, but even then, I can appreciate a game with little of one as long as it gives me some motivation for the things I am doing, something which Flappy Bird fails to do. Everything in Flappy Bird raises questions, like “What is the point of all these pipes?”, “Where are those upper pipes attached to?” and “Why can this winged emoticon fly fine until he first sees a pipe?”

While these points may not be incredibly essential in a game with some point to it (or one which is fun), in a game where people are supposed to get mad, it becomes almost essential, so that they don’t yell ” What the hell are these pipes even doing here?” like I ended up doing. Or maybe that’s the point, to induce more rage- in which case, that would be the only design aspect that had any thought added to it.

The worst thing about Flappy Bird by far, though, is that it isn’t fun. Some would say that it is fun because it’s addicting, but cigarettes are also addicting, and those kill you; besides, there are games which are just as addicting that are much more well built than this. A good game needs to be fun; that’s the most essential component, and if it were, everything else could be overlooked. Flappy Bird, however, is not fun, and thus the only judgement that can be passed on it is that it’s a bad game.


Think Flappy Bird is fun? (It’s not.) Have any ideas on the context of Flappy Bird, or what animal the protagonist actually is? Think my opinions are stupid and deserve to be ridiculed? Well, I hear the new website features a comment box right below this paragraph, so feel free to voice your opinion on the subject.