Reasons Why I Actually Really Like Swing Copters

I thought it would be a ‘laugh’; japes and jokes to be had. I wanted to be part of that conversation. I wanted to tweet about it, basically. At no point did I expect an experience of any substance. At no point did I think ‘Swing Copters will be fun’.

Define ‘fun’.

Swing Copters is the latest game by Dong Nguyen, the creator of Flappy Birds. I downloaded it for nefarious reasons and ended up enjoying it very much. You can call me crazy and I expect you will, but Swing Copters has a lot in common with some of the very best mobile games. It has a lot in common with some of the best games period.

Here are some of the reasons why I actually really quite like Swing Copters.

The first thing is its difficulty.

Make no mistake: Swing Copters is difficult. Swing Copters is deliberately difficult. I think that’s the first thing people noticed about the game. It is not accessible.

The word ‘deliberate’ is key. There are a number of subtle changes that could have made Swing Copters easier. The gaps you need to hover through could have been bigger, the controls could have been more forgiving. Its notorious curving arc could have been slower, tighter. Dong Nguyen could have gotten rid of those goddamn mallets that swing back and forth.

But he didn’t. Swing Copters is clearly difficult by design.

It took me 30 minutes with Swing Copters to actually manage to get a score of 1. ONE.

One. Single. Point.

This is because Swing Copters, to begin with, is an incredibly disorientating experience. It doesn’t control like you’d expect it to. For those who haven’t played, the idea is to swing from side to side in arcs. Each time the screen is tapped the Copter switches direction in a loose arc. Sounds simple on paper, but in practice it’s brutally unforgiving. Swing Copters has a lot in common with torture games like Dark Souls or Trials in that progress has to be earned.

The learning curve is steep, but that curve exists. That’s the saving grace here: it definitely exists. Progress in Swing Copters comes with experience and practice, it comes from actually learning a skill, from dissociating yourself from how you think a game like this should control, and embracing how it actually controls. You can feel yourself getting better at Swing Copters; you can tangibly grasp your own progress and own it. That’s what’s so rewarding about it.

In Swing Copters progress is earned in single digits. Getting to ‘1’ was an incredible achievement. I celebrated getting to ‘2’. I almost lost my mind when I score my first ‘6’. In video game land, where progress is measured by the thousands and millions, that sort of restraint is refreshing.

And then there’s the ‘flow’ of Swing Copters. It’s unmistakeable. Once you’ve developed some semblance of control there’s a real performance to it. You can dart in wide arcs towards slimline gaps, or you can tap-tap-tap in short bursts. It mirrors the falling leaf style of snowboarding. There’s a baseline joy in simply controlling Swing Copters. I’ve always maintain that the best games are fun on a moment-to-moment basis – that’s just my own personal preference – and I think Swing Copters absolutely nails that sticky, rewarding, harsh-but-fair control system to the point where I find it difficult to stop playing, even if I’m constantly and consistently failing.

Swing Copters is rudimentary. Swing Copters is rough around the edges. If I were a developer I'd look at a game like Swing Copters and I'd most likely feel very angry indeed. But Swing Copters does one thing and it does it extremely well, I think that's undeniable. Personally, I can't stop playing it.


Comments

    Swing Copters is deliberately difficult

    Because you get an ad every time you fail. (I am allowed to by cynical, I have the flu)

    TRULY THE DARK SOULS OF VIDEO GAMES

      "SWING COPTERS IS TO DARK SOULS WHAT DARK SOULS IS TO DARK SOULS"
      - Sark Merrels

    These games are OK, but they would be SO MUCH BETTER if more attention was paid to collision detection. Brutally hard is fine, but it needs to be fair. Too many times in Flappy Bird and now Swing Copters, death comes when it doesn't look like death should be there (the mallets in particular have annoyingly large hit boxes well away from the actual sprites).

    Swing Copters is a fail at game design imo. The original Flappy Bird did some truly great things, like the "Tap to play" where the tap itself started the game and showed you what tap did, and then you got a few seconds to get try it out. Swing Copters has this weird delay such that you're not even sure if you tapped it right, and then the game starts and you get less than half a second to guess what tap actually does. This leads me to believe that what made Flappy Bird so great was a fluke.

      I know what you mean

    I'm pretty sure this game exists already. I vaguely recall seeing a game a while back that had the same punishing difficulty of navigating obstacles by changing between a clockwise or counter-clockwise circle motion.

      Are you talking about Duet? Completely different control scheme to Swing Copters.

    I'm also enjoying it haha, high score of 7!!

    Just one. more. try....

    Last edited 25/08/14 3:32 pm

    I found this pretty hard on iPhone, but when I tried on my iPad I got 13 pretty easily, and definitely think I can get a lot higher. Not sure why it's easier, but I let a few friends try on the iPad as well and they all agreed that it seemed easier to control.

    I am sad to say my top score is 10 i am even more sad to admit it took nearly 7 hours to reach that.

    Played for 30mins...high score of 3...uninstalled...not my cup of tea.

    my highscore is right now 31. I have made a youtube clip from my highscore yesterday 20. maybe you will be helped with my tactics :P

    youtube link: youtube.com/watch?v=uJXhe47-Big

    Check out Swing Copters - Dong Nguyen DOWNLOAD here for iOS users https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/swing-copters/id905639750?mt=8&uo=4&at=10lKaM

    Have you seen the leaderboard on this game? People have gotten trillions of points on Swing Copters. I mean, this whole cheating thing really kills the challenge in this game.

    Just played Swing Copters at http://swingcopters.club and it's really hard game! Only get 4 points :(

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