Flywrench is a simple video game, but you will die a great many times. Yet like Super Meat Boy or N++, the controls are so good, you can’t help but blame yourself.
When a game controls well, there’s nothing else like it. You feel one with the game, and the controller begins to fade away. The more you think about what to do, the less likely you are to pull it off. Everything runs on gut instinct, a sublime mixture of the mental and the physical.
But it’s also hard to articulate — it’s a subjective experience. What feels “right” to one person may feel “off” to another. Just ask anyone what they think about LittleBigPlanet‘s controls! (They’re bad, by the way, and it ruined an otherwise charming game for me.)
If you’ve vaguely heard of Flywrench, that’s because the original version came out way back in 2007. The game’s designer, Mark Essen, released the game to much acclaim, but it was mostly passed around indie game circles. (Braid‘s Jonathan Blow famously made a less punishing version called Nicewrench.) He would spend the years after toiling away on last year’s Nidhogg.
The concepts driving Flywrench are pretty simple. To pass through white lines, the bendable line you’re controlling has to be white. To pass through red lines, you have to be red. Same applies for green lines. You alternate between the three, and each has slightly different characteristics. You become red when you’re shooting up or down, while green makes you a pinwheel that’s capable of bouncing over the screen. Again, trivial rules, but it amps up quickly.
Here’s what Flywrench used to look like:
Essen decided to revisit Flywrench, however, and I’m so glad he did; I missed it the first time.
Here’s what it looks like now:
Same idea, modern look.
If there’s a genre of games that I’d wager arguing I’m good at, it’s platformers. I’ll spend hours banging my head against the Super Meat Boys of the world, a satisfaction ingrained by many sleepless nights spent with the original Mega Man games in my youth. There’s something about playing a game with extremely precise movements that makes even the most challenging scenarios seem doable. If the controls react the way I want them to, it’s on me, not the game.
(This is not always true, but when it works, it’s what builds a tolerance for these games.)
As much as I dug N+, N++ didn’t do anything for me. I dropped the game after a few days. It’s incredibly well-made — no argument there. But there was a been-there, done-that feeling to N++; Flywrench feels genuinely new. Though the games are operating on similar and punishing wavelengths, the mechanics of Flywrench are giving my brain (and fingers) a new challenge.
Even though Flywrench predates the Flappy Bird phenomenon by years, it’s probably the best comparison. If you, like me, felt Flappy Bird was onto something but couldn’t get into the way it was structured, Flywrench scratches the same itch. You’re tasked with “flapping” this line and balancing weight, physics, and momentum while avoiding increasing stacks of obstacles.
It can get really, really messed up.
Flywrench is probably the best “hard” game I’ve played all year. I can’t get enough.
If you want to watch a few minutes of me screaming at a monitor, have at it.
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