by Nathan Grizzle
Assistant Lifestyle Editor
Every once in a while, a new app comes along to dominate the smartphone gaming market. First, we had Angry Birds. Now, we have Flappy Bird. Or at least we did for a while.
Flappy Bird hit the App Store back in May 2013, but the application’s launch was hardly notable. The app had not seen widespread downloads until recently, when it skyrocketed to the number one slot in the App Store in a matter of days.
Apparently unhappy with the application’s popularity, the developer declared on Twitter that he would be removing Flappy Bird from the App Store. On Feb. 9, it was indeed pulled and is no longer available for download.
The rapid rise and fall of Flappy Bird made me rather curious. I spent some time playing Flappy Bird in hopes of discovering what made it so popular.
The game revolves around tapping the touch screen to propel a bird into the air. Players must maneuver the bird between sets of green pipes, which appear to have been ripped straight out of Super Mario Bros. One point is awarded for each set of pipes cleared. Touch one of the pipes, or the ground and it’s game over. Sounds easy, right?
Wrong. The game is simple in appearance, but nearly impossible in practice. Mediocre controls are the culprit here. When the player stops tapping, the bird (we’ll call him Flappy) drops like a rock. A single tap causes Flappy to move upwards rather sharply. The challenge comes from balancing the steep climbs and the sharp drops to navigate the pipes. For a game that demands finesse, it offers players almost no fine control over Flappy.
The game is also woefully unforgiving. Upon starting, players are given a few seconds in open air to acclimate to Flappy’s flight controls. After that, it’s game on. The first pipes you’re presented with aren’t spaced any farther apart than the rest, meaning that it’s very possible for a first-time player to get a score of zero. In fact, this is exactly what happened to me on my first few runs. My high score currently sits at a rather pathetic 17.
By all rights, this game should not be good. It doesn’t feel like it belonged at the number one slot in the App Store. It lacks the polish that is typical of a top-tier smartphone game like Tiny Wings or Angry Birds. (What is it with the bird-themed games, anyway?) Yet somehow, even amidst the appearance of poor quality, Flappy Bird manages to be entertaining and challenging.
The game does get easier with practice, but it’s still brutal. Each failure of mine brought forth a burst of momentary rage, coupled with the feeling of wanting to throw my phone. Strangely enough, this anger was immediately followed with an intense desire to try again.
That’s where the addicting nature of Flappy Bird lies. The game is a simple one to pick up and play. There is only one control to worry about: tap the screen. It’s deceptively simple, however. Quite the challenge awaits those who stick around for more.
It is a game which appears easy, yet demands skillful play to master. That, perhaps, is what so many found appealing in Flappy Bird. It may be why it held the top spot in both the App Store and Google Play store. It would probably still be up there had the developer not pulled it.
Flappy Bird may be gone, but it will be missed. Those who didn’t get a chance to pick up the game can hope that it makes a return one day. Those who did can continue to enjoy the rage-inducing challenge.