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Flappy Bird iOS Review: 18 Million Players Can't Be Wrong, Right?

Need an excuse to fling your expensive piece of consumer electronics at the nearest wall? Enter Flappy Bird.

Review by Pete Davison, .

Flappy Bird. Suddenly, everyone was talking about it. But why? I had no idea. I had to find out.

It transpires that this free, ad-supported mobile game's rocketing to the top of the App Store charts was more than likely at least partially fuelled by this expletive-laden exploration from popular YouTube personality and part-time foghorn PewDiePie. And if a video demonstrating the game's simplistic gameplay and infuriating difficulty level is enough to get people to download it in sufficient quantities to get it to the top of the charts, there must be something interesting about it, right?

Well, uh, no. Flappy Bird is -- how to put this delicately -- rubbish.

It couldn't be simpler. It's a "one-touch" game, meaning you only have one control to worry about -- tapping the screen to make the titular bird do the thing he is most known for. You must use this single control to avoid crashing into some possible copyright-infringing green pipes that look mysteriously like sprite rips from a Nintendo game.

And that's it.

Yes, really; that's it. There's no progression beyond beating your past high score (or checking your standing on the global Game Center leaderboards which, as usual, are topped by people who have clearly used unscrupulous methods to artificially inflate their scores); there's no in-game currency to earn and buy powerups; there's no challenges or missions; no achievements; hell, there isn't even a difficulty curve -- the game just keeps coming for as long as you have patience, its green pipes spread out at equidistant intervals for all eternity. You'll never reach the end, you'll never "beat" Flappy Bird, and there's little incentive to even keep trying.

And so why is it so popular? Why does Apple's Game Center report that there are supposedly somewhere in the region of 18 million people playing this game?

Simple answer: it's addictive. Or, perhaps, to be more accurate, it's compulsive. It's one of those games where you try, you fail, you automatically press the "retry" button to give it another go. You try, you fail, you retry, you fail, you retry, you fail -- and before you know it your dinner is burned beyond recognition, the junk mail is piling up on your doorstep, the cat has finally perfected its Persuadertron technology and it looks as if the Rapture might be kicking off outside.

An exaggeration, perhaps -- I tired of the game after roughly three minutes -- but it is easy to see how people could find this simplistic, poorly presented game somehow compelling. It taps into those same sort of primal urges to do better that deliberately simple but difficult games like Super Hexagon manipulate -- the difference between Flappy Bird and Super Hexagon being that Terry Cavanagh's classic features a much better sense of pacing and gradation of difficulty, whereas Flappy Bird is just the same thing over and over and over again.

A certain addictive or compulsive quality isn't sufficient to make a genuinely good game, sadly; Flappy Bird is addictive and compulsive in the same way that popping bubble wrap is addictive and compulsive. It may be immediately satisfying to waste your time with it in the short term, but when you look back on how your day went, you'll find yourself wishing you'd used those hours for something more productive or stimulating.

Do yourself a favor and don't even start down that pipe-laden road; there are far too many brilliant games out there going unplayed to ever justify wasting your time with Flappy Bird.

The Nitty Gritty

  • Visuals: At least it's consistent, in that it looks like a Super NES game. Possibly because its graphics may well have been ripped from a Super NES game.
  • Music and Sound: There's no music, and sound effects are minimal, unless you count your own profanities as sound effects.
  • Interface: The controls at least respond consistently, and no loading breaks means you can always immediately restart without any fuss. But why would you want to?
  • Lasting Appeal: This is a game that is as long as you have patience and/or nothing better to do. In my case, it was a matter of minutes.

Half a star for at least having the decency to not have any microtransactions; half a star for its undeniably addictive nature. The remaining four stars are off playing something better.

1 /5

Flappy Bird iOS Review: 18 Million Players Can't Be Wrong, Right? Pete Davison Need an excuse to fling your expensive piece of consumer electronics at the nearest wall? Enter Flappy Bird. 2014-02-03T21:00:00-05:00 1 5

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Comments 12

  • Avatar for cscaskie #1 cscaskie 2 years ago
    There are even far better games based on a similar formula. I recommend Jetpack Joyride.
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  • Avatar for Zebetite #2 Zebetite 2 years ago
    Mobile gaming sure is the wave of the future.
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  • Avatar for secularsage #3 secularsage 2 years ago
    I find it extremely telling that this lazy-looking game includes pipes ripped off from Super Mario Bros. and that the bird is clearly a slightly modified Cheep-Cheep.

    The programmer couldn't even be bothered to program a parabolic arc for the "Flappy Bird"'s flight. It just plunges to earth if you don't intervene. What an awful-looking game.
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  • Avatar for Jonny5Alive7 #4 Jonny5Alive7 2 years ago
    I briefly played it and got sick. There is a helicopter game that has been around for years which is basically the same thing.
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  • Avatar for metal_maniac #5 metal_maniac 2 years ago
    Everybody in my class is playing this game. I tried it about ten times, concluded that it was a boring, uninspiring pile of crap and went back to Zoo Keeper on my DS...my favourite addiction.
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  • Avatar for Damman #6 Damman 2 years ago
    Phew. I'm glad it's the world that's gone mad and not me (this time). A few plays in I decided after I hit 10 points I'd quit. Five minutes and six points later I'd had enough, quit the app, and uninstalled it.
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  • Avatar for andreakubíková05 #7 andreakubíková05 2 years ago
    I think this game is good i try it on www.flappybirds.cz but too much easy for me :D
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  • Avatar for dongatory #8 dongatory 2 years ago
    In case anyone still wanted to play even though the creator, Dong Nguyen, has removed it from Google Play Stores, I'm uploading the .apk here for people to download.
    This was the latest v1.3 version

    http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=2667309
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  • Avatar for dongatory #9 dongatory 2 years ago
    In case anyone still wanted to play even though the creator, Dong Nguyen, has removed it from Google Play Stores, I'm uploading the .apk here for people to download.
    This was the latest v1.3 version

    http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=2667309
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for john.1122 #10 john.1122 2 years ago
    Playing Flappy bird is really not easy, but still some people are doing highest scores, i saw a video a person did 590.
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  • Avatar for dex1985 #11 dex1985 2 years ago
    Flappy Bird is a fun game. Spaceship Joyride is also highly recommended.
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  • Avatar for timbeachum26 #12 timbeachum26 2 years ago
    I would like to recommend Samurai Butterfly - It has similar game play.
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