Much as we may not like to admit it, Flappy Bird was a legitimately clever game. Taking its extraordinarily simple premise, it wrapped the challenging gameplay in a coat of exceedingly charming paint, masking the constant frustration it ought to have elicited and instead gave players the drive to do better. Within the confines of cheap, too-close-to-Mario sprites and one-note gameplay, it garnered a massive following as people joined together to play with – and against – their friends. Flappy Bird worked because it was simple. It did exactly what it needed to do; had it been any more fancy, any more complicated, any more detailed, it would not have become the phenomenon that it was.
And ultimately, no copy of Flappy Bird will ever be as fun as the original. The fact that EVERYONE was playing it, that you could play tons of your friends, yourself, and the rest of the world besides in the exact same game at any time and any place was what made it remarkable. When players are spread across tons of knock-offs, you lose that. You lose much of the addictive quality, because you lose bragging rights; you lose the community (even if everyone is still playing the exact same game, in essence).
Console ports of Flappy Bird are particularly pointless because they lose the portability. This just isn\’t a very good sit down game. You want to pick it up, play it for a bit and put it down. Any game with incredibly basic gameplay based around getting new high scores works infinitely better if players can put in a quick session when they have a bit of downtime; when it comes to booting up a console and laying on the couch, these games fall flat and feel rather unsatisfying.
So Frenchy Bird is a game that fails to do anything Flappy Bird did, outside of, you know, the actual gameplay. It doesn\’t have the portability. It doesn\’t have the insane success and number of players that made Flappy Bird so compelling. And in making a more complex setting and visual style, it loses the sheer charm of original. Ultimately it’s not a worthwhile experience because of all this – and it fails in the actual gameplay, too.
You know how the game works. You press A to flap your wings and gain some altitude, and press nothing to fall. You want to go between gaps in poles. The farther you go, the higher your score. It’s really not a hard concept, but Frenchy Bird somehow manages to not do it quite right.
See, the game is 2.5D, and instead of the normal sidecrolling view, you look on the action from an angle. As a result, it’s too hard to judge depth at times, and thus the pitch-perfect timing and skill needed for every pole is harder to achieve because it can occasionally be hard to judge how close the next pole is.
There’s also the fact that the game is pretty ugly. I mean, really ugly. Less is often more, and that is certainly true in this case – there’s a sincere attempt to make a more compelling world compared to similar games by depicting the streets of Paris passing below, having somewhat detailed backgrounds, and including 3D models. But the low budget shines through, and it looks extremely poor compared to its sprite-based brethren.
There’s some music also – French music to be precise, in an attempt to make the game sound as if you really were flying down Paris streets avoiding randomly placed street lamps. It’s not really bad music, but neither is it very good.
Now, there is the fact that the use of a physical button on the Gamepad instead of using a touch screen like the original is, as always, an improvement. And it has all the features and convenience it should: it has worldwide leaderboards, and the ability to share to Miiverse with the mere push of a button. And the physics work as well as they ever could; minus the bad camera angle, it’s as easy to control the bird as it is to control the main characters in similar games.
But here’s the thing: Frenchy Bird is a game that fails to understand what it is copying in every way. It acts as if the appeal of Flappy Bird wasn\’t in the players ability to have absolute fate over the character they control. It acts as if fancier visuals are what are needed to give new life to the experience, as if the agonizingly simple and charming aesthetics weren\’t what made Flappy Bird a hit. Not to mention it has all the inherent problems of a Flappy Bird clone – not only that, but a console port of a Flappy Bird clone.
So no, I can\’t recommend Frenchy Bird. I don\’t know why you would want to play Flappy Bird on a console, but if you do, there are other knock-offs on the eShop that at least understand the appeal of what they\’re copying. Two dollars is far too much for a game like this.