The almighty Dong Nguyen, developer of the infamous Flappy Bird mobile game, has returned with a vengeance but it’s not entirely what we expected. If you’re part of the select few people who actually haven’t heard of Flappy Bird, then you’re extremely lucky. Released in May 2013, it didn’t strike gold until a variety of YouTubers made videos about it due to its nigh-on impossible gameplay. The developer, Dong, was reportedly earning up to $50,000 per day from in-app ad revenue. He subsequently removed the app from the public due to how much abuse he was receiving from frustrated players.
Swing Copters is Dong’s new game, following a similar structure to Flappy Birds. This time, you control the horizontal direction of a small creature equipped with a helicopter hat. Your goal is to fly between two metal poles, each with their own swinging hammer and you have to tap to change the direction in which your creature is flying.
Now, the issue with reviewing such a simple game is that it leaves me to be quite critical of it. Swing Copters‘ gameplay is different to that of Flappy Bird’s in that in this new game you have a tiny chance of even getting through the first two metal poles. In fact, upon release the highest score registered by anyone was that of the creator’s at 8. Flappy Bird gave users a chance of getting that first pipe and in turn planted the seed of obsession and failure into the player’s mind. This resulted in continuing plays.
After having downloaded the game, I must admit it took me a while to figure out how to control the character as the flimsy diagram shown at the beginning seemed like you had to tap to fly up and that you had to use the accelerometer in your iPhone to tilt your character left and right. After several failures I eventually noticed that the direction of the character changed each time I tapped.
There are also a couple of issues with the hitboxes of the swinging hammers. On several occasions my creature flew past them with several pixels in between and yet it still knocked me down. This is also a recurring issue that people spotted in Flappy Bird. The reason behind me calling it an issue as opposed to a bug is that the developer has intentionally tried to make the game impossible. As a result, it makes it unfair to play.
The other issues that have been ported over from Flappy Bird are the dodgy physics associated with the main character. For some reason there appears to be centers of gravity at the end of each pole. Even when the character is turned, its trajectory can still continue in the opposite direction for a split second, which is enough to screw you over. The momentum of the creature also appears to be slightly odd as it will randomly speed up or slow down as you progress through the poles.
Now, obviously without unpacking the app and looking at the code, these are ultimately assumptions based out of experience. Since Nguyen even admitted in an interview that he had intentionally made Flappy Bird difficult to keep players on the app, who’s to say he hasn’t done this for Swing Copters? In any case, he has actually made the game so difficult that it’s becoming increasingly sour for me to play it and I experience an anger at the unfairness of the game as opposed to my lack of skill.
Graphically, the game has nothing to boast about, simply because the graphical style of the game is identical to that of its predecessor. One could argue that this repeated graphical style is simply the developer’s touch but even then game franchises never retain an identical graphical style throughout each instalment, and I’m sure Nguyen has the resources to prettify his new game a little more.
The five sounds are limited, dull, and stereotypically 8-bit, making it even more frustrating to play this game for a lengthy duration of time. The ‘whoosh’ of the character as it flies upwards just becomes irritating and the annoying ‘ding’ to remind you that you’ve just lost is quite aggravating.
Overall I was rather disappointed at Nguyen’s next game after his previous title had earned him legendary status amongst gamers and developers alike. It would have been nice to see a far more expansive version of Flappy Bird or maybe even a completely different genre rather than delving back into a type of game which originally had pushed the developer away. Thankfully Swing Copters is free, albeit littered with ads, so you can go ahead and try it out for yourself, but personally I wouldn’t waste my time with it.