Nothing makes sense anymore. I’m seeing three screens. White looks like red and green looks like pink. What planet am I on now? You’d be forgiven for thinking you’d stumbled upon Vice, not an innocent video game review. Perhaps, but this experience is every bit enthralling and addictive (well… maybe a bit less so). My psychedelic of choice today is Flywrench, a dazzlingly difficult, punishing action-puzzler by Masshof, creators of 2014’s Nidhogg. And what a trip it is.
Describing Flywrench is a difficult affair; it’s the type of game that has to be played to be understood properly. We play as a space ship, which is essentially a white line flying within an orange boundary. Our aim is to reach the end goal, a kind of sucking vortex. Each chapter is represented as a planet, and completing a certain amount of levels unlocks one closer to the sun. Initially the levels are simple; we are able to bounce off of the outer boundaries with no effect. Yet we’re soon introduced to different colours, forms and obstructions, and inevitably things start getting difficult.
Movement is governed by just three buttons: the left analog stick and two buttons. With these, the player can transform the ship into red and green forms, which need to be activated when breaking through the corresponding barrier. One colour, pink, is unbreakable, so needs to be avoided altogether. As the levels increase in difficulty the more necessary precise timing becomes; often the form has to be changed within a matter of seconds. Precision of movement is also essential as the increasing pace of the game means only a perfect run will suffice. All of this requires one thing that the game will continually ask of its players: patience.
Flywrench is at times fiendishly frustrating; it can take sometimes dozens of times to get through a level. As the game progresses missions becomes longer and longer, so one silly mishap towards the end will lead to you being sent right back to where you came. Yet the frustration is also fruitful. Like Super Meat Boy, its puzzles gradually teach you, forcing you to perfect them, until finally you have that ‘Eureka’ moment when you reach the goal. At no point does it feel unfairly difficult, probably because it plays at such a pace that you don’t have time to feel indignant. Instead you’re flooded with continual reward and gratification which, like a dopamine shot right to the brain, becomes addictive.
The pace of the game mirrors its soundtrack. The blasting electronica and synth hurries and panics, and adds to the sense of speed that the gameplay creates. You’re guaranteed to be hearing the music in your nightmares, so luckily the tunes are catchy; they’re psychedelic and hypnotic, which matches the game’s basic but bright look. On the visuals side, Flywrench is as basic as they come, with every object and map designed as just thin lines or blocks. At a time when most developers put more effort into visuals than gameplay, Flywrench shows that tight controls and interesting level design are what’s really essential in making a good game.
A time trial mode is also included in the game, ensuring replayability. Being able to shave a few milliseconds off of my personal best in each level adds to the addictiveness and obsessiveness that comes with the main game mode. The levels that were hard enough to beat first time around can be laid to rest though; I’ve been sleeping better ever since.
There are some areas that need ironing out. Two glitches that I noticed, whilst not game breaking, were annoying. The first is that when my game was paused, after continuing I was left with just the background. To get back to the level I had to return to the menu and start over. Another was that a few times I found my spaceship outside of the boundaries lost in the void of endless coding. Again, I only had to restart, so it didn’t hamper my experience; it was only a niggle.
The PlayStation 4 version of Flywrench misses out on level editing, which is a shame though it does contain 12 additional new levels exclusive to the PS4. Yet for those who prefer to play on consoles, it’s still worth every penny. It’s guaranteed to taunt you, to make you try and try again until you finally win. Inevitably that will lead to many a TV screen being shouted out. But then what’s the point? In space no one can hear you swear.
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