I find it very funny that I’m sitting here writing about a game called Flying Bunny. I find it even funnier that I actually really liked a game called Flying Bunny. I have a bittersweet relationship with endless games. I grew up in the flash games era where endless runners were all the rage because they were easy to make, required very little stored data, and were very accessible to a large amount of the population. But for me they always get old too fast. I find playing games with no real end goal to be very unsatisfying and while I can enjoy them for a short time, I usually get bored with them pretty quickly. The last endless game I really enjoyed past surface level fun was Jetpack Joyride (2011). This was a game that had no real end goal, but was well made and came with a list of challenges that made the game much more interesting than your standard high score experience. Flying Bunny, developed by Zepetto Co., takes the Jetpack Joyride formula and turns it into a more complete gameplay experience.
The first thing you notice about this game, as soon as you load it up, is that it’s really cute. Like really cute. So cute that even the most pessimistic, grizzled man, i.e. me, can’t help but say it’s a cute game. All the art is done in a hand drawn chibi anime style except the 13 character avatars, which take a more JRPG, fully fledged anime approach. In gameplay, the characters are short and fly through the air via different means of propulsion such as jetpacks, magic brooms, and seated rockets. But it’s not just the characters that are cute. The levels, which are all in the background, are happy lands filled with funny things like carrot castles, cat-faced sphinxes, and star fish palm trees. In the deep background there are simple hand drawn landscapes like star shaped mountains and giant conch shells spitting out rainbows. The main collectibles are dessert items like doughnuts, candy, and cakes. Even the enemies are cute; basically all being some variation of a turtle based on the level they’re in. For example: the enemies in the Egypt themed levels are turtles with pyramid shaped shells. Don’t even get me started on the bosses. They’re not intimidating at all. I can’t decide what’s cuter: a pufferfish with an eye patch or fat chicken being called a phoenix.
The game is broken into numbered stages. Each stage has two parts. The first part is always a cute land, as I have described above. Each stage is the same cycling image until you make your way to the next one. There are only eight backgrounds that cycle though, meaning when you get to stage nine you will see the background from stage one again. The second part of every stage is the same underground cavern design with bats, jagged rocks, and red eyes in the dark. It tries to be scary, but it’s really just less cute. Each character shoots projectiles specific to them. The main character shoots carrots as an example. As you level up your weapons the projectile changes slightly in shape but not general theme. The carrots get bigger, sharper, and multiply but never cease to be carrots. My favorite character so far shoots forks.
The HUD has a lot of information but it’s presented in a way that’s very accessible and easy to read while playing. Along the top of your screen, moving from left to right, you have your bonus mode gauge with the stage number just beneath it, your heart counter in the center, and your score in the top right with your coin counter directly under that. In the center bottom of the screen you have your main and special skill meters. In the midst of play, special messages pop up on screen that vary in shape, size and location, but are all very readable and don’t last long enough to affect your performance. All text shown during gameplay, including the HUD, is in rounded block letters in very defined and differentiated colors for quick and easy readability.
The menus are really nice too. It’s weird to say, but they kind of reminded me of marshmallows or jelly and looked almost tasty. They’re purple with rounded edges and a really nice san-serif font, appearing in several colors. In general, I really like the way this game looks. It’s cute and it runs really smoothly. There was no lag or any sort of errors, which is crucial in an endless, heart based gameplay scenario. My one complaint about the graphics is that the screen cuts off slightly on both the left and right sides of the screen, even cutting off part of the HUD on both sides. Not enough of it cuts off to affect my gameplay or ability to see all the information needed, but it is still a major visual flaw that I have noticed in many indie PS4 games.
As with most small scale endless games, the controls are very simple. Most of the complicated aspects of this game are in the setup before you start, rather than in the gameplay itself. The screen is constantly moving but you cannot move horizontally. You are always in the same place towards the left of the screen moving right. What you control, with only the X button, is your vertical position. Holding X makes you ascend and releasing X makes you descend. I feel like you don’t descend as quickly as I’d like, but it is consistent so it’s not really a design flaw. You use X to navigate through enemies, which are the only obstacles, and gather collectibles which consist of food, items, and power ups. You shoot automatically, but must continuously refill your ammo by collecting food. When the ammo gauge fills, you shoot until it’s empty. Most of the time, the gauge empties completely and then waits for you to reload to full by collecting enough food and then starts shooting again. You can constantly keep shooting by collecting big candies, but those only appear during boss fights and on special occasions during normal gameplay. You also have a special skill with the O button. When you first start the game, this will be a single shot laser cannon, which takes time to reload after each shot. The timer cannot be sped up in game, but different characters and pets can affect the reload time. Later you get other skills such as adding hearts or refilling your basic attack ammo. You can pause at any time during play. Those are the only controls in the game.
A big part of the game is planning. You have 13 different playable characters, but you only start with three and have to unlock the other 10. Each of these characters has different stats and special abilities. They vary in starting/max health, attack power and speed, and special ability. Some of them don’t even have a special attack in exchange for a special bonus. After you’ve chosen your character, you must choose your two pets. You can opt to play pet free, but that makes the game way harder. Your first pet is active, shooting enemies along with you. There are eight active pets to choose from, offering different levels of attack speed and damage. Then you need to choose your passive pet. These are used to offer enhancements such as lower cool down time for your cannon or special buffs like adding magnetism so you can collect items easier. You start with four passive pets but can unlock 14 more. The pets are all based on bosses in the game and are unlocked once you’ve defeated that boss. After you’ve chosen your character and pets, you need to choose your active items. You can also opt to play without these, but again it makes the game much harder. There are five items to choose from. You can equip any two at one time. They offer things like a start boost, extra life, or increased attack damage. After you’ve decided all of this, you can finally play the game.
You goal is simple. This is an endless flying shooter, but technically there is an ending or at least end goal, which I still haven’t reached. The game is split into 25 two level sections/stages. Each stage ends with a boss fight. Your goal is to beat all 25 bosses. The game restarts every time you game over so you are always stuck refighting the same bosses in the same order every time, trying to get a bit farther. Your main weapon levels up as you play, with a max level of 20. Leveling your weapon is key because it increases both your attack damage and attack speed. It’s like Galaga, how you can get a double shot and even triple shot, but it’s not as straight forward as that. As you level up higher and higher, the multi-shot will end up going back to a single shot but it will be a bigger projectile and then that will eventually multiply. I’ve yet to reach a fully upgraded weapon with any character to see the final result. You upgrade your weapon by collecting power up items. These come after every boss fight and are scattered throughout the levels appearing randomly, but all items in this game are really easy to miss. Even when you defeat a boss, you can still miss the rewards. I’ve even had items fly too low to reach before even getting to me after a boss fight, making them impossible to grab. Other items include additional hearts, but they’re way too rare and you can’t have more than your max health. You don’t even get one heart drop per every two bosses. They just drop after random boss fights with no explicit pattern and again are really easy to miss. This is my biggest complaint about the gameplay overall.
There are other items you can get like gigantic which makes you temporarily large and invincible. One of the key collectibles in the game is letters. You collect these to spell out “LUNARMODE” which when complete takes you to a special stretch with tons of collectibles and no enemies. This also skips much of the stage, but never the boss fights. You can also get a full Lunar Mode item that automatically takes you there, but you lose whatever letters you already had. Letters appear often and repeat frequently. Repeat letters get you more points, but nothing else. You can also collect coins, which are really just a mechanism for certain achievements and adding to your score but can’t actually be used for buying anything.
Most enemies just float around or move up and down, but there are two special ones that you need to watch out for. There are rushing enemies that the game warns you about in advance. These shoot forward across the screen. There are also debuff turtles that shoot temporary debuffs at you such as no attacking, heavy, or reverse controls. All enemies except the rushing ones can be killed. You have hearts, which equals the number of hits you can take. As you progress through the levels, the game gets harder. Enemies get more life, which is why leveling up your weapon as quickly as possible is crucial. The frequency of enemies doesn’t change too much though. Or at least not that I’ve seen, having not actually made it past level 10 yet. The boss fights are very fair and consistent. The bosses are large and shoot mostly in patterns. You are given an unlimited amount of large candies to take them down and their life bars are pretty fair. There is no timer for boss fights, but the fight does get harder the longer it takes. The game will give you a “hurry up” warning and then a “danger” warning if you take too long on any one boss. This will cause their attacks to become more aggressive.
What I really liked about Flying Bunny is that you can ride along the top or bottom edges without taking damage. Many games kill you if you go too low or too high. In this you only take damage when you actually get hit by an enemy or enemy attack. What I didn’t like though was that during boss fights the screen expands to make room for the boss’ life bar, but your vertical maximum altitude isn’t expanded as well. This makes your movement range slightly misleading and often has led me to take damage thinking I had more clearance room than I really did. All in all, I really enjoy playing this game. I say enjoy in the present tense because I’m still actively playing it. I find it very addictive and did from the beginning. It’s the same type of joy that I felt when I was playing Jetpack Joyride six years ago.
The sound in this game is good, but not great or that memorable. There is only one song which is constantly looping from main menu to game over. It’s a nice upbeat tune that goes well with the visual style of the game. The default volume level is good, but can be lowered in the options menu. The sound effects, which are varied and appropriate, are too soft in my opinion. Even on the default max setting, you can just barely hear them over the music. But the music isn’t too loud. This is true for both the menu scrolling sound effects and the in game ones. The only really strong effects are when the characters talk, but it’s just explanations for what’s happening like when you enter Lunar Mode and it’s always in Japanese or what kind of sounds like Japanese and English muddled together. There’s really nothing else that can be said about the audio experience in this one.
There is a story in the world of this game, but the game itself doesn’t really tell it. The bulk of the writing is in directions, explanations, and in game messages, all of which are very simple and clear. The only real background or story given is in the character selection screen. Each character is given a short bio of 1 – 3 sentences. All of these bios are somehow related to other playable characters, but not enough is given to really get an understanding of what’s going on here. Why are these kids, 10 of 13 being girls, flying through the air collecting snacks and fighting giant cute animals? Why is the youngest one the most important character? We don’t really know. Even with just the short introduction at the start of JetPack Joyride, you get more plot than you really do in this game.
Since this is an endless game, it’s built almost entirely on the idea of replay value but there are actually a number of legitimate reasons to keep playing the game outside of the online high score leaderboard. There are 13 trophies, including one gold for defeating what I believe is the final boss. The other trophies are for accomplishing certain feats and doing things a certain number of times. You also have 10 characters to unlock by accomplishing various challenges, many of which are quite difficult. One thing I really didn’t like about unlocking characters is that many of them are tied to playing as the main character, Bunny. She is by far not the best character in the game. But you have to keep using her to unlock certain characters rather than taking advantage of the superior characters you’ve already unlocked. For me this is a serious design flaw. You can also unlock an additional 19 pets which have noticeable effects on the gameplay. This is probably one of the best endless games I’ve seen as far as creating legitimate play value outside of high score. Each stage from start to end of boss fight only takes about 3 – 4 minutes, meaning the entire game can technically be beaten in under two hours but it’s gonna take you a lot longer than that to pull it off if you ever do. I still would say the £6.49/$8 price tag is a bit too high though. Especially considering it came out last year, albeit in December of last year so it’s not super old. Jetpack Joyride is currently £3/$3 on PSN. I’d say this is worth a good £5/$5.
I didn’t go into it expecting much, but I thoroughly enjoy playing Flying Bunny. I kind of wish it was on my phone because it very much lends itself to quick plays and eating away time in small doses. It’s well made, but not without its flaws. It’s pretty well balanced and develops as you play each round rather than just being the same thing endlessly. If more developers approached endless games this way, with an endgame of some sort and higher levels of variation, the whole genre would be better for it. This is not a must buy by any means, but it’s quite good for what it’s ultimately meant to be.
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