By Thom Compton 14.02.2017
If you never played Super Meat Boy, or didn't much care for collectibles and warp rooms while playing it, you may have never heard of Flywrench. Still, its creator, Mark "Messhof" Essen, is the creator of the fairly well known Nidhogg. Back in 2007, he created a little prototype about a mechanical bird-like ship. Since then, he's refined it, thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, and brought it previously to the PC. Now, though, can it stand up on the PlayStation 4 as an indie beast to be reckoned with?
Flywrench is a bit difficult to explain, similar to Messhof's Nidhogg. It seems to be his style, really. In essence, Flywrench has players piloting a spaceship through the galaxy, changing its colour to go through different coloured barriers. It's how you go through each level, and how those colours affect your movement, that makes Flywrench so special. It's safe to say, though, since this is an early indie game brought to the modern day, that it's also bone crushingly hard.
The aforementioned colours impact how the ship moves. For instance, pressing X to turn red drops the wings of the ship. Depending on how the left analogue stick is being held, you will either fall down rather quickly, or fly up into the air. However, green has you spin around, and seemingly lose a bit of control over the ship. Players will have to get good at coordinating between these colours, as you will eventually have to swap between them very quickly. There are other colours that get factored in, such as blue switches that unlock barriers, and there's plenty of variety to be found.
Controlling the ship will definitely take some getting used to, as the ship is essentially always falling. While it occasionally will bounce off of surfaces, and may seem like poor physics, it actually feels really natural, like an added challenge within the game. However, when you flap the wings to get higher up, you will be in a default red state, and sometimes need to pass through non-red barriers. Learning how far to push the ship before letting go is important, and leads to some very hard, but satisfying, moments.
The difficulty, though, is clearly there. Early indie games that focused on challenge above anything else were frequently called "massacore" games. Think Super Meat Boy or The Mighty Jill Off, and Flywrench falls into that category, as well. While the first two planets never feel unassailable, the second you arrive at Uranus, all bets are off. The difficulty spike is noticeable, as pink walls appear that the player simply cannot touch, regardless of colour. From here on out, most of the levels feel incredibly satisfying, and with the instant restart of the short levels, it's amazingly quick to try and rectify your mistakes.
Still, those mistakes won't always be yours. Some of the controls, especially the green flipping motion, are very off putting. While there may be some who find that previous sentence a sign of it just being “too hard,” figuring out how to navigate corridors can get frustrating when even your hard-earned lesson doesn't pay off. Flywrench struggles with that balance of fair and unfair from time to time, but not enough to make putting the controller down any more enticing.
Artistically, you're setting yourself up for failure if you believe the game is going to look hyper realistic. It's reminiscent of older 80s titles, with simple shapes to ensure the player knows where they are and what's ahead of them. It's also got a graininess to it that is both inviting and foreboding, and the game feels very complete because of it. You will understand this world, not as a lazy, thrown together mess of “minimalist” art, but as a sublime, simple looking game. In truth, it doesn't feel like Flywrench could look any different.
The juxtaposition, and the reminder this is a video game, comes with the music. For a game about extreme difficulty and the vastness of space, it's remarkably upbeat. It's a nice incentive to view the game as fun, and not a big bully laughing at your every failure.
The barrier to entry, as previously noted, is very high, as the game controls unlike anything else you may have played. The closest comparison would be Flappy Bird, as you are struggling to keep the ship at a consistent level by managing how often you push it up. Still, that comparison is far too simplistic, and quite frankly, not very good. Truth be told, there's just not another game quite like Flywrench—and that it managed to do something different, and succeed as well as it did, is a testament to why games should still keep trying to reinvent the wheel.
Flywrench may be hard to explain, but it's not hard at all to recommend. The difficulty manages to be mostly fair and wildly satisfying. While it may take some getting used to, it would be a disservice to yourself not to at least try out this indie underground legend, now that it's finally coming to the mainstream.