Sometimes Android and iOS has a lot to answer for. While some good games and apps do turn up on there and it’s great to see some of these making their way over to the Vita in one form or another there are others that gamers wish had never seen the light of day in any form. One such game was the infamous Flappy Bird and fortunately Vita owners were spared from this behemoth when it was pulled from distribution recently. Or were we…?
Well David Martinez didn’t think so and decided to write Trolly Bird, his own “interpretation” for PlayStation Mobile and apart from cosmetic changes it is Flappy Bird in all but name. If you’ve managed to avoid the almost hysterical hype surrounding the game, it’s a side scrolling variant on the endless runner concept where you are in control of a bird in flight. Tapping the touch screen will flap his wings helping him to fly (in bouncing motions) and to keep progressing further you have to negotiate your way through gaps that appear in pipes that are continually moving towards you at regular intervals. Collide with one of these and it’s game over, successfully pass through and you score a point and all you have to do is keep going as long as possible to keep beating your personal best score. That’s basically it and on other portable devices the simplicity of the 2013 game has proven it to be an unprecented hit with the free game receiving over 50 million downloads before it was controversially taken out of distribution.
Author Dong Nguyen from Vietnam took the game off the market at the beginning of February 2014 with first reports claiming that it was after the game was heavily scrutinised by the gaming media. It had been alleged by some that it’s ratings on both the App Store and Google Play stores had been artificially inflated in order to boost downloads, in addition to allegations of legal issues with Nintendo regarding copyright claims although Nintendo themselves denied this publicly. However, all of this was too much for Nguyen who decided to remove the game from distribution who said, “I am sorry ‘Flappy Bird’ users… I will take ‘Flappy Bird’ down. I cannot take this anymore”. However, he later stated that he felt that the game had become too addictive and that that was the primary reason for its withdrawl.
That aside, what’s the game actually like? Trolly Bird, like the game that inspired it, is one of those games that on first impression is too simplistic for its own good. The idea of basing an entire game around a single button press sounds as if it’s not going to be an enjoyable gaming experience. Certainly, watching it being played from an outsider’s perspective only reinforces that thought and watching my wife and daughter’s obsession with Flappy Bird left me utterly bewildered at how addictive they found it. Bearing that in mind, when I downloaded this within an hour or so of it going live on the PSN Store as soon as I saw the screenshots I knew what I was letting myself in for… or so I thought.
I was expecting to only play the game a few times before relegating it to my ever-expanding PSM collection, maybe loading it again to review it and then thinking nothing more of it. What I actually found was a game that was bizarrely compelling. Even though Trolly Bird is incredibly basic by nature, it’s that simplicity that makes it so easy to pick up and play at a moment’s notice. There’s no need to plan to set aside any amount of time for a gaming session and no sooner has the Vita loaded up and you can be playing this in no time at all. What I found was that I enjoyed this more than I expected to. A lot more. There’s something strangely addictive about it despite it’s origins and there’s a constant desire to better your own score and an unbelievable feeling of frustration when you get close to doing just that and then collide with one of the pipes.
Knowing how much they both loved the original, I got my wife and daughter to play-test Trolly Bird and within minutes they were arguing over whose turn it was to play on the PS Vita, there were groans and cries of anguish as their birds continually collided with the background and cheers from my daughter when she beat the high score I had set the night before. Did it pass the test of having the same addictive qualities of the original? I’d certainly think so and the fact that my wife immediately purchase the game herself to run on her Xperia Z said a lot about its appeal.
As I said, one thing that was a surprise to many with the original was that despite the visual similarities to the overall look of Super Mario Bros, no complaints had been made by Nintendo nor had they expressed any interest in taking any action and as such the same visual style has been adopted for Trolly Bird. Anyone familiar with the early Mario games will immediately feel at home with the green plains and look of the pipes and everything scrolls smoothly. All of the visuals – including the movement and animation of the bird itself – move so smoothly that you can never feel yourself blaming the game’s graphics engine for failing you if you ever collide with one of the pipes. If you hit something you know it’s down to your own timing, not collision detection problems or glitches with the game’s visuals!
Sound is quite sparse with little more than chirping sounds for the bird as he flies along his way, a bleep as you successfully pass through a pipe and a short crashing sound as you hit one of the pipes blocking your path so truly nothing to write home about. However, what Trolly Bird does do is makes use of the Vita’s ability to run more than one title at once. If you have any MP3 files on your Vita’s memory card you can use the console’s media player to play these and then switch from this to Trolly Bird and have your own music playing in the background. This also works if you have a subscription to Music Unlimited and have that app installed on your Vita, giving you a near limitless musical accompaniment to the game.
Probably the biggest shock with the release of this is that Sony allowed it to be released for PlayStation Mobile. Both Apple of Google have attempted to ban clones of Flappy Bird from being released through their respective stores and while the occasional title may slip through the net, it now seems as if PSM may be the only way to get your Flappy Bird fix! It’s not the first time that Flappy Bird has graced the Vita – an incredibly faithful conversion was produced for LittleBigPlanet of all things as a download from one of the game’s users but Trolly Bird is the first standalone title so there’s no need to run it through another product (and despite looking and feeling exactly like Flappy Bird, the LBP clone isn’t as smooth or responsive as this). It is interesting to note the attitudes with regards to the clones of the games, especially the fact that Nguyen himself made the conscious decision to take no action against them meaning that Trolly Bird is here to stay!
I have to be honest and say that I never expected to find this to be so enjoyable to play and while I don’t think it’s going to a part of my top games list on the Vita, I do see it being something that I’ll dip into on a regular basis for a quick 5 or 10 minute gaming session for quite some time to come. Granted, it’s not free like the original ad-supported version, but at the price you can’t go wrong with this and it’s well worth the asking price for what has turned out to be a fun, addictive game.
At A Glance
- Title: Trolly Bird
- Publisher: David Martinez Gaming
- System: PlayStation Mobile
- Format: PSN Download
- Cross Buy: No
- Online Multiplayer: No
- Local Multiplayer: No
- Memory Card Space Needed: 4Mb