Summary right up the top here because, you know this is a blog and all and those with an attention span probably read stuff elsewhere.
I usually like cute and/or indie puzzly things as they offer a nice change of pace from the usual crush kill, destroy…, and they’re cute (world of goo), super cute sometimes (pixeljunk eden, one of the best games EVA) but I haven’t exactly been too fussed on this one so far. There are a few reasons for this and the complete rundown is for those whom lead less busy lives or who like my unusual rambling writing style (the weirdos).
I am once again sucked in by the wonderful character and aesthetic these games have which keeps me playing long after I have become bored of the mechanics and Fly’N is no exception to this. It has a rather gorgeous and luscious look to it and a rather unique characterised look. The different areas have their own unique look that are great on their own but sometimes they don’t have enough differentiation between them except for the usual pathing changes, just seeing the first level of a new zone part is enough to know exactly what the rest is going to be like.. with the later levels just having more red stuff. Regardless though it oozes charm in it’s environment but also in the various inhabitants of the world whom have some sort of animeish studio Gibli look about them. The little animations and sounds they make are entirely adorable and flesh out the world beautifully making it more than just a pretty background.
The sound is oh so beautiful as well and changes perfectly to reflect the environment and relative danger levels with the music being a large part of the experience. It switches some beautiful and whimsical tones to electronic beats as well as the odd orchestra for those particularly tense moments.. it is a wonderful part of the game and it has to be applauded. Overall this all makes a wonderful first impression and one in which you would think you would be able to sink many hours consecutively into it but there is a few parts that sour the mood just enough to make you not enjoy it at times.
It is rather unforgiving of mistakes in some spaces, a wrong flick of the mouse or extra second of movement can send you back to the waypoint which luckily are very well spaced throughout the levels, it doesn’t set you back much but it is just freekin frustrating. Now it isn’t as bad as games like super meat boy or even limbo which overly punishes those with less apt reflexes and grey matter as most of the time it is a reasonable ask to complete certain harder sections without dying. Other times though I feel like it is deliberately just killing you in order to learn the course as it has no other way of teaching you where and when to move. The camera is rather close in some sections which really doesn’t let you see that much around you and then after jumping or on moving objects it will deem fit to throw you an object that is pretty much impossible to avoid, it could be falling debris , a rather nasty stop in front, or a few jumping and switching between modes moves. I have yet through the game been able to anticipate these certain roadblocks and that is a major flaw for a puzzler, a puzzle should always be achievable the first time around if your a fast enough thinker but these seem like a necessary death to learn.
What makes it a lot harder at times then it needs to be is that the controls aren’t that suited to the constant movement and switching between skills that seem required. The further you get into the game the more it requires small reaction times as well as constant and often times coordinated use of the different mechanics, this in combination with the fast reaction time needed is a recipe for death. Jumping with the left mouse, gliding with W, switching modes with space, main skill with right buttons, used in combination with each other very often and you need to switch between relatively quickly as well as use many in tandem not to mention the constant movement. It is near impossible not to make mistakes sometimes and it is these that frustrate immensely, the less dextrous will slip and slip often and it just feels overly punishing and considering the level of twitch skills at times just to make the perfect jump it is just silly. Even games like these with notorious difficult parts and the constant respawn because of death make the mechanics needed far more simple to compensate, with so much going on it would have been fun to play around with the mechanics and learn without being overtly punished by removing much of the toxic red bits.. it still would have been challenging, enjoyable and fun without the peril involved but sadly that is not the case.
Now none of this sets you back anymore than a minute or less of work when you make a mistake but it still seems like rather poor design to waste peoples time on theses silly little parts. What makes this pointless death feel a bit conflicted is that it just feels wrong for the games aesthetic, it really is a beautiful aesthetic and the mode switching mechanic adds a little something special to the environment but you just don’t feel like you can enjoy it like it is supposed to be. Games that are hard and punishing have the aesthetic to match but the aesthetic here reminds me in a way of a cute anime and the leafy lush theme is rather similiar to Eufloria and Pixlejunk Eden where you can just take your time exploring while you puzzle but you just feel rushed sometimes for no particle reason. The puzzling elements become the core focus and the wonderful environment and characters become just part of the background, it just seems backwards.
I think this is the fault of the timed areas in a way as they are quite numerous and they kind of get you in the playstyle of moving through a map as quickly as possible and looking for the quickest path and that of least resistance. It also seems like it is throwing these timed runs at you far too often and sometimes every second level is one of these, there is no time to rest, to learn and practice new features. Now they do appear to be rather simple mechanics that one can get the hang of relatively quickly but it is the using them in tandem which can take some time to get equated with. Because of these constant timed runs it just seems that the learning curve is far to fast as it just doesn’t give you time to learn a mechanic first and slowly build up to the more complex uses… it’s just skill primer, complex use, then straight into a timed run and this is why the frustrating mistakes happen and happen often.
Now these games do run rather cheap, in fact you could pretty much purchase these indefinitely to fill your gaming time but there is so much available that you really do have to make decisions based on your time, thus the question is is Fly’N worth your time and to that I would probably have to say no. It is entirely adorable and the first few parts of each area are enjoyable where your learning the new mechanics but there just isn’t enough differentiation in the worlds to make you keep interest and even when there is you really don’t get enough time to enjoy, to explore and to experience. The puzzling elements are ok and use a good combination of the tools available but none of them are complex enough to utilise much grey matter, most of the time it seems like more of an artificial difficulty caused by the controls and reaction time. It just doesn’t strike me as a cohesive experience, cutesy and luscious aesthetic with twitch reaction and punishing mechanics, call me crazy but for some weird reason they just don’t feel right together.
Fly’N is available through Steam now as part of the Greenlight process for all those interested, and is $9.99 usd.. there is even a demo to get a try of the first part which i would actually recommend just to view the cute things and play the game while it is still a relaxed king of fun.