Flywrench started life as a freeware title a few years ago, but developer Messhof (of ‘Nidhogg’ fame) gave it a full-blown revival and released it on Steam back in 2015 and now in 2017 on the Playstation 4. Despite its long running heritage, some players may only recognise it from the titular ship Flywrench’s appearance as a guest character in the incredibly popular ‘Super Meat Boy’ – I know that was the case with me. Flywrench’s cameo in ‘Super Meat Boy’ is actually quite fitting though; both games are incredibly enjoyable yet punishing titles that demand super-quick twitch reactions from the player.
Flywrench had a complete overhaul when it made its way on to Steam, so anyone who actually remembers the freeware edition of the game will certainly find a lot of differences in the commercial release. The core concept remains the same though – you guide a simplistic looking ship known as the Flywrench through perilous courses, all whilst making sure you don’t hit any of the obstacles around you and also change your ship’s colour to match up with any barriers that come in your way. There’s also a big dependence on keeping momentum up with your ship, with the Flywrench plummeting if you’re not boosting it constantly. The entire game is incredibly simple in theory, but clever level design and a tough yet satisfying difficulty brings the kind of depth to the experience that will keep you engrossed for hours.
The aforementioned coloured barriers make up the bulk of the game’s puzzling, with each one demanding you change the appearance of the Flywrench. It’s a simple task that typically just demands the pressing of a button, though each different colour brings other changes to the ship too. Take the green barriers for example; a simple press of a button turns the Flywrench green and allows it to pass through the barrier, but it also allows you to bounce across the walls without the risk of getting destroyed too. It’s never just an aesthetic change, but something you’ll have to utilise in order to make it through each level. The colour changing mechanics pretty much cover all aspects of the Flywrench too, with simply boosting your Flywrench turning it red, which is necessary to get through the red barriers but can cause a problem when trying to boost through a barrier of any other colour. This is where timing comes into play, with the game demanding you time each move you make perfectly in order to avoid any mismatched mishaps. It’s incredibly simple, yet incredibly effective.
It’s not just changing colours though, with the momentum of the Flywrench playing a big role throughout the game. Whilst you’ve got to ensure that you’re keeping yourself going manually, the barriers you pass through also give you a little boost and send you on too. It’s incredibly handy, especially when the verticality of levels and the demand for matching colours means a lack of momentum could be catastrophic. Of course, this could work out badly too when you’re forced onto a barrier that’s a different colour because of it, but that’s where your twitch reactions come into play – there’s no room for complacency in Flywrench. Fortunately the goal marker of a level draws you in too, so sometimes all you need to do is get near it to complete a level. This helped out a LOT; I lost track of how many times I was drifting away from a goal marker and towards failure, only for it to pull me in and give me a very lucky success.
A game like Flywrench demands good level design and thankfully it delivers a huge assortment of well designed stages that offer a ton of different challenges. There’s never necessarily a right or wrong way to play through a level either; you can try and speed through as fast as you can, or you can take your time and try to handle each hazard that comes your way with care. Sometimes you can just fluke your way through with a well timed button press too, which is always a treat.
Either way, there wasn’t a single level in the game which felt unfair to play through or designed to intentionally frustrate the player. They’ll certainly challenge you and yes, you will feel frustrated for failing, but the developer deserves praise for offering consistent level design that ensures the player is tested and their skills pushed, but ultimately left satisfied when they finally succeed. It also does a good job of introducing new mechanics the further you progress through the game. Levels are split across the Solar System (starting with Pluto and culminating with the Sun) and each stage introduces some new gameplay mechanic or hazard.
The game feels great to play with some solid controls, though I did find that at times I wasn’t able to nail each move precisely with an analogue stick. When traversing through small lanes where a simple error can mean the end, I often found that I wasn’t able to line myself up perfectly. Sure, a lot of this is down to human error, but there was the odd occasion where I couldn’t quite get the right amount of tilt on the analogue stick and each nudge moved the Flywrench a little too much. It’s nothing game breaking though and I haven’t found a level that I haven’t been able to complete because of it, but it was noticeable at times.
Visually Flywrench adopts a similar simplistic aesthetic style to that we saw in ‘Nidhogg’. Whilst it lacks detail, I love the reliance on solid colour palettes. It works really well for a game like Flywrench, with the simple nature of the gameplay complimented by the simple use of minimal colours. It manages to give the game its own unique identity that doesn’t need to depend on looking stunning, but instead offers a style that matches up to the gameplay. That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for a few fancy visual effects, though there’s nothing here that’ll blow you away – just look at the screenshots and you’ll see Flywrench isn’t a visual marvel, but it works.
Whilst I can appreciate the simple visuals, there was one visual effect used that annoyed me. Whilst the neat effects compliment the game in other ways, I found the mini red explosion that occurs when you boost the Flywrench could distort my view of the ship a little, making it difficult to position the ship perfectly when making small precise jumps through some of the trickier levels. Add to that my previously mentioned issue with the controls and it led to a few unwarranted failures. I know it’s a petty thing to moan about, but it’s something that could be frustrating when it caused me to fail when nearly completing a difficult level.
The Steam release of Flywrench has a level building feature, though unfortunately it has been omitted from the Playstation 4 edition of the game. The level builder was a key feature that added hours of longevity to the game on PC, so I would’ve loved to have constructed my own levels to play through and challenge my friends with – it’s a shame that console gamers are missing out on it. There are twelve new levels included to make up for its omission, but in honestly I couldn’t help but to feel a little disappointed.
It’s really difficult to describe what Flywrench is in just words or pictures alone; you really need to play it to understand it. Let’s just say it’s an enjoyable puzzler that requires twitch reactions, quick thinking, and a lot of patience – stick with it though and you’ll find it’s incredibly rewarding and offers hours of fun. It’s got a few imperfections, but Flywrench is certainly worth checking out.
Release Date: 14/02/2017
Format(s): Playstation 4 (Reviewed), PC