Flywrench is difficult to explain. It has the speed and rapid respawning of Super Meatboy but it isn’t a platformer. It has the art style of an Atari classic but isn’t a retro homage of any kind. Flywrench even has one of the better electronic soundtracks to come along in a while and yet the gameplay doesn’t have anything to do with music. Instead, Flywrench is a game about avoiding objects and maneuvering yourself to the goal of each of its 170+ levels via falling, flapping, spinning, or however else you manage to get there.
Each level in Flywrench is outlined in a bright, yellow shape. The flywrench itself is a solid, white line. Pressing X will make the flywrench flap its wings, so to speak, and turn red. Pressing square will make the flywrench do a fast-paced barrel roll and turn green. These colors do more than just add a pop of fun to the screen, they help the flywrench move through similarly colored barriers that would otherwise make the flywrench explode if it was the wrong color. While the early levels have you just turning red and flapping through some simplistic barriers, later levels require you to flap, flip, spin, and fall with rapid precision in order to make it through unscathed. It’s a demanding exercise that can be equally rewarding and frustrating depending on the result.
Flywrench is all about space travel, starting at Pluto and working your way to the Sun. I’m not ashamed to admit that I couldn’t beat the Sun because it was incredibly difficult. Don’t believe me? Go watch some Sun levels on YouTube and share my pain. The game itself is an exercise in repetition and release. Later levels demand constant repetition as you die in order to find out what comes next, what moves are required for you, and hope your best is enough. I am sure many people will find the dumb luck that shows up in Flywrench to be annoying at times, and I would tend to agree.
There are times you finish a level and instead of feeling like I earned it and did it on my own, I felt instead like I fell into the end of the level through dumb luck. While I definitely got used to the instant and numerous deaths in Flywrench, I felt like the dumb luck victories soured my overall experience with the game. I wanted to feel like I learned something but when I went back to retry those levels, I couldn’t recreate my success.
As noted earlier, Flywrench looks like an Atari game on steroids. The bold, simple line work and bright, colorful shapes are all you have to look at but somehow its enough. It makes due with what it has and doesn’t try to add anything beyond what is necessary. Much like Nidhogg, the simplicity of the appearance is something that adds to the overall experience. The soundtrack too is a special piece of music. It was quickly added to my list of few videogame soundtracks I’d actually listen to outside of gaming, right along other titles like Escape Goat and Fez. It makes those constant deaths a bit easier to digest.
After beating all of the levels on a planet you unlock a time trial mode for the truly crazy players. Beyond that there is a leaderboard that I personally didn’t bother with because I’m never going to be that talented at this game. There’s also an interesting level editor that will definitely have me coming back on occasion to see what’s being created.
Overall I enjoyed my time with Flywrench but wished there was a better process for learning what was right and wrong in terms of mechanics. It starts off so well with elements and mechanics being introduced slowly but surely. By the later stages I was sure I’d be ready for the challenge, and maybe someday I will be. But after a few too many deaths and dumb luck wins I felt put-off. There’s definitely a lot to like with Flywrench for fans of the insanely difficult, rapid-spawning games but for the more casual it will only offer a brief run through 170+ levels that will end in glorious victory, endless deaths, or sheer, dumb luck.