Wednesday, 18 June 2014

FlapThulhu: A Glimpse Into More Than One Nightmare

Flapthulhu game version 2 poster

So, Flappy Bird.

flappy bird gif
I apologise sincerely for triggering the crippling PTSD that most of us suffer after this abomination of a game smeared it's Lionel-Ritchie-esque bird lips across our phone screens earlier in the year, either due to the muscle spasms and acute anxiety attacks it likely caused if you chose to play it or the aneurysm you suffered after screaming for the hundredth time at a ten year old on the bus to "TURN THE FUCKING SOUND OFF, YOU LITTLE SHIT! PLING, PLING, PLING! SEE IT'S ANNOYING ISN'T IT; PLING, PLING! IT'S NOT EVEN A REAL GAME!" *thud* *screech of brakes* *ambulance siren*

emergency hospital patient
"We've got another one! He spent three hours on the train next to a 60 year old playing Candy Crush."
I bring the all-too-raw memory of Flappy Bird up for good reasons, however. As a child of the internet age and an out-and-proud geek, I am obviously sworn to the power of the Old Ones and await the glorious day when they awaken from their slumber to free us from our mortal coil and cast our souls into a fathomless abyss of madness and unimaginable fear. In simpler terms, I like H.P. Lovecraft. As such, I am also duty-bound to inform you of anything and everything suitably Eldritch that pops up on my radar, particularly if it involves an adorable version of Cthulhu, so without further ado, I give you...oh, wait, you already know what it is cause the title said so. Yeah, it's a Cthulhu version of Flappy Bird, available on Android, iOS and PC for the low, low price of nothing.

flapthulhu cthulhu sprite
Much better...
FlapThulhu is pretty much superior to the original in every way: it's not Flappy Bird and it has Cthulhu in it.

That's about it...

Nah, I jest. Although those points alone are enough to make FlapThulhu better than a good half of any other mobile games out there, it does actually improve on most of what Flappy Bird laid down initially. The sound is great for one; the noise in the background sounds like someone is practising scales on their theremin and gradually rises the further you get, building tension (much like the music in the infuriating Impossible Game) to the point of being distracting. But that's half the fun. The graphics are fabulous too, following in the footsteps of the sound design and changing as you progress, with eyeballs and tentacles beginning to grow out of the walls as you flap closer and closer through the derelict walls of the sunken city of R'lyeh towards the pulsating portal to the Eldritch dimension in the background. All in all it makes for an unsettling yet adorable experience.

flapthulhu gate mode eyes teeth cthulhu screenshot
Disembodied eyeballs? Gnashing teeth? Lightning? Reminds me of dinner at the in-law's, amiright?
The gameplay, although intrinsically the same, adds a few much-needed extra touches. Occasionally you'll stumble across collectible skulls which can then be spent in the main menu to unlock other game modes and everybody's favourite protoplasmic balls of goop, the Shoggoth. This gives a bit of a feeling of progression (along with the gradually changing environment) to a game that could otherwise stagnate pretty quickly, and is a never-ending source of moments where you frantically flap towards a skull and impale yourself on the ceiling, thereby ruining your good streak. But by god I got the skull, damnit!

That said, there's an option on the mobile versions for lazy players prone to suggestion to get free skulls by watching adverts for other games, thereby negating any need to play the game at all. FlapThulhu at least has the decency to force you to play for a bit between each advert so you can't just mine the lazy advertising strategy for skulls, but this kind of thing is becoming a worryingly common sight in casual gaming. It's also talked about often enough so I'm just going to leave this clip from Futurama over here and be done with it.

Now where were we? Ah yes. The second game mode removes the pillar dodging and replaces it with enemies for you to crush with your immortal Elder God tentacles. Hold on, I recognise those monsters...

flapthulhu fight mode flappy bird monster cthulhu screenshot
They sadly don't let out a mournful 'pling' when you kill them; much to my chagrin.
There is something worryingly satisfying about charging along dishing out the destructive might of Cthulhu on endless waves of Flappy Bird hell-spawn. Too satisfying. So overall, FlapThulhu is still just Flappy Bird, but with buckets of atmosphere, our favourite dark mythos as inspiration and a little bit more incentive to keep you playing than just a high score to beat. For a free mobile game, that's going far and beyond the call of duty and I applaud it for that.

What You Could Do Instead

Free the Old Ones from R'lyeh -
Doing this technically counts as a Roguelike, what with the permadeath and all.

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