What happens when a game's mechanics are affected by, well, themselves? That's what Mark Essen of Messhof Games might have been wondering when he devised the idea for Flywrench, a downloadable freeware game in which you must guide your bat-like ship through a maze of obstacles to the exit.
Along the way, you must pass through different-colored gates. Now, most games would require you to collect a matching key to get through the gate, but ugh, how passé! Instead, Flywrench requires your ship's color to match the gate color, but the color of your ship is directly tied to the form of movement your ship is currently performing. There are three basic movement patterns you can do, and each has a corresponding color:
- White: The default motion. Consists of any inertia you might have plus gravity. You may use the [left] and [right] arrows to gain sideways momentum.
- Red: Activated by tapping [up arrow]. Each tap flaps your ships wings once, providing a brief vertical boost. Holding the [up] button down will only cause a single flap, but your ship will remain red until you release it. Again, the [left] and [right] arrows will move you sideways.
- Green: Holding the [down arrow] will turn your ship green and activate the rolling movement mode. Rolling is similar to the default mode, but renders you immune to collisions with the yellow walls. Unfortunately, you cannot navigate left and right while in rolling mode.
Colliding with the yellow walls when you are white or red results in instant death, as does trying to pass through a gate whilst donning the wrong color. There are even moving pink walls to which even the green is not immune, as well as blue gates which can only be passed through if unlocked. Needless to say, you're going to become quite familiar with death. However, the game wastes no time getting you back in the action after you crash, making it more work to quit the game than to continue!
Analysis: At first, Flywrench might seem like Ball Revamped with crude graphics, but after a couple of levels it becomes clear that you'll need to learn a few new tricks in order to advance very far. Although there are only four types of gate, how you get through them depends on whether you start above, below, or off to the side of them, as well as the locations of other nearby gates or obstacles. As a result, the gameplay varies much more than you might expect. The overall effect is one of self-reference: the way you play the game is dictated by the method by which you play the game, that is, the movement of your ship. It's an interesting experiment in game mechanics which ultimately succeeds in creating a clever and fun playing experience.
Flywrench isn't overly long; there's a set of levels for each of the 8 planets in our solar system, plus Pluto, but the number of levels for each world continually decreases. However, according to Mark's blog, Flywrench 2 is in the works, so be on the lookout. In the meantime...