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When Pigs Fly

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Rating: 3.8/5 (114 votes)
Comments (50) | Views (7,074)
PsychotronicWhen Pigs FlyOne day, a perfectly normal bipedal pig goes out for a walk. Squealing contentedly and terrifying butterflies, she hops up a hillside... and meets with tragedy. A camoflaged hole in the earth drops her into an underground cavern, its exit beyond the reach of a simple pig's leap. Even a pig who is starring in a platform game. Her solution is to spontaneously sprout a pair of feathery bird wings and fly her way out. The only problem is, with fat wings outspread, she is too wide to leave the way she came in. So it's into the abyss, full of lava pools and spikey ceilings, to find another escape route. All through the cavern alternate pathways beckon, but her fragile new limbs keep her from exploring. She is stuck with the decision she made, wherever it leads her. She's taken her own path, an unlikely hero, traveling with powerful but sensitive wings.

When Pigs Fly is the first Flash game from developer, critic, pixel artist, and sometime provocateur Anna Anthropy, also known as Dessgeega or Auntie Pixelante. You may know her as the author of Calamity Annie and Tombed. This first dip into the browser game pool is a well-constructed offbeat platform game with classical stylings, but be warned: it is hard enough to give you fits.

Control your porky avatar with the keyboard. The [left] and [right] arrow keys move you horizontally, but you can't walk, only fly. Hold the [space] bar to rise and release it to fall (you can also use [shift] or [Z]). Spend the first few screens getting used to the quirks of the physics. You have a bit of momentum in the air, and you'll want to practice not smacking into the walls before the many, many stalactites arrive. Your other important control, depending on the quality of your speakers and your tolerance for Daphny David's heart-warming, brain-shredding sound effects, is the [S] key that turns off the squealing. [M] mutes the game entirely.

The pig can stand comfortably on solid ground or even bump her head on a flat ceiling without dying, but her wings are the most fragile creation in the history of the universe. Tap a wall with a wingtip, and you instantly crash to the center of the Earth, shrieking in pain. It's like the new wings are made of pure nerve endings, or maybe they just were never intended for use in a pig-to-wall impact situation. Lucky for you, there's a checkpoint on each screen, so you can immediately tackle the same obstacle again. If you need to quit, or ragequit, your progress is saved on every screen, so you have the option next time to take up right where you left off.

The path through the game is linear, and your first try might last between 10 and 25 minutes, depending on your retro platformer skill. Maybe more. At the end, you unlock a few new options, including Time Attack, a single-life sudden death mode, and a challenge to negotiate the cave backwards. If you have an account at Newgrounds, you can also earn some medals.

Analysis: There's no getting around it: this is a tough one. Though its learning curve is smooth, even expertly polished, When Pigs Fly assumes you have a certain level of hand-eye co-ordination and patience. If you're over 800 coins on MoneySeize or you charged through Don't Look Back in five minutes, this is a walk in the park with a basket of strawberries. But some of you are just going to hate it.

It's not the level design's fault. When Pigs Fly is built on classic NES-era design principles, which just means that it teaches you how to play as you go, without any coddling. You learn how to tap the flight button to hover at a certain height, how to smoothly negotiate a U-bend, how to use the head bounce to avoid excessive hovering. Each new screenful of obstacles pushes you just a little bit further. The only quarrel I have is that the collision box on the stalactites is larger than you'd expect, just so much that they don't have to physically touch you to kill you.

There are several incentives to push through the adversity. Amon26's infectious soundtrack helps. The tiled pixel graphics give a subtle sense of depth to this flat world, and a couple of nice visual flourishes reward you for reaching certain checkpoints. There could be even more of that sort of thing, and I wouldn't complain. But just moving the pig around is interesting. Because the wings are so much more vulnerable than the body, even circumventing a single floating block requires skill, and an innocent staircase becomes a jagged nightmare.

What does it for me is the unpretentious story, which adds a layer of meaning to the game without ever calling attention to itself. Anyone who has ever been stuck in a rut has wished for wings to pull them free, whether they take the form of a new job opportunity, a new relationship, or just a brave new approach to a problem. Each set of wings comes with its own brand of suffering, but ultimately, you learn to fly. Okay, so I made that a little pretentious. It's also a game about a flying pig who dies a lot.

Play When Pigs Fly


Linkzcap July 30, 2009 2:55 PM

The whole wings-being-destroyed-by-the-touch thing is becoming annoying..

Linkzcap July 30, 2009 3:01 PM

Also, I noticed that the world of this game totally reminds me of Knytt.

SteelPenguin July 30, 2009 3:17 PM

I need someone to program a little webber bbq grill that follows the pig around, because I guarantee I've made more porkchops and ribs in this game from the breathe on wings meet your doom. I'm not sure what to give it. The concept is great, but the wing doom isn't fun.

Linkzcap July 30, 2009 3:28 PM

34.57 with 285 accidents. Haha.


Took me about ten minutes and 65 accidents. Yeah, the wing thing got frustrating, but I liked the challenge it offered. Once I got a hang of the controls, I felt it pretty natural to fly the pig.


Nice execution.

The map felt a bit long, especially near the end where some of the rooms were positively sadistic.


This game is awesome.
There is no other way to put it.


- No mute.
- No pause.
- No indication of how far you've progressed.
- Newgrounds "Hide Game" button returned me to the start of the game.

No, thank you! :-(


Really lovely. Not so long you need to stop (and if you need to stop, sit down!) although the lack of mute was disappointing. The difficulty level hit that sweet spot between "easy" and "sadistic", and at no point did I feel like I was keeping going until I got lucky. A kind of cleverness attention to detail that you tend to see only in games where they can't distract you with clever physics or flashy graphics.

11 minutes (I think), 88 deaths.

Michael July 30, 2009 4:38 PM

11:07 and 112 deaths. I'm surprised I've never seen Don't Look Back before now.. thanks for linking to it! This game was good.. fortunately I tried jumping with S and inadvertently turned the squeals off without meaning to.


You can indeed mute the game. Press the 'm' key. 'S' key stops just the squealing. There are instructions a little ways down the page.

EasyGoing July 30, 2009 5:09 PM

Maybe I'm having a bad day today but the pig squealing is annoying. I caught myself not dieing not because of a will to live but a will to be quiet. Only an uninterrupted flight gave me this state of tranquility while the end and start left me irritated.

So irritated that after about 20 scenes a gave up.

It would be unfair to ask the producer to switch of the main feature and meaning of the game (that vocally high pitched pig) so I'll just pass without rating it.

EasyGoing July 30, 2009 5:11 PM

Oh. You say 'S' stops it?
OK, my bad for not reading the instructions (but that "squeal off" should be on the first screen of the game :)


From the review:

"Your other important control, depending on the quality of your speakers and your tolerance for Daphny David's heart-warming, brain-shredding sound effects, is the [S] key that turns off the squealing."

Also, as pointed out above, press [M] to mute.

EasyGoing July 30, 2009 5:30 PM

Yes i know, sorry Jay :) ... i sometimes jump in a game without reading the review.

Guess i got used to that now games take you by the hand and tell you everything while playing. Not the old days when there wasn't any thing as a tutorial and a printed manual was the only way to understand how the game works :)


No worries, EasyGoing, I wanted to post that for more than just your benefit.

Maybe I'm just old-school since when I need a mute key I immediately reach for the [M]ute or [S]ound key if I don't see something to click.


It has been a LONG time since I found a game that, in my opinion, was totally ridiculous. It has been a longer time since I found a game at which I laughed so hard - in a room by myself! As I always said, "...when pigs fly!!!)


I agree with the first commenter - why does anything and everything destroy wings? Why can't a flying pig walk? Were legs broken in the original fall (that might explain the squealing). I'm perfectly comfortable suspending disbelief, but only if the end result is something new or beautiful in its own right. I think the reviewer is reading a bit too much into the game to assign meaning to the plot - but to be fair, I gave up after about 5 minutes. Not because it was hard, but because it was nonsensically and unrewardingly hard. Maybe the ending is a burst of light and meaning. I'll never know.


Apparently, this is the reason pigs don't fly. Man, are they terrible at it, or what? I can see many hating this game. The actually quite good music helped me hang in there. Some parts that looked easy proved to be hardest and needed several checkpoints. :) People are doing this in 10 minutes? Must have slow computers (which makes it easier; mine isn't slow) or they are masters. Or... I stink. I swear, when I read these comments, I must be the worst game player on the entire planet. It took me over an hour to finish. Okay, maybe I wasn't playing continuously the whole time, but still.

Psychotronic, forget the collision box. My biggest gripe is how side-to-side momentum was so hard to overcome and sometimes when you needed to fall straight down, you'd drift to one side with no action prompting it. Negotiating a simple "C" shape was so painful. When I saw the backward "S" shortly afterward, I knew I was in for a world of hurt. I found myself cringing at each new screen and praying for the darn maze to end already! But the difficulty is the whole point, I suppose. If you like punishing and sadistic difficulty, you'll love this game.

Or... I just stink at it. :)

flowerdoggie July 30, 2009 7:43 PM

Bad Dog: I totally agree. Also you aren't the worst gamer ever, after reading coments on scores and times, I feel that way to.

Coldfrog July 30, 2009 7:59 PM

I'm not GREAT at this type of game, but I really didn't find it all that hard. 10 minutes with 40 deaths. Though I may have played it a bit safe at for a while, the controls seemed perfectly simple. A Crow in Hell was much more difficult. Probably because I didn't have the option to land.

I myself thought that anything touching the wings made perfect sense anyway,and from a platforming point of view it was interesting to see how a normal room like the one with a single block diagonal downwards suddenly becomes a little bit of a challenge.

Metaspy July 30, 2009 9:45 PM

I like games that challenge the mind. But this was annoying.
First off, when you died you were warped to a static spot on the screen. EVEN if you had gone past 3/4 of the screen, nope you have to go back. This was my major gripe - I would get past the hardest part, just to die because I skimmed a wall.
The sound effects started grating on my nerves about 4 screens in.

Thanks but no thanks.
It was a cute idea. The controls were slow to respond, the respawn was static, and the sounds annoying.


This one game really made me laugh, but it has to be one of the most fun game to play. Especially when the pig hits a wall or block and it falls....that is so funny....but very hard to play ..... I couldn't get past the first level....good job.

Anonymous July 30, 2009 10:36 PM

heh heh I win 695 accidents(it would be about a hundred less if we took away the second to last real level) One hour one minute 27 seconds. This was harder than Crow in Hell by a lot for me...

waycooler July 30, 2009 11:03 PM


Well that's certainly not as good as my IWBTG record. That one has maybe 5000 deaths? maybe more? And a good couple of days, not a measly 20 minutes.

This game definitely made me think of IWBTG. Instant death on pretty much anything you touch? Check. Nice music? Check. Retro look? Check. Sound effects that are nice until you start dying a lot? Check. The most random and unexpected ways to die? Hmm... nope. I have to say that that drew a bit from my enjoyment of the game. But hey.

The only level that really gave me any trouble (and probably jacked my score up by about 50-100 deaths) was the level shaped like Ω. All the rest were relatively easy and only took 5-10 tries MAX.

And I don't know why people are complaining about the "wings touching walls = death" thing. It's the whole premise of the game. It's like complaining that the whole "shoot at stuff and make it go boom" aspect of Halo is just annoying.

SteamPunk July 30, 2009 11:06 PM

For some reason I seem to love games with this kind of difficulty. My best time is 9.41 with 110 deaths.

waycooler July 30, 2009 11:13 PM

You know, now that I think about it, playing IWBTG puts everything in perspective. If you can beat that game, things like this just seem easy. One checkpoint per screen, at the beginning? Man the developer is leading us along by the hand. Try playing even normal mode on IWBTG.

"Normal mode?" you ask, "what about easy mode?"

There is no easy mode.


Half Knytt, half IWBTG.

Spector17 July 31, 2009 12:53 AM

What are you guys talking about? It has taken no one here more than 30 min to finish the game. Which, in my opinion, isn't that long at all.

S is for squealing mute.
M is for music mute.

Rather easy, expected it to be harder. 15 min. 120 deaths.

Crow is Hell is MUCH harder. Go play that one!


Swine flew...


Why can't a flying pig walk? Also I assumed that wings were less delicate. I didn't even play for two minutes.

omgitsgir July 31, 2009 10:15 AM

I'm not going to embarrass myself by posting my score, but did anyone notice the "One Try" mode after beating the game?



I did it backwards as well; 7:46 with 58 accidents.
I'm surprised it drew me in enough to play all the way through again, but it's a short game.

Xylozex July 31, 2009 4:47 PM

I love this game! I think I got a record, too. Fast computer, 5:46 seconds, and 41 deaths.

Too bad I don't know how to post a screenshot...


4:54 with 338 deaths.

This pig was not meant to fly.


Backwards: 6:32 with 42 accidents. The music makes this game almost therapeutic.



I completed the last two difficult rooms the next day, and they were much easier. I think this game is harder when you're tired.

I really liked this game, including the difficulty. I'm not 100% sure, but the response didn't always seem 100% smooth on my slow PC (eeePC).




It's not that hard. My first try I got under 5 minutes with about 50 accidents, and my current best is 3.43 with 15 accidents.

Perhaps, as mentioned before, it is because I have completed IWBTG, though.

Awesome game.

Anonymous August 1, 2009 10:46 PM

Okay, this game was frustrating beyond belief...some games, like Raider, are challenging. Others, like this, are purely insane and frustrating. The area for your collision test is way to large, and the repetivie dying and pig squealing is extremely annoying. And really...can't the pig even WALK for goodness sake??

Pensfan728 August 2, 2009 10:07 PM

Does anyone elses really want to know what a pig wing tastes like? Seriously, after hitting the lava so many times on a single screen, i really wanted to eat my cooked-several-times-over pig.

BladeStorm August 3, 2009 1:49 AM

Whilst challenging, it wasn't really that difficult. I struggle with the aforementioned games, but flew through this (ha) in under 10 minutes on my first go.


What I think this game needs is a health bar of some kind so that when the pig hits one of the stalagmites or stalactites you won't have to start over. What I do like is that you do get to start back on the same screen instead of going back a couple of screens and having to do it all over again.

PandaKnight August 6, 2009 5:11 PM

No, what this game needs is a MUTE BUTTON.

Otherwise, good.

[Edit: There are two mute buttons. Maybe read the review? -Jay]

Person of Awesome February 28, 2010 5:32 PM

All of the best games always seem to be mimicking the old retro styles. Cave Story, this, Nethack(then again, Nethack IS retro, so friggin old), Knytt, Spelunky, etc. Maybe that's just a quality I look for in games.

Randomname April 9, 2010 7:26 AM

Two words on the game controls : carpal tunnel.

Otherwise : SQUEEE! It's just delicious!


1:00:64 with 605 accidents. Those controlled descents are nasty!


Is my computer broken?(PLEASE PLEASE tell me it's not my computer) I press spacebar to fly and let go to land, but when i let go the pig starts flying by on her own! at first I thought it was a cool glitch, but she's worse than me at steering,and that's REALLY saying something.
Is anyone else having this problem??


omg i FINALLY beat this game! 23:23 is my time with 321 accidents :)


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