The gaming industry can be a very strange one, and the enormous heights that Flappy Bird soared to reflect that perfectly. How could such a poorly designed game become a universal phenomenon like it did? I’m confused by its success even more after taking a look at the game Badland, which was released earlier this year at around the same time everyone was talking about Flappy Bird.
Created by Frogmind, Badland shares a lot in common with Flappy Bird but I think it is vastly superior. Like Flappy Bird, it asks the player to fit a winged creature through a series of obstacles by tapping the screen. However, I found Badland to be everything that Flappy Bird wasn’t.
Badland takes the simple tap-tap-tap concept and attempts to do something inventive. Unlike Flappy Bird where each obstacle was defeated through the same monotonous act of tapping your device, Badland is quite different. The obstacles here aren’t identical green blocks but a complex series of doors, traps, wheels and chutes. Sometimes you must collect magical items within the game that allow you to pass obstacles. Some will make you smaller to fit through tiny gaps; some will make you heavy enough to activate switches. You often have to navigate various routes in order to complete each level too. While I got bored of Flappy Bird after a few hours, Badland kept me coming back again and again hoping to beat its creative challenges.
‘Creative’ is the operative word when it comes to Badland. Flappy Bird stole its entire aesthetic from the Super Mario games and was designed in just three days resulting in a myriad of bugs. However, Badland has clearly been a labour of love. The game has a hauntingly beautiful landscape and soundscape that looks like something out of a Grimms Brothers fairytale. I loved its use of silhouette and the natural sounds of bird calls and whistling wind in the background of each level. It adds something to the experience that Flappy Bird never even attempted: mood and atmosphere.
Badland is so good it outlines how unfair the mobile gaming world can be. In a perfect universe, this would be the game that made thousands of dollars a day and spurred the kind of hyperbole that Flappy Bird received. I could debate the reason why it didn’t all day. Is it because it is a paid-for app? Is it because people wanted a quick and immediate time-killer rather than a challenging saga you have to keep coming back too? Regardless of the whys, I think Badland is ten times as good as Flappy Bird and is very much worth checking out yourself.