Initially debuting back in 2007, Flywrench is an indie blast from the past. However, does it hold up a decade later?
My first introduction to Flywrench was a long time ago (2010 to be exact) when he was an unlockable character in the tough-as-nails platformer Super Meat Boy. I didn't know what to make of this weird-looking line character at the time and I wasn't at all familiar with the freeware game. Fast-forward 7 years and now a full version of Flywrench has been released on PS4. In it, you control a flexible and malleable spaceship past a variety of obstacles and colorful barriers in over 170 levels as you make your journey from Pluto to the Sun. Controlling the ship takes quite a bit of practice since Flywrench places a heavy focus on momentum and gravity. You move around using the left stick and press X to flop upwards or in any other direction around the map. You'll need to continually press X every second or so to maintain flight and avoid crashing into the yellow exterior barriers that shape the level. Think of it as a bird flapping its wings to stay afloat.
Pressing X also temporarily alters your shape and color. The change in color is more significant as it transitions your white ship into a bright red color. This matters because you'll come across plenty of red and white barriers in the early levels that can only be crossed when your ship is the correct color. Green, pink, and blue barriers appear as you continue your journey to the center of the solar system. Green barriers can be passed by pressing Square which turns your ship green and sends you into a spinning frenzy. It's tough to control your ship when it's green but you're allowed to bounce off the walls instead of crashing and dying. Pink barriers are indestructible; you'll just need to avoid those. Finally, blue barriers are temporarily deactivated by pressing a button then rushing through them.
Flywrench's challenge as well as its frustrations come from the fact that pressing the X button both turns you red and propels you higher in the air. You have to negotiate both of these aspects when trying to get past barriers. You'll also need to find ways to build up enough momentum that you can sail through white and green barriers without propelling yourself with the X button (since that turns your ship red and would cause you to crash into non-red barriers). Although Flywrench has over 170 levels, many of them can be completed in just seconds once you've got used to the controls which is a satisfying endeavor in itself. Many of the later levels are extremely difficult so they help pad the replay value a bit but most players should be able to complete the campaign in about 2 to 4 hours.
Each planet from Pluto to the Sun presents a bit of a new mechanic that incrementally ramps up the difficulty. Besides the aforementioned color barriers, you'll also come across moving barriers, turrets, and orange areas that increase gravity and drag you down more quickly. Flywrench also includes an easy mode called Helmet Mode that lets you touch the exterior yellow walls without dying as well as allows you to permanently deactivate barriers after passing through them once. My struggles with mastering Flywrench's controls led me to turn on Helmet Mode late in the campaign with mixed results. It helped ease the challenge in some levels which is what I was looking for but in others, it had either almost no effect on the difficulty or made them an absolute cakewalk.
Visually, it's easy to see that Flywrench is a decade old and made by one developer. The bright contrast of colors does what it can to keep it aesthetically pleasing yet it's still astoundingly simple when compared to most indies that we're used to seeing in 2017.
Flywrench is best compared to some of the other games that were developed at the start of the indie gaming boom a decade ago. Unlike titles like Super Meat Boy and VVVVVV, I wasn't able to get the same sort of twitchy satisfaction from Flywrench mostly due to its emphasis on momentum. There's still fun to be had with Flywrench but a lot of it depends on how forgiving you are of its difficult color-changing, momentum-maintaining mechanics.
- + After plenty of deaths, beating a level provides a good sense of satisfaction
- + Easier Helmet mode can help to soothe the difficulty a bit
- - Helmet mode makes some levels far too easy while others remain very tough
- - Momentum can be frustrating to master
- - Dated visuals are too simplistic