“Football, it’s a funny old game” declared moustachioed pundit Jimmy Greaves upon his deathbed (please check – ed). In some ways he was right but objectively he was completely and utterly mistaken. Of the fourteen football matches I have viewed during the course of my existence, I have not once felt moved by the rabelaisian wit of the offside rule and have shed tears of amusement not once during post-match interviews with ‘Giggsy’. Neither could the sacking of Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri be even generously considered to be a deeply ironic Swiftian satire.
It is quite possible however that in his agonised death-throes, ‘Greavsie’ may have actually confused the game of football with crazy golf. So let’s fix it: “Crazy golf, it’s a funny old game.” There, now it makes perfect sense because crazy golf is indeed, the funniest of old games. Known as Baichiwan (moronic little ball) in its native China, the game as we know it today was brought to Britain in the 14th century where it was originally known simply as ‘golf’. The 18-hole version which followed was known as ‘tedious golf’, before the latter became popular among the gentry who enjoyed it as an excuse for long walks and racism. Thusly the original was relegated to a ‘crazy’ pastime for children, the elderly and people who have run out of things to do on their holiday.
Flywrench is the hideous child of crazy golf and Flappy Bird. We don’t know what went wrong when Flappy Bird (real name Reg Burgess) and crazy golf were trying for a child. Perhaps Flappy smoked during the pregnancy, perhaps ‘Crazy’ was worshipping Satan during the third trimester. All we know is that baby Flywrench was born…wrong.
For starters it’s not content to be a mere physics-based game whereby you guide your Flappy Wrench to the exit of each level by merely ‘flapping’ with frenetic button-presses. No, this Fly Bird can also close its wings which sort of kills its lateral momentum but allows it to pass through red barriers. Fly Birdy Flapwrench can also adopt a spinning form which allows it to bounce with considerable force and pass green barriers.
Pluto isn’t a planet any more guys, let it go
The forty-two seconds of research I did prior to writing this review inform me that Flywrench has actually been around since 2007 (so, around five years prior to the introduction of Reg Burgess’s alter-ego to the gaming world). This is a much-improved and non-free version of that venerable title and belongs neatly to an age of super-hard indie releases. If this was 1982 it would have been released on the Atari 2600 under the title Sexual Assault Flap, in 1992 it would have been on the SNES as Super Pok Pok Adventure and if it had its genesis last week on Android it’d be Valour And Destiny V: Glory Of War.
Such considerations aside, it’s impossible to proceed without restating that Flywrench is hard. Proper hard. The plot(?) has you guiding young Flywrench through the planets of the solar system, completing a series of challenging levels on each. Early on the challenge mostly revolves around remembering the sequence of buttons to press in order to pass each barrier but each planet adds a new and undesirable wrinkle such as spinning barriers, turrets and orange bits that I never worked out the effect of.
I managed to get to Saturn on a single play-through but by this time my wrists had turned to free-floating fragments of bone and I had the same level of nervous exhaustion as Paul Nuttall explaining his role in the Battle of Agincourt to LBC radio. The difficulty-level is a little bit all over the place (like Paul Nuttall giving evidence to police about a tragic event he imagined he was a part of decades previously) so I found myself attempting the same bit twenty times before sailing through the next three levels with consummate ease. It has to be said though that these zenlike moments where you effortlessly clear a level with absolute precision are as gratifying as watching Paul Nuttall explaining how one of his assistants is to blame for the online description of him being “Professor King of the Space Wizards who was 100% definitely at the Battle of Agincourt and whose tears cure feline HIV”.
Sometimes however it’s clear that after the eighteenth restart you just cheesed through some levels by dumb luck. The design of many is an example of pixel-perfection and I often found myself marvelling at how ruthlessly precise I had to play in order to get through, but a certain amount of endless restarts and dumb luck will get you through on occasion. When it comes to skill, patience and planning sometimes win the day but most of time it’s all about twitch reflexes and reaction.
So for all of its great design, challenge and ignition of the brain’s risk-and-reward centres I do think that there are a number of things keeping this from being a classic. A pre-game map of each level would have been nice because I don’t like to find stuff out by trial and error. For a game where lightning reflexes are key I sometimes felt as if the controls weren’t quite as twitchy as I would have liked. As a gamer, I’ve never had great co-ordination but I do have great reflexes which is why sometimes I felt as if the game wasn’t responding as quickly as I would have liked.
Finally, call me a wuss, a pantywaist, a yellowbelly, a jerkline skinner, a dirty meringue, four cats named Harold, canoe wife, call me the gangster of love – but I don’t like really hard games. So whatever score I give this, feel free to whack an extra star on if you’re more of a masochist than I am.
Saint & Greavsie – Top League Strikers is available on VHS £9.99 RRP from all branches of Woolworths in 1989.
Flywrench was provided to us by Evolve (PR) via a download code for PS4.