Flappy Bird

Flappy Bird was a game originally released in May 2013 for iOS/Android and became insanely popular in later in early 2014. The game was later removed by the store by its creator, Dong Nguyen, who wasn’t able to handle the pressure of its popularity.

The game has since been remade countless times, becoming the Tetris or Space Invaders of this decade… An easy to program concept that can be adapted to almost any platform by a programmer of even a basic skill level. Dong even says that the game was made in three days.

Keeping with this tradition, Christopher Bonhage then went on to make a homebrew port of Flappy Bird for the Nintendo 64 in June 2017. You can download the ROM from his website, or use the N64 Squid mirror with the password “christopherbonhage”.

Flappy Bird gameplay

Flappy Bird is a simple game. So simple in fact that it was even made into an Atari 2600 game. You press the A button to flap your wings and shoot upwards in a parabola motion. The screen constantly scrolls horizontally, forcing you towards the endless rows of pipes.

The pipes have gaps in them, and your objective is to go through as many gaps as possible without hitting the pipes. Getting more points grants you a better medal at the end. My personal record is 102, so I think the best medal you can get is the white one, which is achieved at 50 points.

It’s simple and easy to understand, which is what made the game so popular in the first place.

Development

Unlike most of the n64 homebrew game developers from the 90’s, Christopher Bonhage was kind enough to provide details about the development of Flappy Bird alongside the final ROM file.

The game was developed using Libdragon, a library for N64 development for use with GCC. I prefer to use the official N64 SDK, so I never really looked into Libdragon very much, but you can find out more about it on the developer log that CB wrote.

Review

I’ve never been much of a fan of the original Flappy Bird or its remakes throughout the years, it reminds me of the Flash Helicopter Game, and that’s not a very good thing. It’s not so much a game of skill as it is a game of endurance. The hardest part is knowing when you have a moment to blink, because just one misaligned flap and it’s game over for you.

But that’s just the Flappy Bird game in general, what about the N64 port in particular?

The gameplay is accurate and correct, but there are a few hiccups in the graphics and sound. There are these ‘light’ beams throughout the screen, most visible against the plain blue sky as in the screenshot above which can get distracting. This doesn’t appear on the screenshots on the CB website, so it might just be my machine.

The bird also doesn’t rotate in accordance to the direction it’s moving. This isn’t as big of a distraction, and it actually is kind of helpful in better calculating the distance of your jumps. CB mentions that this is because Libdragon doesn’t allow for sprite rotation, but this could be fixed with using a vector square that rotates if it was using a 3D engine, or a series of sprites for each orientation.

There are only a few sounds effects which mostly sound fine: The bird’s flap, pipe impact, fall and the menu’s ‘whoosh’. There is one however that gets very grating. When you pass between two pipes and score a point, you get a sort of ‘Mario coin’ sound effect. This would be fine except that it has a crackle towards the end of the sample, and this gets irritating very quickly.

The gameplay is easier than I remember the original Flappy bird being. In the original, you need to time your flaps so that you approach the pipes at the right angle so that you can then ‘recover’ on your upward stroke since the flap parabola is so tight. In this game, the upward flap is about 80% of the pipe gap so it’s very easy to make your way through without hitting anything.

Conclusion

The Flappy Bird port for the Nintendo 64 is a very good recreation of the original game, minus a few problems. I might have ranted about it a lot, but it was really just nitpicking as the game is perfectly playable and a good effort at N64 development.

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The N64 port of Flappy Bird is a homebrew game developed by Christopher Bonhage in 2017 using Libdragon. Get the ROM and read about it here.
Article published on N64 Squid

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