Flappy Bird has hit its final pipe. The surprise hit is gone from the mobile world as quickly as it took off, after developer Dong Nguyen made good on his promises to take it down, after saying that the title’s sudden success -- it was the No. 1 free app, and earned as much as $50,000 in ad revenue per day -- had taken a toll on his happiness.
So what is this game, exactly? Really, the whole point of Flappy Bird was to keep a small, very non-aerodynamic bird airborne by tapping on your screen. Tapping your screen lifted the bird up. Hesitating for even a split second, sent the little guy shooting beak-first into the ground. Players also had to avoid pairs of closely-spaced pipes that looked an awful lot like the ones from classic Mario titles. Even the slightest bump, and the bird is toast.
By Nguyen’s own admission, it’s designed to be super-simple and frustratingly difficult. Check and check. My high score is 14, and it took an embarrassingly long time to achieve it.
The game is no longer available, but those who've downloaded it can still play it. That’s prompting some ridiculous eBay auctions for phones that have the game installed. But there are plenty of games out there that won’t require forking over cash for an entirely new phone — that, one must hasten to add, can’t ever be unhooked from the previous owner’s account if you want to keep the apps on it.
If you’re just looking for something to fill the void Flappy Bird has left in your heart, there are already plenty of options out there. Here’s a small sampling, in order of their similarity to Flappy Bird:
Ironpants: Ironpants is currently the heir apparent to Flappy Bird, taking over as the No. 1 game in the list of free apps in the App Store. (It’s fourth for Android.) It’s a very similar game with a few differences. Rather than a bird, you are a superhero with a heavy costume, and rather than pipes you have wooden boxes. If anything, it may be a little harder, since the towers are more spaced out — meaning you really can’t plan your flight path. But it has the same hair-ripping frustration and infinite scrolling layout. So you can still feel, with each successive high score, that you've never really accomplished a thing. Free, for iOS and Android
Copter Classic: When Flappy Bird started to gain popularity, plenty of people pointed out that the elements of its gameplay were very similar to classic helicopter games that have been around for a long time. There are a lot of free versions of copter games on both Apple’s App Store and Google Play with the same basic layout. As you may expect, you’re a helicopter, and you’re trying to avoid obstacles that will turn your aircraft into a smoking mess. Players tend to be scored on distance, rather than number of obstacles avoided in helicopter titles, but they’re just as unforgiving and difficult as you may want them to be. There are a variety of these games in both app stores, but see “Copter Classic” by Classic Games for iOS or “Copter Classic” by Team 5 Soft for Android for prototypical examples available for download.
Fly Birdie: Fly Birdie also shares many of the elements of Flappy Bird, namely that players control a bird that has to avoid pipes. (Where are all these anti-avian pipes coming from, anyway?) Unlike Flappy Bird, this game is pretty easy. The pipes are really spaced out, so there’s really no challenge in clearing them. And there’s no sudden death element — you can crash your bird up to three times before dying. The ads on Fly Birdie are also pretty annoying, since they get in the way of your spamming the replay button. Though, actually, that may be a good thing. Free, for iOS.
Piou Piou vs. Cactus: The developer of Piou Piou actually accused Nguyen of ripping off his game, noting the similarity between the birds in Piou Piou vs. Cactus and Flappy Bird, which both sported oversized beaks, googly eyes and stumpy wings. But the games actually have some notable differences, aside from the fact that you’re flying around cacti rather than pipes in this game. Piou Piou is also more forgiving, as you can run into really as many of the spiky obstacles as you want as long as you don’t get trapped and pushed off the edge of the ever-accelerating screen. You also don’t drop immediately if you stop tapping, making it a bit more forgiving. Free, for Android.
Shuriken Block: This game is, admittedly, not at all like Flappy Bird except in one critical way: it’s also developed by Nguyen. It therefore has the same charming 8-bit styling of Flappy Bird, though admittedly without being quite so difficult. The purpose of Shuriken Block is, well, to block shuriken. More specifically, you have to keep the throwing stars from planting themselves in the heads of five men who are inexplicably unwilling to move away from or defend themselves against a near-constant hail of sharpened metal falling from the sky. Players tap to deflect the shuriken, which increase in number as the game goes on. It’s actually a pretty amusing little time-waster, though it does have the tendency to crash — at least on my phone. Free, for iOS.