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300 Word Review – Flywrench

Flywrench is a beautiful game.

In Flywrench everything can kill you, but every time you die it’s your own fault. The game is shot through with a strong belief in the ‘virtuosity’ of the player, something that its creator, Mark Essen or ‘messhof’, has experimented with before in his Punishment games. However, unlike those two games, where the mechanics of the player character follow the normal rules of a platformer, Essen created a set of unique controls for the avatar in Flywrench.

The result is that completing the game is not simply a matter of navigating its obstacles, but of deftly controlling the player character, the ‘flywrench’, itself. Not only is it an effort to just maintain stasis in Flywrench, but it is extraordinarily easy to over-correct when you do move. On top of that, once you get into the meat of the game it is impossible to succeed without making quick, decisive, and sometimes very precise movements.

The question is, of course, why would someone want to play a game that fights being played well?

Because when it is played well, it is beautiful.

Flywrench captures something that is typified in the early Mario games and recently exemplified in Super Mario Galaxy: that movement can be the most compelling thing in a game. When controlling the avatar is some of the challenge, and when that challenge is ever-present, then obstacles cease to be arbitrary and begin to be opportunities for performance.

Every run you make in Flywrench will be completely different. Sometimes they will fail, sometimes you will stumble but still succeed through luck. Sometimes though, you will manage to send your colorful avatar flailing through the air exactly as you planned. In those moments you understand not just why Flywrench is beautiful, but what is beautiful about games.

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