Drifting through space, equal parts agile and fragile; victory consistently within grasp but failure always just one misstep away. Fans of Messhof’s work will be glad to hear that Flywrench shares much with the indie developer’s other little gem, Nidhogg. If you’ve never heard of either title, the easiest way to describe their creator’s style would be alluringly simple, surprisingly deep, ruthlessly difficult, and most importantly, immensely addictive.
Flywrench’s minimalistic aesthetic is matched by its paper thin narrative; all you need to know is that your job is to pilot some sort of incredibly nimble spacecraft from the outer rim of our solar system all the way to its center, stopping at each planet along the way to strengthen satellite signals which in turn allow us to progress further on our journey to the sun. Accompanying us on the voyage is an electronic soundtrack which, unfortunately, feels like it’s just there to occupy the audio space, rather than drive the unrelenting pace. Thankfully, while the game’s presentational aspects can be described as a bit lackluster, its gameplay more than picks up the slack.
In order to bolster the aforementioned weakened satellite signals, our little Flywrench must dash, float, tumble, and twirl its way through nearly 200 excellently crafted obstacle courses. The left analog stick dictates movement, while holding the cross or square buttons each cause the ship to instantly transform, changing its color, physical form, weight, and trajectory. Obstacles are color coded, some being impassable while others require the Flywrench to match their hue in order to pass through. Many of the game’s levels can be beaten in mere seconds, but only by skilled pilots. With its closest comparable being Super Meat Boy, players should expect to die early and (very) often, but instantaneous restarts successfully keep the speed at a breakneck pace and the thrills coming at a non-stop rate.
The closer you get to the giant molten star at the system’s center, the more obstacles and mechanics the game throws at you. Messhof never blatantly overwhelms the player with mysterious blockages, but instead introduces new aspects gently, before relentlessly compounding all previously seen obstacles into a series punishing gauntlets. The end result is a game that has an elegant sense of both progression and escalation, fostering experimentation and the natural art of learning through failure.
Levels are unlocked in batches, meaning a player stuck on one particularly grueling course will (most of the time) have the option to switch to another level rather than beating their head bloody against a singular hurdle. New obstacles like gravity wells, moving walls, and bullet-hell scenarios are introduced at a steady pace, but never does a new mechanic replace or overshadow anything that came prior. New skills and new obstructions force the player to reevaluate their abilities, and as a result new windows are opened via old tricks.
Flywrench does suffer from an inconsistent difficulty trajectory, as more than a few levels are disproportionately easy considering how late in the game they’re unlocked, and ultimately most of the game’s courses are nothing more than a glorified training regime for its final sections–Mercury and the Sun–which are brutally difficult and hellishly fun. The more time I spent with Flywrench, the more I enjoyed its glorious physics-based momentum that propelled me from planet to planet, which makes it all the more saddening that the experience only lasts a few short hours. Akin to cracking The Witness’ hardest riddles or acing Super Meat Boy’s toughest trials, toppling Flywrench’s greatest hurdles provides a sense of satisfaction that is oh-so rare, and oh-so joyous. Tailor made for the masochists who enjoy nothing more than a strong challenge, Flywrench may only appeal to a limited group of gamers, but if you consider yourself within that faction, don’t hesitate. Buy it. Now.