Tie-in games are sometimes my favorite thing in the world, but they can also be the most lamentable curses of video gaming. Take Spider-Man games, for instance: Spider-Man 64 was tons of fun, while Web of Shadows played like hot garbage. But I always look forward to tie-in games for my favorite franchises nevertheless. So you can understand my glee while playing Fly Catbug Fly!, the new Bravest Warriors game from Frederator Studios/Cartoon Hangover and indie developer Ludoko Games.
For those who aren’t hip with what the kids are watching these days, I’ll fill you in on Bravest Warriors. Created by the same guy who invented Adventure Time, Bravest Warriors is a cartoon about four kids who fight evil in space from their base on Neomars. They have an adorable animal sidekick named Catbug, who’s a cross between a cat and a ladybug. Catbug just so happens to exist in two dimensions, and pops back and forth between them at random. Now the adorable mascot has his own game, where you’ll control the little thing as he flies around obstacles to collect items and sell them to the Impossibear. Catbug can then spend his cash in the shop to unlock new power-ups and quirky costumes. I immediately slapped on a pair of shades and started tapping.
First things first: this game looks and feels great. Leaving the characters themselves aside, each environment packs tons of show references and vibrant life into every frame. It’s like a rainbow of off-the-wall cartoon magic (look out for Chippendale’s horse dancers!). What’s more, every stage has three different environments that Catbug will spontaneously phase into. This keeps the player on their toes and always in the moment.
It’s a wonderful visual experience made more impressive when you consider that Fly Catbug Fly! is Ludoko’s first game. The idea that Frederator would choose to go with an untested developer is a little surprising, but a good sign of support to the independent community. This is Ludoko’s big self-introduction to the community, and although they debuted with a game that basically plays like an endless runner in the Flappy Bird tradition, it’s a good, simple start. Tap and/or hold to fly up, release to fall, and press a “dive” button to leap through obstacles without being hurt for a short while. It’s fairly basic, but the levels are designed so well as to give even veteran runners a hard time.
That might actually be selling the game short. Fly Catbug Fly! is remarkably difficult, to the point where I’m honestly not past the second world of six yet. After flying one thousand meters in each stage, you unlock that stage’s “hyper” mode. To progress, you’ll have to do it all over again, but twice as fast. The path is quite narrow, and one wrong move can kill your precious Catbug with an unearthly shriek. Success is won by strategic and reflexive use of the dive button, which I found hard to use until I fooled around with its placement settings.
But the toughness of this game isn’t all due to my failures as an arcade player. There’s also the fact that I played Fly Catbug Fly! entirely on my old HTC Design, which has a screen about the size of a credit card. This caused a few problems: not only did the narrow passages look teensy, the game didn’t adjust itself properly for my screen, so certain parts of the screen were cut off or resized incorrectly. There’s an option to force the game to zoom to 1x, but that just made things miniscule. Ludoko’s released an update since I started playing that addresses some of the resizing issues, but not all of them. In the meantime, phone users had better download at their own risk. Tablet players, on the other hand, will delight at how much space they have.
These weren’t the only technical bugs I encountered, though. There are a few audio glitches in the mix too. I enjoyed Fly Catbug Fly!‘s soundtrack, but one out of three environments would spawn without any music in the background. Other times, I’d hear two audio tracks playing at once. These are not major bugs, to be sure, but they certainly detract in their way from game immersion.
But it’s hard to hold that against such an endearing game. Is Fly Catbug Fly! a groundbreaking arcade masterpiece? No. Is it operating at full capacity yet? Clearly not. But if you’re asking for a cute-as-hell game that will add some spice to a tired recipe and look great doing it, then this is your answer.
It breaks little new ground, but Fly Catbug Fly! is still infectiously fun–and super hard.