Letter from America: The greatest worst game ever?

Plus: Mr Mobile! Tear down this paywall.

What do you get if you combine a game, crack, and a full-frontal lobotomy? Flappy Bird, of course. The most infuriatingly mindless, mind-bogglingly simple, inexplicably popular game since the last infuriatingly mindless, mind-bogglingly simple, inexplicably popular bird-themed game. Only this time around, Flappy Bird makes Angry Birds look like a real-life B-2 Bombing Simulator.

If you haven't yet downloaded it onto your pocket communicator, what's wrong with you? It's free! Not free-to-play-but-I'll-mug-ya-later free, but no-cash-now-or-ever free. No less than 18,500,000 satisfied customers have sampled the delights of Flappy, so it must be good, right? Nope. It's utterly crap. But yet it's strangely playable, curiously addictive and so, so easy to hate.

It's essentially an endless scroller where you tap the screen to fly the eponymous Flappy Joust-style between the (ripped off from Super Mario Bros) pipes that protrude from the top and bottom of the screen. Successfully navigating the gap between pipes scores you a whole delicious point, and failing to do so ends the game. And that's it. It's so simple you wonder why people would ever play it. And then you do, and you keep playing it. Unless you're devoid of compulsive gaming tendencies, in which case you can justifiably sit back, adopt a superior, smug expression and tut-tut at the rest of humanity with as much derision as can be mustered from a pair of tuts.

Pete reviewed it and absolutely hated it. I agree with him that it's total pants, yet at the same time I admire it greatly. It distills the very essence of gaming down to its utter fundamentals. It's minimalism at its most minimal. It sits precipitously on the gaming event horizon: if one iota of it was removed, it'd be no game at all. Yet despite it being a planck from being no game at all, it somehow manages to deliver everything a good game should, even if it does so by the least possible measure. That's genius for sure - but at the same time, it's a gaming abomination.

1

Dungeon Keeper's tin cup rattling is more irritating than an endless parade of hoboes trying to wash your car windscreen with a greasy rag every time you slow down to 5 mph.

What I did review was Dungeon Keeper on iOS, and ended up giving it the lowest score I've given any game in well over a decade. Pete wrote about its issues too, and how they are part of a much greater blight on the gaming industry. It's an eye-opening piece and certainly makes you wonder how long it'll take before gamers vote with their feet, and in doing so cause the mobile market to implode. I hope it's sooner rather than later, because this BS has got to stop.

I did enjoy reading Pete's article on the way Dungeon Keeper on Android attempts to manipulate users into giving it a good rating on Google Play. Especially the bit where pressing a button to give it less than five stars doesn't assign a rating, but instead brings up a dialogue box to email EA to tell them how to make Dungeon Keeper a five-star game. Of course, none of this stops you from rating it manually on Google Play, but to me it just comes across as a sleazy way to carry on.

Not so much sleazy, but oddly eyebrow-raising was Microsoft circulating a flyer that offered $100 in Microsoft store credit if you let them “recycle” your PS3. While it's lovely to see Microsoft being so considerate of the environment, I'm just wondering what they'll actually do with them. Perhaps bury them in the desert next to where Atari put all those copies of 2600 ET: The Extra Terrestrial?

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The all-new Sonic Boom chums burst onto the scene this week. Looking even less like their respective real-life animal counterparts than ever before.

Sonic fans will no doubt rejoice over the news that, under the auspices of Sonic Boom, the spiky blue one's franchise has been made over for an upcoming 3DS game and new telly cartoon show. But before old-school Sonic purists start crying bitter years onto their Knuckles-themed pyjama bottoms, Sega were keen to stress that the upstart Sonic of Spiffy New Scarf and Longer Arms That Are Blue won't be replacing classic Sonic of No Stupid Scarf and Stumpy Flesh-Coloured Arms. No siree. You see, Sonic Boom is just a new branch of the Sonic Universe designed to “take the franchise to another level”. So that's that cleared up, then.

A bijou story-ette that I found most interesting was Amazon's purchase of Strider and Killer Instinct developer Double Helix. Coming off the back of recent news that Amazon wants to do to gaming hardware what its Kindle did to tablets, this was definitely a clear message that they have serious intent. I'm really interested to see what their next move might be.

I'm wrapping up this week with a couple of compilation articles. The first is one that recommends eight great RPGs that you should play if you like Bravely Default. It's a mixture of new and classic games - all of which are worth a look should you have an RPG bent. And the second is another of our board game round-ups - this time covering ones based on video games. You should really check it out - if only to see the absolute madness of the World of Warcraft and StarCraft games.

See you next week.

Jaz Rignall is editorial director of USgamer.net, a version of Eurogamer from the country that needs to have a less one-sided Superbowl next year.

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