Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Classic Game - Flicky (Mega Drive / Genesis)

Come with me if you want to live!

Flicky is a Sega Mega Drive game that often receives a lot of flack from gamers. People moan about it appearing on multiple Mega Drive compilations, as if it doesn't deserve its position on the roster, which is a little unfair. Maybe it's because these compilations are often missing many favoured titles – mostly due to licensing issues – or maybe it is because the game looks so dated when viewed alongside games such as Commix Zone or Ristar. But underneath the dated visuals and simplistic arcade gameplay lies an exciting and addictive game that deserves far more praise than it generally receives.

A simple instruction screen explains the rules

A conversion of Sega's 1984 arcade original, the Mega Drive version wasn't the first home port that Flicky received, even on a Sega system. The SG1000 version came out in 1984 (the same year as the coin-op), and was a pretty decent conversion. Sure, the graphics are very basic, but the gameplay remains intact and is as enjoyable as the original. The Mega Drive version appeared in 1991 and came with much improved visuals and sound. Of course, it was still not as visually attractive as its arcade parent – the colours are more garish and the sprites less detailed – but it was as close as you could hope. Besides, the all important gameplay was all present and correct. The problem was that, by this stage, 16-bit graphics were blowing the minds of gamers across the globe, and ports of early 80's arcade games weren't in vogue any more. This happens with every generation of consoles – just look at how everybody abandoned the 2D platformer boat once the 32-bit '3d' machines arrived – and it often leads to great games falling under the radar. But these days, when retro gaming is all the rage, and 2d games are now just as popular as in their heyday, we can approach any game with an open mind, and not be tainted by such technological matters.

Flicky whacks a cat in the face, receiving 200 points for his effort

The game is very much of the classic 1980's arcade game variety. Basic, yet charming, visuals, catchy tunes, and simple yet addictive gameplay that anyone can grasp within a few minutes of game time. Flicky is all about getting as far as you can while getting the best possible score. Controlling the titular hero, a cute blue bird, you must navigate the side-scrolling stages rescuing baby chicks, named 'chirps' and guiding them to the exit. The stages are small and loop, so running right will soon bring you back to the same spot. The chirps are stationary until you collect them, at which point they form a line behind you and follow you. Out to scupper your rescue efforts are ginger cats which appear through cat flaps in the background. Once after you, they will run along the platforms moving between levels, seemingly at random. Should Flicky get touched by one of these feline aggressors he will lose a life, but if the cat touches any of your chain of chirps, the baby chicks will scatter and you will have to grab them again for them to rejoin your conga line of freedom. You can drop off chirps at the exit as you see fit, but collecting and depositing them all in one go will award you with a massive score bonus.

Forming a large conga line of chirps is always extremely satisfying

Flicky isn't completely defenceless, though, as there are cups or flower pots dotted around the levels. Touching one will affix it to Flicky, and a press of the button will launch it forwards. If it whacks into any of the cats they are repelled off the screen and remain gone for a short while before reappearing through one of the cat flaps. Every few stages you get to play a bonus game where cats fire chirps into the air, and you must save them by catching them in your net. It provides a nice break from the usual action and will test your reflexes. 

The bonus stage tasks you with catching chirps in a net

Flicky is hugely addictive stuff, and you will soon find yourself always attempting to collect all the chicks in one go, in order to nab the huge bonus for a mass rescue. This is easier said than done, however, due to the cat's erratic movement patterns, and the fact you have a long trail of chirps behind you that are even harder to protect from being catnapped. As with all the best 80's arcade games – I am talking about classics such as Bomb Jack, Mappy, Bubble Bobble, Dig Dug, Amidar and Mr Do (to name but a few) – Flicky will keep you utterly hooked for multiple plays as you attempt to better your score. You always feel as though you are learning and improving at the game, and that the next go might be the one that sees your score go through the roof. It's a game that will usually be played in short bursts, but one that you will always return to. Hell, I am returning to it again and again to this day – nearly 30 years after its original arcade release.

The visuals can be garish, but they never distract you from the task in hand

So I wholeheartedly recommend Flicky to anyone who enjoys the classic gameplay of 1980's coin-ops. It is one of the easier Mega Drive games to find, so there really isn't any excuse not to get stuck in. There are ports for the PC and mobile devices out there too, but I recommend either playing the arcade original via MAME, or playing the Mega Drive version, on cartridge or on one of the many Sega compilations it appears on. A timeless classic!

Flicky heads for the exit with all the chirps in tow - huge score alert!

There was also an extremely polished clone of Flicky released for the PC. Air Flight stars a young girl who also has to rescue cute birds from cats. Aside from the anime visuals and music, it is practically identical to Flicky, meaning you should check it out as soon as possible!

Title : Flicky

Developer : SEGA

System : Mega Drive / Genesis

Year : 1991