When you think of video games with intense gameplay and memorable, high-octane chases, chances are that the 1991-platformer Flicky does not come to mind. That is not to say that the title was critically-panned or sold poorly on-release – it’s just not nearly as memorable as games like Golden Axe, and chances are you will struggle to find someone who is a huge fan of it. After Flicky was ported from arcades to the Sega Mega Drive (or Genesis, for all you yanks out there), it scored some great reviews, and was packed within Sega’s countless retro-game compilation re-releases. It may not be breathtaking-stuff, but don’t be fooled by its run-of-the-mill title or kiddie-friendly box art – this is one tough cookie.
The titular protagonist is not what you’d call ‘Mother of the Year’ material – this dopey bird seems to keep leaving her babies, known as “Chirps”, in countless buildings full of hungry predators. What you need to do is to collect every last one of them and lead them to the exit, preferably as a group for more points. You die in one hit, and have a limited amount of lives. Later levels have more complex designs, usually with smaller floating platforms and more dead ends. Escape is none too easy, as the map will keep scrolling as you move left and right.
A pack of feisty felines can be found running and jumping around each map. Being able to memorise their movement pattern is all-too important, as one slip-up could mean disaster. Wall-climbing iguanas appear in later level, too. It goes without saying that there’s not a lot of enemy variety here.
Nothing much to say about the gameplay for this one – you can run and jump, but not fly. Easy-peasy. Self-defence comes in the form of grabbing items like phones or plant pots, and tossing them at enemies to knock them out. Pressing jump is the only way to throw them, meaning you can’t jump and carry them. It may be a bit unfair for some easily-annoyed players, though it makes it all too satisfying when you finally do manage to K.O. a kitten by tossing a phone into its face and send them hurtling off-screen, like a skit from an episode of Tom and Jerry.
The chirps will follow you in a partially-organised line if you run past them, though they’ll scatter when one of the hungry critters get too close. Having to dodge enemies with a long stream of baby chirps leading behind you is no easy feat, since the hapless birdie suffers from a lack of traction and will slide around a bit, kinda like Luigi in the Super Mario series. All in all, some of Flicky’s limitations and design choices do make the game a little bit trickier, which may irritate some players at first. At the same time, though, they make the otherwise-tame gameplay feel a bit more tense.
A bonus stage appears every so often, which is as simple as running left and right to catch falling chirps being flung into the air by two cats on seesaws. It raises the question: why aren’t they eating them? Maybe they’re trying to work up an appetite first. In any case, it makes for a short, amusing distraction from the main game.
Flicky has some decent visuals and music that get the job done. While the backgrounds are brightly-coloured, the graphics are not that impressive, and chances are you may end up downright-hating the one song that plays across every single level. Let that sink in for a moment – one stinkin’ song. Not a bad jingle, mind you. There are a few nice ditties that play here and there, too, like when you beat a level.
Deep, varied and complex – none of these words describe Flicky. Still, it’s by no means a bad game, let alone an easy one. Spriting around at top-speed, slipping to-and-fro while narrowly avoiding the hungry pets is actually quite tense, and the bonus level is a nice addition. Despite how basic its visuals, sound and gameplay is, there’s still enjoyment to be had in this one, preferably in short bursts. Otherwise, it’ll just ruffle your feathers.