Have you ever sat down and thought, “Hmm, there really ought to be more mobile phone games on Switch”? It’s a pretty unlikely scenario — for every Monument Valley there are 10,000 Match Three games, 100,000 Plants vs Zombies imitators and ten billion Flappy Bird clones. Mobile as a platform is hardly jam-packed with eye-widening exclusives.
And yet… what is this we see on the horizon? Could it… could it be a Flappy Bird clone…? Well, yes and no. The key FB game mechanic – tap the screen to help the bird avoid obstacles – has been purloined from the ‘classic’ original, but a little bit more thought has been put in than, ‘Release Flappy rip-off-type-game -> easy profit’.
Fledgling Heroes is good-looking, for a start. It’s quality children’s starter book’ attractive, with your fledgling avians cut out of simple rectangular shapes, Pritt-stuck together, splashed with complementary primary gloss and set soaring in geometrically pleasing skies.
The simplicity of the backgrounds helps with navigation, as well: the objects — mountains, trees, buildings — tend to be simple silhouettes, with the backgrounds being pleasantly brighter and more complex. Tap the screen (or use a face button on the Joycon) to raise your bird’s flight angle; leave it alone to drop, hold down to soar for a limited time
You’ve got to have a hook, though, even if you want to mostly ride the tail feathers of a sales phenomenon. Fledgling Heroes’s hook is that it actually has a structure beyond ‘keep going forward and avoid stuff’. For a start it’s divided into levels, each of which has different flight paths through the environments.
In classic Nintendo style (an influence I’m always happy to see) you can take the easiest path for a moderate challenge, a tougher one to gather collectables, or rinse all routes and objectives for the highest amount of rewards and unlockables, bolstering the replayability factor in the process.
There are some palette-swapped birds to find and golden feathers to collect; grab enough of the latter to open special areas. Another nice touch is that the levels are filled with enemies, fishy ones when you’re the faster, aquiline penguin character, lizards and other predators when you’re an airborne avian. Take enough of these out by bonking them on head with your tum, and another feather is added to your collection. Smash (or perhaps avoid) certain obstacles, hit a certain number of boost pads to grab another reward, and so-on.
Deliberately simplistic and accessible, it’s hard to be harsh on Fledgling Heroes. Using the phrase ‘packed with content’ to describe a game can be damning with faint praise — volume doesn’t automatically equal quality. Ask anyone who’s ate at a Hungry Horse pub — but there’s an admirable attempt here to sprinkle variety throughout.
Does it work…? Nah, not really. The input method’s so simple and unsophisticated that it’s hard to not mentally switch off after five minutes; the very reason why these things turn up on your Android device or your Apple Arcade and you don’t give a monkey’s about dropping 99p on them. It’s not really suited for a console, no matter how much content you pad it with, and how hard you sweat to make the levels varied.
It’s not completely without value, though. The little rhyming couplets that introduce each adventure, providing mild hints, will charm the young ‘uns, and the visuals pack enough gentle sweetness to sooth and maybe even enchant them.
Stick this in the hands of a six year old and expect them to be quiet for a good thirty minutes at a time. For a lot of parents, I’d imagine that alone is worth the price of entry.