“Easy to learn, difficult to master,” is the mantra of most casual games.
Swing Copters (iOS, Android) looks down on those games and laughs. The sequel to Flappy Bird is simple enough to be mistaken for a casual game, but it is, in fact, hard to learn and seemingly impossible to master.
Here’s how to beat your friends at it.
Like Flappy Bird, Swing Copters combines cute pixel art with masochistic difficulty, this time entrusting you with the fleeting life of a bug-eyed wannabe aviator wearing a helicopter hat. As far as I can determine, this character doesn’t have a name, but in my head, I call him Copper. So let’s go with that.
Copper floats up automatically, and directly into the paths of deadly platforms and swinging hammers, which kill him and end your game with just one hit. By tapping anywhere on the screen, you can change whether Copper flies to the left or the right, in the hope of dodging those obstacles.
The problem is, once Copper starts to turn he’ll rapidly accelerate in that direction. Which brings us to the first strategy: Pretend the screen has two buttons.
The game will always alternate between the two directions, and doesn’t care where you tap. But I’ve found that alternating between my left and right thumbs, rather than using just one finger, keeps me alive longer. I learned to associate using my left thumb with turning left and my right thumb with turning right. And that’s incredibly important for the next step: Find a rhythm.
As noted above, Copper will fly wildly out of control if you give him too much time after a turn. Having both fingers primed to tap makes it easier to prevent that from happening, because tapping back and forth, left-right, left-right, is the closest you can get to flying straight up. He’ll still be moving horizontally, but the movement should be small enough that you’ll avoid the hammers if you’re lined up right.
Oh, crap: How do you line yourself up right? Not to fear. The trick is to anticipate where the hammers won’t be.
Think of it like one of those mini golf holes with a door, a windmill or a drawbridge in front of a tunnel. To get your ball through, you have to hit it while the way is blocked, because by the time the ball reaches the hole, it will be clear. With practice, you can learn how long it takes for a hammer to complete a full swing — about three seconds, by my reckoning — and position Copper to fly into the space vacated by a hammer, which will give you more room to clear the next platform.
The next tip also has a golf connection, because it comes from the Adam Sandler movie Happy Gilmore: Find a happy place. Staying alive in developer Dong Nguyen’s masocasual games means focusing in on little things like the height distance between pipes or, as above, the periodicity of hammers. Try to zone out, relax. And when you lose, try not to react the way Happy does to the clown here:
Finally, something that may be obvious to some players but took me over an hour to realize: You get important information at the start.
Unlike Flappy Bird, which gave players a few seconds each round to try out the flapping controls, Swing Copters throws you right into it, making it possible to die within just a couple of seconds. However, Copper always starts off facing to the player’s right, which means that — with the two-thumbs stratagem — your first tap will always be to go left. Plus, unlike Flappy Bird, you can see the first obstacle from the “Get Ready” screen, giving you ample time to plan out your first move.
I should warn that even with this strategy, it’s a long way to the tippy-top of the leaderboards. Nguyen tweeted on Friday that the highest score so far was 77, a number that puts my pitiful 23 to shame. But you know the saying: Practice makes slightly less terrible.