Thanks to living in the sticks during my college years, I would spend three hours a day on a bus (fun times I can assure you) and this boring as shit travel time was more often than not whittled away by playing Resogun or Hotline Miami on my PS Vita (RIP). Games like these are perfect for daily commutes as they are fun as hell but not super involved, meaning you can drop it when needs be. In a similar vein to Flappy Bird and Jetpack Joyride, Australian developers Subtle Boom have released Fledgling Heroes, a simple yet fun autoscroll platformer. Boasting beautiful and charming visuals and a decent amount of variation, this pick-up-and-play title is a little bloated and has a feather or two out of place, but that doesn’t disturb the nest too much.
Fledgling Heroes is a nice, simple game that you can play with a single button, as all you need to do is tap and hold the A button to flap the wings of one of six playable birds. You begin your feathered adventure as the multicoloured parrot Biscuit, capable of flapping his wings as a well as gliding if the A button is held.
Corgis being ridden by fairies, that is all
Each level tasks you with making it from the starting point to the finish line (a green banner) by avoiding rocks, platforms and other obstacles in your way. You’ll also need to avoid the dastardly adversary to all feathered creatures, pirate lizards. These cute-as-hell enemies wield cutlasses, bows and other weapons to try and swat you out of the sky, but a well-timed bonk on the head is enough to dispatch them.
There are a number of different collectables scattered throughout each level. The nasty lizard pirates have also captured a bunch of your rabbit friends in cages, so you’ll need to free them. You’ll also need to keep your eye out for golden feathers that are required to remove roadblocks throughout the three different worlds. These feathers can be found floating in the level, hidden in chests that need a whack to be opened, or gained by completing certain objectives, such as knocking out a certain number of lizards.
A cheeky lizard wizard
Each of the three worlds has a theme; Pirate Isles, Fairy Forest and Sunken Jungle. The worlds contain around 30 levels apiece, divided into two sections, each of which is specific to a particular playable bird. Each bird has its own distinct look and ability; Biscuit is the simple flap and glide, whereas Penny the penguin can dive into the water as well as slide on the land. The level variation keeps things nice and fresh, though there is definitely a bit of bloat present, as some levels feel less inspired than others.
At the end of each world waits a world-specific dragon that acts as a boss battle of sorts. These dragons present a fair challenge as you race them to the finish, a feat that will require a precise run with no mistakes. Some are harder than others, with the Fairy Forest dragon being a right pain in the arse that is almost too difficult for its own good.
I’ll take bets, my money’s on the bird
As you make your way through the first world you will unlock the lab, a blimp run by a cockatoo scientist (naturally). This allows you to customise the colour of your birds’ feathers, as well as access the level editor. Putting together your own levels is nice and simple thanks to the Switch’s touch screen and doesn’t take a great deal of effort to make a half-decent challenge. As you play through the game you will pick up blueprints that unlock more elements for use in the level editor, driving you to explore in order to create. I’m terrible at creating levels in any game, so luckily there’s an option to play other people’s creations, some of which were hard as hell.
If you have someone else with you that wants to kill some time, there is a co-op option available, though it doesn’t work as well as you might hope. It’s fun to have two birds gliding through the levels at once, but you are able to collide with each other with throws off your run immediately. The concept is sound, but the execution tumbles head first out of the nest.
Check out this good lookin’ lad
As you can see from the screenshots, this game pretty as hell and charming to boot. The vibrant colours, thick outlines and smooth movements remind me of first-party Nintendo titles crossed with a Pixar film. Matching the gorgeous visuals is a simple yet fun soundtrack that bops along as you take out those pesky lizards, tying together the package nicely.
On the surface, Fledgling Heroes might seem like a brighter version of Flappy Bird, but spending some time with it will quickly show you that it sets itself apart by providing a touch more depth, a pinch more variation and a whole truckload more character. Not all of the levels click as you might hope, the co-op is more frustrating than fun and the boss levels could do with a bit of work, but as far as time-killers go, this cute little game is as lethal as they come.
Reviewed on Switch // Review code supplied by publisher