Physics Games and Physics-Based Game Downloads

Helicopter Cargo Physics Puzzle Game!

Tuesday, March 27th, 2007 by Matthew in Physics Games
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (Rate this game! 97 votes, average: 3.12 out of 5)

My first reaction when I played Flyhard was that I wasn’t going to review it. I had to download PhysX drivers just to run it, the interface was too clunky, and the controls felt terrible. After I finished the game, though, I decided that Flyhard was worth talking about for a few reasons. It does some things really well in terms of elegant physics-based puzzle design, but I wanted to use it as a case study for designing physics-based movement mechanics. Why exactly does Flyhard feel like crap? What could they have done to make it feel better?

Competition Entry

Flyhard was created by Stephen Downey for a Dark Basic programming competition. The timeframe for developing entries was only two weeks, so naturally you’d expect the game to be a little rough around the edges. I view the game more as a prototype than as a product. I think it does a tremendous job as a proof of concept piece.

Physics Puzzles

The physics puzzles in the Flyhard levels are very well done. They require you manipulate the objects in the level in a very natural way; nothing feels forced. All of the puzzle situations can be boiled down to a basic, “I need to get this object over here, but it won’t fit through here” formula. For instance, you might have to let a moving platform push a box for you, or pick up a plank to poke it through a gap if the helicopter won’t fit.

Flyhard only has three levels, which is kind of shame, because I’d really like to see more variety in the level designs (even for a prototype). The scope of the project was certainly limited by the competition time limit, but there are lots of cool things left to do. There’s plenty of leeway here for a complete game based on a fly/pickup design.

Control Issues

The helicopter controls are terrible. They manage to simultaneously feel sluggish at slow speeds, yet too fast and out of control at high speeds. And despite the sluggishness it’s still difficult to perform small, accurate maneuvers. Part of this is due to overall weird physics behavior. I’m not sure how the physics objects have been clamped to 2D, but it produces strange results. Objects are very floaty and generally resist rotation. The helicopter has its rotation locked, too, which feels incorrect when you pick up long, heavy objects.

It would be an interesting design exercise to recreate the simple “fly a helicopter, pick up stuff” mechanic. My implementation would have more dampening, less extreme rotational locking, and a small rope for picking up objects. The rope would add a lot of pleasing overlapping motion and follow-through. Abruptly stopping would produce swaying motions with your cargo, reinforcing the heft of your actions. You would need to be careful to avoid resonance with any swaying motion, which could veer you off course.

I would spend more time tuning impacts, too. The helicopter in Flyhard has high elasticity, which feels completely out of place. Crashing into walls and floors should crunch, not rebound. Finally, I would rescale things. The objects in Flyhard feel small due to their rapid velocity changes and high top speed. A velocity maximum would help to make the helicopter feel larger.

Flyhard Screenshot Screenshot of Physics Games
(Flyhard Game Screenshots)

Go Flyhard!

Despite its flaws, I have a lot of respect for Flyhard. It implements its design well past a solid proof concept implementation. The functionality is there completely enough to tell if the game has potential or not. It definitely does. Let’s hope Stephen produces something new (and with more development time)!

Download Flyhard Game (15.5 MB)

You need to the PhysX drivers installed to play the game (yes, even if you don’t have PhysX hardware).

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9 Responses to 'Helicopter Cargo Physics Puzzle Game!'

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  1. AquaGeneral said,

    on March 28th, 2007 at 1:20 am

    Yeah the controlls do get a bit tedious. But good game none the less.

    Big dissapointed how it only has 3 levels.

  2. fluffy bunny said,

    on March 28th, 2007 at 3:02 am

    The concept seems great, shame that the controls don’t work so well. Hopefully it will be developed further.

    Btw, too many ads! They completely mess up the layout. :-)

  3. soad667 said,

    on March 28th, 2007 at 4:50 am

    It looked great to me when i read about it, some time ago. I just hope they get a new, why not shareware, version out with better control and more levels! The concept is great, but needs a lot of work…

  4. Empyreal said,

    on March 28th, 2007 at 7:04 am

    Yes. Watching the video makes me feel sorry for you. When you go fast, you have trouble stopping, and when you go slow, you can’t be precise. Nevertheless, I’ll try it.

  5. Deadl0ck said,

    on March 28th, 2007 at 12:29 pm

    I’ve personally found no problem with the controls. Yes, the helicopter gets a bit out of control at fast speeds… but it’s not as if a real life helicopter stops straight away when you reverse the throttle at top speed either. Likewise when you’re stationary, and start to move, it costs more to get going.

    To me the control response makes perfect newtonian sense. An object in motion wants to keep the motion they have, and a stationary opject wants to stay stationary.

    Also, the game gives me an impression of bieng a toy helicopter, say the size of a picooz or something.

    I agree however that the impacts could be a bit more costly. A damage meter or something would be nice…

    Of course you could always play it with the selfinduced rule of no hitting anything. Makes the game quite challenging and entertaining in a whole new level.

  6. pemt said,

    on March 29th, 2007 at 4:23 am

    I’m stuck on the part in the Egyptian level where theres that narrow gap between to blocks with arrows pointing in, I cant fix a box down the gap!

  7. soad667 said,

    on March 29th, 2007 at 9:59 am

    At the far right, u press a button, a door opens above and boxes fall down. One of them is small enough to fit in there… Give it a try :)

  8. Matthew said,

    on March 29th, 2007 at 10:36 am

    I realize the ads can be annoying for some people. Run AdMuncher if you want to get rid of them…

  9. austinr1121 said,

    on April 3rd, 2007 at 9:12 pm

    Where are the reviews???

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