There goes Vietnam’s Flappy Bird, here comes clone Pugo from the Philippines

After Hanoi-based Vietnamese game developer Dong Nguyen took down his Flappy Bird mid-February from the Apple App Store and Google Play, a bunch of boggling things happened.

Devotees to the game became disappointed. Haters rejoiced. Clever monkeys turned to eBay to sell their phones (with the game installed) for thousands of US dollars.

Flappy Bird clones came flocking online, too! The Guardian, on February 27, reported that nearly 1/3 of the new games that went live in the Apple App Store were Flappy Bird clones.

Since then, Apple has taken measures to take down clones (those that sound like Flappy Bird, at least) that attempt to “leverage a popular app,” which of course is Dong’s bird.

But if there’s an app that successfully made it to the App Store after all of the Flappy Bird whirlwind, it’s that of a bird created by Manila-based designers Patrick and Camy Cabral. And it doesn’t have the words “flappy” in its name. Instead, it’s given a Filipino identity: Pugo.

Within just a few days after the game surfaced in the Philippine Apple App Store on February 26, Pugo became a chart topper, captivating the hearts of those mobile gamers who once fell for Flappy Bird.

And it’s easy to see why.

Taking cue from the simplicity of the one-touch gameplay of Flappy Bird, Pugo ups the ante with its cuteness and happy vibe that feels uniquely Filipino.

The Pinoy bird, clad in feathers of pink, fuchsia, purple, and white, happily explores a forest with a jolly background music. The small quail can go the mile in dodging obstacles, too, if it picks up Philippine flags along the way; this helps the bird acquire extra lives avoiding chances of a premature “game over,” as gamers experienced in Flappy Bird.

Pugo is still on version 1.0, so the graphics don’t exactly flow smoothly just yet and the audio loops in the background are choppy.

But as with Flappy Bird, it’s the simplicity of the content that is central to the game: there’s a bird traveling in constant speed and there are obstacles it should dodge. Pugo bears the same formula (although not exactly perfect just yet) that made Flappy Bird addictive and got everyone with a smartphone from around the world tapping touch screens like crazy.

In this interview, game developer couple Patrick and Camy Cabral (PCC) gamely talks about their game, how they made it, and what’s there to look forward into it.

MindaNews: Tell us about the process of creating your first game app.

PCC: We got married last October and my husband took the risk of making this game with the money that was supposed to be used for our honeymoon.

He used it to download tutorials and taking online classes, while I went on with my 9 to 5 job as an art director for a game dev company, keeping afloat with the expenses.

When my company closed, we almost abandoned the dream of shifting to game development. But while we are looking for a new job, my husband and I spent time in between playing around with different concepts, until we came across Flappy Bird. We both thought that it would be great to improve the game in our own creative and artistic perspective, but we weren’t so sure then if we want to release it. It was just an idea.

Two days after we start our little experiment, the news about Flappy Bird being taken down from the App Store surfaced. We thought this is the perfect time and a sign that we really should do it. Thus, Pugo is born.

MindaNews: Where did “Pugo” come from?

PCC; The name “Pugo” came about because we love to eat Kwek-kwek and we wanted to extend that beyond its reputation as a mere local delicacy. Also, we think it represented our view to a concept of “a low flying bird with an ambition to go far.”

Over the past four months, we also wrestled with different concepts for an original game but all have longer production time frame, and we don’t have the money to fund a long term project. So we thought to release a simple game that will help us learn the market and the process of submitting an app to both Apple and Google’s app stores.

It was supposed to be an experiment, because we have zero knowledge on how to get into the App Store. It was after all, our first game. In a scheme of things, we are like babies in the game development industry. We just wanted to get our foot in the door just so we know what to do with our next game.

MindaNews: What other developments and improvements in the game do you hope to include soon?

PCC: We just fixed the lag issue and currently awaiting the new update’s approval from Apple. The fix hopes to improve the game and to make it more smooth in transition. And hopefully down the line, we can expand the story of Pugo in the future.

MindaNews: How will the game stand out by itself after taking cue from Flappy Bird?

PCC: We do admit that we are heavily inspired by Flappy Bird. The game concept and gameplay itself is genius. But we wanted to try and do something that we think Flappy bird could have been.

We added a feature which I believe makes the game more exciting: extra lives. These came in the form of our Philippine Flag.

One flag is equal to one extra life that can extend the gameplay. It is that promise of that extra life that the user will strive to exert extra effort.

The design and overall look of the game is also another feature. While the gameplay is the same (tapping the bird to avoid the obstacles made of bushes and trees), the look is different. We combined our love of typography and textured style in graphics to create our vision of what Flappy Bird could have been.

We tried and experimented as much as we could with the skills that we had. In the end, we love the result.

MindaNews: What’s your highest score in Pugo? 🙂

I (Camy) was able to reach 75 points, and my husband’s score is 84. But of course, we delete our personal records in the leaderboard, so the players will be the one building their stats organically there.

(Pugo is available in the Apple App Store for free. Android users can download from Google Play soon)