Flicky (1984)


Some of the adorable Flicky artwork from the Sg-1000 manual. Poor kitty.

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The Best Jewel Thief in the World

Sometimes after a cat is knocked out a shiny diamond is left behind. This is very nice as they can be worth anywhere up to 3000 points.

It would be even better if you could rely on these diamonds appearing, but their behaviour is largely by chance. Finding out exactly when they appear took some great reverse engineering effort by a couple of kind individuals. Eternal thanks to them!

A diamond will appear only if the cat disappears outside of the centre third of the play area and if the x co-ordinate at which the cat finally comes to rest must be even. So, about 50% chance—if you position the screen correctly.

A diamond will appear only if the cat disappears in the first 1/6th of any in game second. So, about 16% chance.

What’s it worth?
The value of points awarded by a diamond depends on how many chicks you have in tow at the time the cat disappears:

No. chicks Value of Diamond (points)
0 100
1 200
2 300
3 400
4 500
5 800
6 1000
7 2000
8 3000

Arcade: Phil Bennett (MAMEWorld), MegaDrive: GManiac (SpritesMind)

A Bird in the Hand

Chicks hover in mid-air until you collect them, moving up and down around a centre point. Their motion is easy to predict.

So it’s useful that lot of chicks are positioned above platforms and are close enough to be picked up, without jumping, as they reach the lowest point of their hovering motion.

You can use this trick to collect chicks whilst taking a brief moment to survey the level.

Interview: John Monkus

  • Matt: For those readers that do not know, my name is Matt Sephton and I run the Flicky blog. As the first of our guest interviews, would you please introduce yourself to our readers?
  • John: Hi, Matt. My name is John Monkus, and I am a Flicky player hoping to challenge the World Record.
  • Matt: Woah! "Here comes a new challenger!"
  • John: Haha! Yes, that's me.
  • Matt: It sounds like you have developed some real skills. How long have you been playing Flicky?
  • John: I first played it about a month ago at my local arcade, Arkadia Retrocade, in Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA.
  • Matt: What? Only a month?
  • John: The arcade just got it a month ago, and in fact has only been open since November.
  • Matt: What attracted you Flicky, exactly?
  • John: I like being able to find and optimize patterns in games, at least in games that have good gameplay. Flicky has both.
  • Matt: And what has your scoring progress been like?
  • John: Well, as I started playing more consistently my score doubled a lot. It went from somewhere around 700 thousand, to 1.5 million, 2.4 million, 3.6 million. So quite an exponential rise!
  • Matt: Brilliant, well done indeed. What is your current best score, out of interest?
  • John: Well, after talking with you about some of the finer details of scoring, and after many hours playing, I can consistently achieve scores of over 4 million points. At the moment, however, my score is 4,948,830 as of Wednesday.
  • Matt: Awesome! Seriously congratulations for getting that sort of score.
  • John: Thank you.
  • Matt: So, I think you're referring to the recent post about Bonus Window Characters, made possible thanks to the reverse engineering skills of Phil Bennett from the MAME team.
  • John: Yes, that was a real help and made my scores much more consistent.
  • Matt: How long does a game of that score take to play?
  • Jon: I've found that to challenge the world record on Twin Galaxies you only really need to spend about 30 minutes playing the game. Within the first 20 minutes you would have already hit or missed all bonus windows that are available, and know whether or not you stand a chance of breaking the record. My latest score probably took 35 minutes.
  • Matt: That a world record game is so short is great news for Tournament play! Do you have any other tips for how people might be able to up their game at Flicky?
  • John: Yes. Here is what I consider to be most important in playing the game: 1) Master the gameplay mechanics - jumping, running, bouncing, etc. 2) Learn a pattern that gets you through each stage safely and quickly with all chicks in tow. 3) Learn exactly how the cats will react to your pattern. 4) Knowing how the cats react allows you to make adjustments to your pattern be they big (rerouting) or small (pausing/throwing projectiles). 5) Continue experimenting, but remember that the goal is to get all the chicks through the door at the same time as quickly as possible. 6) Watch out for the iguana! He does follow a set path, but he gets faster when you loop the levels. 7) Enjoy the bonus levels. Even if you don't always get the perfect, try to enjoy the break. I hope that anyone reading this can make sense of this and improve their Flicky play with these in mind.
  • Matt: Great. I agree with all of those tips - especially that damned iguana!
  • John: Yes, he is the bane of your existence!
  • Matt: Do you have any other favourite arcade games?
  • John: Yes, my favorite arcade games at my local arcade, Arkadia Retrocade, are as follows: 1) Flicky, 2) Time Pilot, 3) Zaxxon, 4) Moon Patrol, 5) Gorf
  • Matt: Thanks for taking the time to do the interview, and I look forward to competing with you for the World Record.
  • John: Good luck, and thank you for your website.

Bonus Characters

Bonus Character at the end of Round 10

You may have noticed during play that there is one window on each level that looks different to all the other windows. Let’s call it the special window.

This window is special for a couple of reasons. Firstly, if you take too long on a level a monster will appear in the special window and spit fireballs at you. Not good. Secondly, if you play well enough a bonus character will appear in the special window at the end of certain levels and award you with a massive point bonus. These bonuses are key to big scores.

Exactly when these characters appeared and why was a mystery. All manner of hypotheses were put forward, but nobody knew exactly what was happening. Until now.

Huge thanks to Phil Bennett of the MAME team for his expertise in reverse-engineering Flicky and exposing the finer details of how things work. Hip hip hooray!

A bonus character may appear at the end of rounds 10, 18, 26, 34, 42 and 50. Their presence is determined by your performance over the previous 7 rounds. On each round you must:

1) Save all 8 piopio at once.
2) Finish in under the following time limits:

Rounds Time Limit (seconds)
4-10 30
12-18 35
20-26 40
28-34 50
36-42 60
44-50 60

The points awarded for each character appearance are:

Round Bonus (points) Character
10 10,000 Girl (waving)
18 50,000 Pengo (dancing)
26 100,000 Female Flicky (dancing)
34 500,000 Rabbit (dancing)
42 1,000,000 Girl (winking)
50 1,000,000 Girl (waving)

Your performance during the so-called bonus rounds has no effect on the whether or not a bonus character appears.

World Records

These things are looking a little old, don’t you think?



Jonathan Long
at Aladdin’s Castle #351



Ron Corcoran

Oh, Grate!

One interesting quirky in the Flicky logic means that you will not die if you are standing in front of a grate as a cat comes out of it. Whilst the cat is blinking and even shaking its head you are fine, but as soon as the body of the cat appears you run the risk of being killed.

You can use this fact to avoid a cat that is about to appear directly in your path, by waiting for a short amount of time in front of the grate.

No Quarter: classic arcade game podcast. Episode #36: Flicky →

Flicky coverage starts at 21 minutes.

Thanks to John Monkus for pointing me to this.

…more about John soon!

Here’s a photo of my cab, with step-down transformer.

Here’s a photo of my cab, with step-down transformer.

Electric Feel

For a long time I’d only ever played the arcade version of Flicky under emulation, mainly through MAME on a modified original Xbox. As any Xbox owner will happily tell you, the d-pad on those controllers is a crime against gaming. So I switched to playing with the analog stick for a while, but it didn’t feel quite right. I then bought a Namco Arcade Stick and suitable PlayStation to Xbox controller adapter, and that became my joystick of choice for playing Flicky, and I got pretty good with it. I thought that it must be pretty close to the arcade experience, as the Namco stick is easily as good as any modern arcade machine that I’ve played.

Then I got my Flicky cab and everything changed. You can see from the image below that there are no microswitches in the joystick. Instead, it uses leaf switches—simple metal contacts that are naturally sprung. There is none of the clicking that is associated with the microswitches used in modern joysticks. And there is no real force required to make the connection. This means that even though the joystick is digital it actually feels like an analog stick, as there is still a fair bit of movement after the contact has been made.

It’s difficult to say with any certainty whether the game was created with this sort of joystick in mind, but it definitely feels as if it was. The player character in Flicky moves with momentum, which seems to be the perfect match to the feel of the joystick. Playing on the proper hardware transformed Flicky for me—making it even more of a pleasure to play, and slightly easier in the process.

There’s a lot to be said about the difference a joystick makes.

Leaf switches rule OK