Obviously the new wave of iPhone and iPad games have made cheaper and smaller games much more relevant, but in general flash games still feel like a diversion when you cant get at your PS3 or what have you.
Happy Wheels (likely NOT SAFE FOR WORK OR SCHOOL) is a hell of a stand out, even a couple of years after its release. Upon immediate inspection, its a simple racing/obstacle game you must navigate from one point in the course to another. It seems almost quaint as you start.
Then you miss a crucial maneuver and your character explodes into a gruesome burst of gore blood flies in all directions as body parts are severed; arms, legs and heads flying in different directions. Sometimes, veins, spinal columns and intestines keep body parts tethered together as they fly through the air like some kind of demented and gory yo-yo.
What separates Happy Wheels from similar flash games, however, is customization. Happy Wheels provides players with all the options they need to make their own levels with a great diversity of level types.
Anyone whos tried to use a level editor before knows that its a deceptively difficult process. The difference between a beautiful level that can be played over and over again and a derivative piece of hot, wet garbage can often be detected almost immediately. But there are brilliant moments to be found in the fan made levels.
Sometimes, its merely the technical accomplishment. The customization options are extensive enough that some gamers have been able to construct bizarre vehicles with bladed weapons attached to the front to murder non-player characters. Other levels are more of a simple visceral joy. One level in particular simply involved free falling through a treacherous course filled with wrecking balls, landmines and spike beds like the Pit from Mortal Kombat with even more death to deal.
While some of these levels (youll find a great many levels that have similar general ideas) are nothing special, if you find one thats laid out juuuuuuuuuust right, it can be a visceral joy to play again and again and again. Sometimes your character dies from being struck by a wrecking ball. Sometimes your character gets blown up by a landmine. Or sometimes, when conditions are just right, your character gets imbedded on a spike bed and then a wrecking ball launches a van into the character smashing them into little pieces. Honestly, Ive sometimes spent over an hour playing the same level over and over again just to see how many different ways I can separate those little bodies from their lives.
If you havent had a chance to try the game (or like me, hadnt heard of it before), give it a shot. Try some of the different levels and try to make your own. Its not the most complicated game and some of the player-created levels are bad (anything that involves throwing a sword is generally horrible), but theres potential there for hours of fun.