Review: Flip’s Twisted World (Nintendo Wii)

Flip's Twisted World
Flip’s Twisted World
Publisher: Majesco Entertainment
Developer: Frozen North Productions
Genre: Platformer
Release Date: 10/19/2010

Flip’s Twisted World presents players with a chance to play a platformer that offers a unique little gimmick: the ability to turn the world ninety degrees in order to bypass obstacles that would by impossible to cross otherwise. On paper, this is a neat concept with enormous amounts of potential for both player experience and level design “” but execution is another matter entirely. So how does Flip’s Twisted World fare over all?

Sadly, this is a case where a game could’ve been fun but is marred by an obvious lack of polish and fine-tuning. Shall we run it through the numbers? All right, let’s go.

Story/Modes

The story begins with a narration from the master wizard, Fulcrum, that details how he first met and raised a young boy named Flip. Flip is described to have grown up as a brash and reckless youth while under Fulcrum’s care and apprenticeship, so it doesn’t take long for the kid to wind up snooping around the master’s office when he isn’t supposed to. Youthful curiosity kicks into overdrive when Flip finds a peculiar book “” which wastes no time at all in warping the boy into a world of many lands and oddly arranged environments. The objective here is clear: Flip must traverse his strange new world in order to find a way home with the aid of a funny cube with a personality for each face. He encounters various obstacles both living and nonliving as he goes in addition to some particular powers, all while he picks up journal entries that detail the story of an arrogant wizard named Axel.

Judging from all this, we know the story isn’t much to write home about, but it’s there to dump off the player into flipping and twisting the world as soon as possible… except, the game screws this up. Yes, we’re given control of Flip after the little intro, and yes, we have a chance to run around in Fulcrum’s office… but as soon as we hit Z in front of the not-so-innocent book, BAM! We’re in the book’s world. No cutscene of any sort accompanies this transition, and the only way players would know they’re in the book world at this point is by talking to a friendly snail “” an action that is lightly prompted, but otherwise optional. I would think that whole part about Flip’s being transported to another world and trying to return home would be important enough for an automated cutscene.

Along these lines, all those journal entries regarding Axel are also optional, even though they’re critical in giving an otherwise bare-bones story some background. You don’t need to collect too many of these entries to deduce what happened to Axel, but the point remains that plot-important parts of the game’s story are left in a state where you could skip over them completely. This wouldn’t be so bad on a New Game Plus-type of mode, but if this is your first run through the game, you’re going to feel like something major is missing before you start moving around in the tutorial level. From a development standpoint, this is not a good way to immerse players into the game.

A bare-bones story made even thinner with awkward transitions and executions yields a very shoddy product.

Story/Modes Rating: Below Average

Graphics

If only I could make a snowball...The graphics are colorful, but not quite to the same the level of the Super Mario Galaxy games. I noticed something odd, though: every single edge, whether it be between a character model and the environment or the platforms to the background, appears jagged. Even the text boxes have really noticeable jagged edges to them. I don’t know if the type of television affects the graphics quality any, but all those edges prevent the game from looking polished. The frame rate seems to be running at thirty frames per second as well, while the standard is sixty. Make of that what you will.

On the plus side, platforms are easily distinguishable from the background thanks in part to the vibrancy of the colors. Furthermore, the frame rate isn’t exacerbated by lag. You don’t need to spend much time trying to figure out which enemy is which because they look distinct enough for you to identify them quickly. The same holds true for Flip, whose funny hat and blue robe will usually stay within your sight. The graphics give off a similar vibe to that of a Saturday morning cartoon, even if they appear somewhat dated. Bottom line? The graphics are good enough to do their job, but that’s about it.

Graphics Rating: Enjoyable

Sound

The very first detail I noticed with this game was that the sound balance in the opening cutscene was a bit off. To be specific, the voice and music volumes sounded like they were competing over who should be heard when such a decision is a no-brainer: I should be able to hear the narrator over the music. I don’t mean to the point where the narrator is yelling my ear off, but neither should it be drowned out by other sounds. The good news about this is that this anomaly appears to be a one-time mishap, as the narrator is easy to hear elsewhere.

However, the audio department a much worse problem here “” that being, a severe lack of sound at several junctures. Doors and gates open in utter silence. Shoving or dragging statues yields no sound whatsoever, and neither does activating switches. Catapults launch Flip across great distances without making the slightest peep. Every enemy that can walk on feet can do so as silently as any cat; flying enemies flap their wings without a beat. The first boss of the game lugs his slimy body around on a tiled floor and doesn’t even gloop-glop as he makes his way over to you. Only Flip seems to make any sort of noise, whether it’s his running shoes pitter-pattering across the ground or his yelping when he’s hit or the slams he makes when he hits an enemy with the weapon he has on hand. Sure, he makes just one sound per action, but at least he makes sound. Upon noticing all of this, I scratched my head and asked, “Where did half the sound effects go?”

To me, all this says to me is that whoever was working on this game’s audio didn’t bother with fine-tuning. As for the music? Given the length of some of the levels Flip goes through, you’ll be sick of the average to negligible quality of the soundtrack. The results speak for themselves.

Sound Rating: Below Average

Control / Gameplay

You play this game with the Wii’s Nunchuk configuration. The analog stick moves Flip around. The Z button allows you to talk to NPCs, inspect objects like signs, and grab hold of objects you need to pull along (pushing objects is as easy as running into them and seeing if they move). When you’re in the middle of a jump and press Z, Flip will come down slamming the ground with a book. Shaking the Wii Remote allows Flip to attack with whatever weapon he has equipped at the time. To rotate between weapons, hold the C button and press the analog stick in the direction in which your desired weapon is along the circle that doubles as your health meter. The directional buttons adjust the camera while the plus and minus buttons allow you to zoom in and out, respectively. The A button allows you to jump, confirm your menu selections, and to speed by a cutscene you’ve already seen. The 1 button pauses the game while the 2 button lets you use an item (e.g. potion).

Whap!The main gimmick that you’ll be using here, though, is the rotate function. To do this, you press and hold the B button and tilt the Wii Remote either left, right, forwards, or backwards. Doing so will rotate the surrounding environment by ninety degrees in whatever direction you’ve chosen. The camera will always make sure to keep Flip right-side up, so the main concern you should have while rotating the environment is making sure you have a good landing point. This means not flinging yourself into oblivion, even though checkpoints and infinite lives offset the frustration that could come from this potential oversight.

You do, however, have hit points. Six of them, in fact. You can keep track of them by glancing at the circular blue arrow in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen. If you lose all six hit points, Flip respawns in front of the last major door through which he came, and enemies you’ve defeated have a bad habit of coming back during the same transition. You’d think that the checkpoints would be respawn points as well, but they only work if Flip accidentally falls off the environment via rotating the wrong way. As I just said, though, you have infinite lives, so going through every level is more an exercise in patience “” a rather trying exercise, but one nonetheless.

Given that you’ll be rotating your environment every which way, the design of the levels is clever enough to milk as much out of the gimmick as possible. The levels are quite long, though, which can make any traveling through one of the environments feel very tedious. What’s more, the length of the levels tires the rotation gimmick “” the game’s one unique feature “” to the point where it doesn’t seem all that special anymore. Not a good sign when the rest of the game is struggling to be something other than a beta.

That aside, many of the game’s other features are explained with in-game instructions (e.g. explaining what a checkpoint looks like and how it functions). They’re explained clearly enough “” much more so than any hints you may receive from NPCs on how to solve a puzzle. As vast as the levels are, though, they’re also on the linear side of the design scale, so how long you remain lost or stuck depends on your puzzle-solving and observation skills… at least in part.

Other obstacles that may interrupt your progress include large numbers of enemies with finicky hit boxes and insufficient firepower “” which the game isn’t shy about throwing at you from the beginning “” an assortment of glitches, and sheer boredom from the repetitiveness of the whole ordeal. Fighting the enemies is trickier than you would think it’d be because the Wii Remote doesn’t seem to respond to the shakes as well as it would in, say, Super Mario Galaxy 2. The aforementioned hit boxes and how the enemies can make cheap shots while you can’t are subjects upon which I’ll expound in another section.

On the simpler end, Flip can collect coins with which to purchase various items that each have a different effect. Some of these are self-explanatory, like the potion and Health Cubes (i.e. your basic healing items); others, like the Medic costume, increase the chances that Health Cubes will restore your health completely a là the potion.

Thus, while the rotation gimmick is a fun little treat, it can lose its flavor quickly in the face of long, long levels which could feel even longer depending on the individual; poorly programmed enemies, bugs “” another topic I’ll be addressing later “” and occasionally unresponsive controls. At the same time, you have infinite lives, so you can retry whatever trouble spot you’re in as many times as you want. The game doesn’t do a great job of immersing players into the mechanics, though.

Control/Gameplay Rating: Below Average

Replayability

This looks child-friendly, doesn't it?Very little awaits you after you finish the game, and that’s assuming the length and tedious nature of the six levels doesn’t turn you off sooner. You can replay sections of the game that are giving you trouble, but this is more like a retry on the fly kind of deal rather than a replay the levels once you’ve beaten the game one. Since the story of Axel follows a predictable pattern, you don’t need to collect all of the journal entries to understand the last leg of the journey. No scoring system exists, so you can’t retry a level to earn more points than you did last time. Really, there’s not much here.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I’ve given the replay value of Flip’s Twisted World a low score.

Replayability Rating: Bad

Balance

Figuring out the puzzles isn’t hard. Figuring out how to rotate the environment to best approach the next big platform isn’t so bad, either. Figuring out what the different enemies’ hit boxes are, though, is frustrating, to put it mildly. I recall trying to kill some spiders by knocking them over with the Flail power, and each time, I was hit at least once by the spider’s cheap shot before I was in range to hit it. For some strange reason, the Flail’s apparent radius was not its actual radius, the latter of which is too short to be practical. I had to go right up to that spider’s face so the Flail could finally hit it “” never mind that being that close to the spider meant taking a hit. Why? Because touching enemies is hazardous. So in the end, I’ve lost at least two out of six hit points. Other enemies aren’t quite as irritating as the spiders, but I’m surprised at how tiny of an effect radius the book and the Flail have. Couldn’t they have been just a bit larger? That said, later abilities have longer range, so some of this initial frustration will lessen over time. How inclined one will feel about going that far into the game depends on the player.

Battles become even more grating once you factor in the camera. As good as it is to be able to rotate the camera however I want, it doesn’t help me much when it becomes stuck behind obstacles. For instance, transitioning from one area to the next may put the camera behind the wall, thus concealing Flip and any enemies that’ll be gunning for a cheap shot. By the time you’re able to see where you are, you’re missing a hit point and you haven’t moved an inch, all while that enemy is rearing up for another shot. This and the finicky enemy hit boxes make going from point A to point B more difficult than it should be.

I understand when I lose a life because of my own mistakes, but half my struggles come from the game’s being awkward and unrefined.

Balance Rating: Pretty Poor

Originality

King Slug won't like this one...As I’ve mentioned a few times already, the one feature of this game that truly interests me is the ability to rotate the environment ninety degrees in one of four directions. Because of this, the possible designs for levels and obstacles are at the very least quadrupled; however, in practice, this doesn’t show up in a way that can really catches the eye. What makes this worse is that everything surrounding the gimmick either throws you into the action a little too quickly for a game that has a story, or it just isn’t interesting enough to warrant a look.

In other words, one cool aspect of the game has been overshadowed by the mediocrity that permeates through the rest of it. Such a pity.

Originality Rating: Pretty Poor

Addictiveness

Considering that I felt less inclined to continue the game every time I loaded it, I’d say the addictiveness factor is bad. This wasn’t helped by the number of glitches I’d notice with each playing session, even when I wasn’t trying to look for anything amiss in the first place. The sheer length of the levels made me wonder at various points, “Is there an end to this?” All this combined into a desire to turn off the game more often than not, even if I’d been playing for just a few minutes. I like the rotation gimmick and all, but everything else is one giant mess. I’d expect a game on the shelves to have ironed out its bugs in beta testing, not riddled with bugs.

Addictiveness Rating: Bad

Appeal Factor

Details like the lengthy levels could be a joy to one person and a bane to the next, so the appeal factor there is harder to gauge. However, the bugs will be the biggest turn-off for anyone who tries to play the game. Great numbers of enemies are manageable, even if their hit boxes are ridiculously narrow. The basic platforming mechanics function like they’re supposed to. The vague hints to solving the puzzles is more likely to irritate players, but even so, they can find the puzzles’ solutions in time. Becoming stuck inside a platform without any means of escape, though, is going to rattle nerves like nobody’s business. Whether it’s the level design, the combat, or those blasted bugs and glitches, something or other isn’t going to sit well with players. Thus, I can’t imagine the appeal factor’s being very strong here.

Appeal Factor Rating: Pretty Poor

Miscellaneous

Got a lot of good things on sale, stranger.I thought something was odd when I found that the game’s manual was a mere thirteen pages. Granted, it has the bare minimum of information one would need to get started since everything else is elaborated upon in the game proper, and all the important instructions are written well. What struck me was that the manual was in one language where, last I’d checked, all Wii games came in three as per the standard (English, French, and Spanish). Upon further examination, I noticed the game’s cover was also in just one language. What happened here? I couldn’t tell you.

But this was an early sign that told me the production was rushed. Everything else I noticed about the game afterwards only cemented the fact. After all this, I’ve observed that Flip’s Twisted World is an unfortunate flop. Whatever good ideas this game has are overwhelmed by the obvious lack of fine-tuning.

Miscellaneous Rating: Dreadful

The Scores
Story/Modes: Below Average
Graphics: Enjoyable
Sound: Below Average
Control/Gameplay: Below Average
Replayability: Bad
Balance: Pretty Poor
Originality: Pretty Poor
Addictiveness: Bad
Appeal Factor: Pretty Poor
Miscellaneous: Dreadful
FINAL SCORE: POOR GAME

Short-Attention Span Summary

Flip’s Twisted World looks ready to give the platforming genre a new spin, but ultimately fails to be an enticing game. To be fair, the ability to rotate the environment in order to cross otherwise insurmountable obstacles is a great idea. Unfortunately, the finished product is riddled with bugs and glitches both game breaking and obscure. When you add this to level designs that are are clever as they are needlessly long, a combat system that’s less intuitive than it should be, and a story given an awkward presentation, players who pick up this game will see it for the beta it really is.

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