Rating: E (Everyone)
Release Date: 07/13/2005
There’s been loads of pinball video games over the years. Hell, I still enjoy Pinball for the Atari 2600. With Flipnic, things have definitely evolved to an insane degree, as the game presents tables that could never exist in reality. Mix that in with some 1950’s science fiction weirdness, lounge music, and porno references (you’ll see), and you’ve got a memorable game, to say the least.
Flipnic has only a few basic modes. You’ll be playing the “original game” mode the most; here, you work your way through various missions across the game’s five monstrous worlds, unlocking more content as you progress. Each world has its own theme: Biology, Metallurgy, Optics, Geometry, and Theology. Later levels are not accessible unless you complete previous ones, with one small exception: sometimes, later levels can be played, but only for a limited time (usually 5 minutes). This gives you a chance to at least “test run” other tables before you go for broke trying to complete missions there. You can also “free play” stages you’ve completed just to practice or relax. There’s a 2P mode Flipnic, but it’s really nothing spectacular. 1P mode is the way to go here. Sure, it’s limited, but it’s pinball, not an RPG. Could be worse. Could be raining.
There’s no denying that Flipnic‘s graphics are very impressive. The environments are lush, the various table models and interactive elements are razor-sharp, and there’s not a bit of slowdown anywhere. The only thing that holds Flipnic back from earning a higher score is that when you’re on the “main” areas of the various tables, the environment is relatively static; the ball and some interactive elements are moving about, but there’s not much in terms of draw distance and such. The environments look less “alive” as a result. Still, if you can get past that, Flipnic is some tasty eye candy.
It’s not really visible in the screenshots above…but would you believe that Flipnic is riddled with porn? Not to a level that makes the 700 Club spontaneously combust, but trust me, it’s in there. No, there’s no naked bodies. No, there’s no sexually suggestive trees or architecture. I’m talking about some of the logos and backgrounds. This has to be seen to be believed; there’s sparkly logos and washed-out neon that comes straight off the set of a 1970s porno flick. It’s so cheesy, it’s laugh-out-loud funny! (Of course, there’s also 1950s scifi interstitials, 1940s newpaper headlines…Flipnic certainly runs the decade gamut.)
Here’s where another pornographic reference comes in. I don’t know who was hired for the voice work in this game, but more than half of them sound like porn stars from the disco era. Even some of the background music sounds like the cheesy background tunes you’d hear in a late-night Skinemax flick. The soundtrack’s rounded out by some techno tunes (especially in the Metallurgy stages), and even some funky disco beats (check out the Zero Gravity missions). The music’s a decent background, but that’s about it; it’s not memorable. Sound effects are great, though; they sound just like a real pinball machine.
It’s pinball, plain and simple. You’ve got left and right flippers, and you use them to smack metal balls around the table. Gameplay doesn’t get any simpler than that…or more difficult, ironically.
The default control scheme uses the left directional button for left, the circle button for right, and the L & R triggers for tilt. Thankfully, you can change these any way you wish; most pinball fans will use the triggers for flippers. Be mindful, though, as in some levels, using the flippers will also activate/deactivate other machinery, such as movable bumpers. And to confuse you a bit more, some levels have you using the analog stick or D-pad to move paddles around like in the classic arcade games Pong and Breakout!
One thing that surprised me was the decent physics engine in Flipnic. Whenever a pinball fan plays a video game version of their hobby, the first thing that always comes to mind is “How realistic is the ball control?” The ball in Flipnic actually does behave like a heavy sphere of steel, thumping off objects and reacting to terrain and gravity accordingly. Some liberties were taken, of course (like when the ball rolls up a wire tunnel with no acceleration or deceleration, or during boss fights), but these are often used just to get the ball from one point in the world to the other or liven up an otherwise boring table.
The central focus in Flipnic is the missions. When you select a level to play, you can check the status screen for it, which lists all the missions required to clear the stage (as well as bonus missions). This screen also explains exactly what you need to to complete a mission, such as hitting X amount of bumpers in a row, knocking over obstacles, etc. Some missions require you to complete them in a specific order; for example, in the Biology world, you need to freeze a waterfall, then break the ice, then make it to the top. It’s more difficult that it sounds, and it can often get tedious.
Sometimes the action does get livened up a bit; UFOs will often show up to wreak havoc on the table. You can usually smash them with your ball(s), earning nice score bonuses as a reward.
While the expanded pinball action is fun, the novelty wears off rather quickly. Often, you’ll be relying on sheer luck to complete some of the missions. Not everyone is a pinball wizard, and Flipnic won’t improve your skills much.
Though there’s only a few missions necessary to complete a level, there’s a ton of secondary missions for you to try and accomplish. These range from very easy to ripping-hair-out-of-your-head difficult. Flipnic does offer a lot of replayability in this respect; plus, there’s always the tried-and-true pinball high score, which you can always try to raise.
Pinball games are a crapshoot; a skilled player can run a table for hours on end, but the average joe may have trouble, with the luck of the flip making or breaking his game. Flipnic is unforgiving in this aspect; if you suck at real-life pinball, you’re going to suck at Flipnic. There’s multiple difficulty modes, but the basic rules of pinball still apply. And since many missions have to completed in a specific order, getting a “game over” screen and having to play through them all over again can be quite frustrating.
As I’ve said before, there’s been lots of pinball video games before, and many have tried outlandish gameplay elements that seldom work. Flipnic tries even more of them, and pulls it off. Much of the retro work is weird, but refreshingly unique. And that whole porno reference thing is hysterical, even though I’m sure it wasn’t planned that way.
This is very dependent on if you like pinball or basic arcade games. If you don’t, then Flipnic won’t change your mind. Pinball fans will love it at first, but may get bored trying to complete mission after mission. Besides, pinball diehards are going to go to their nearest mom-and-pop pizza joint and play the real thing anyways!
Ironically, the thing that will appear to gamers the most about Flipnic isn’t the game itself; it’s the price. The MSRP for Flipnic is only $19.99, which is a great deal. Sadly, there’s been little to no marketing for this game, and pinball doesn’t really hold enough weight against the likes of RPGs, FPSs and other popular genres. The small contigent of pinball fans will check it out, but most other game store trolls may simply check the box out, then put it back down. Shame on them.
Flipnic is a tough call. The price is right, the graphics are nice, the sound’s decent…but it just seems like it could’ve been more. It’s a shame it wasn’t more heavily marketed, or more modes added to it, but hey…there’s always Flipnic II: The Revenge, right? Personally, I still want a sequel to Kirby’s Pinball Land, but Flipnic II is more likely.
Overall Score: 64/100
FINAL SCORE: 6.5 (FAIR)