FlipSide

Two ships, two thumbs, one player. In FlipSide, you must control two ships at once, dodging through labyrinths of moving gates for edge-of-your-seat gameplay. Includes 5 super-intense challenge stages and an addictive endless mode. Try not to break your controller! Man, that zebra looks seriously insane. [http://bokstuff.com]

I remember playing Street Racer as a kid with both paddles since it like so many Atari 2600 titles was built for two players, and the single player experience was quite boring without a human opponent. Resting both paddle controllers on the ground, I was able to play the various games including Slalom against myself. I bring this up because Slalom, a Street Racer mode where the player had to navigate through a series a gates without crashing, is essentially FlipSide. Boasting five distinct challenges and an endless mode, FlipSide has the player using both analog sticks to manuever two ships though a gauntlet of walls and gaps where just one missed opening is one too much.

A single player playing a game with two controllers operating two distinct characters is extremely uncommon but not unheard as YouTube videos showcase people capable of completing Ikaruga in 2-player mode without dying among other games' ambidextrous feats. Instead of making such play some auxillary challenge for a game not intended to be played in such a manner, FlipSide will test a player's ability to dodge walls of varying positioning and speed to clear some challenge or obtain a high score. Depending upon how well one can focus on two separate activities at once, the game can be absolutely brutal. While the tutorial and early challenges keep a rhythm which makes flying through the tunnels relatively easy, in short order FlipSide knocks up the speed so that the gaps whizz by and deaths are tallied by the second. Other challenges stagger the placement of the gaps and walls so that each screen becomes an independent game itself and not simply a mirrored version of the opposite side. FlipSide is a pure twitch arcade game, asking players if they can keep up. It's not an easy challenge, but it is definitely a rewarding one.

There's a moment while playing FlipSide where things just click, and the ships are swerving through the holes with ease. It's a sort of 2001 moment, a zen-like experience where everything just feels right, and the focus is no longer on frantically getting the ships into position but just doing what feels right. It's that moment in shooters such as when I took down Xiga without dying, dodging the bullet storms with the greatest of ease, and felt like a god in doing so. Unfortunately for me, those moments are often short-lived. I'll have a great run for a bit, feel unstoppable, and the game kicks me back down. Even then, no matter how frustrating things can get at times, I find myself coming back for more. As the modern shooter is less about aiming skill and more about the ability to dodge threats, so does FlipSide feel like a shooter without shooting, a game completely about pacifist runs and Dot Eating survival. It's a pure arcade experience, and I love FlipSide for it.

Although the artwork is stylish and presentation excellent with much care going into the menu and fonts, FlipSide remains a very basic looking game and one which might put people off. Yes, it does have that minimalist look typical of shovelware and My First Game releases, but BOKstuff's Brian O'Keefe does it well with complementary black-and-white coloring which enhances the opposites theme along with a slick menu interface. Even the nag screen begging trial downloaders to buy the game is well made. I also like being able to shuffle through the game's three songs at any time with the shoulder buttons, not that I'd want to seeing how good James Holdsworth's techno songs are in the game. I do wish the developer would have moved the Xbox Live notifications to the corner as I know some games do, because it is infuriating when someone pops on and temporary blinds the openings as they come down the screen. (I strongly advise turning the notifications off before playing.)

FlipSide initially seems to be a half-hearted effort due to its simplistic appearance and gameplay, but it's not before long when the addiction sets in and it becomes a personal quest to complete all of the challenges and take those learned skills into the endless mode. FlipSide puts forth a challenge to players much as The Impossible Game does, but FlipSide offers more depth, better presentation, and a few great songs to make it worth looking into for those up to the task and arcade twitch fans who enjoy the thrills of constant near death video game experiences.

★★★☆☆
July 30, 2010
March 25, 2010 | 80 points
Developer | Video | Download

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