I do find optimism refreshing in the world of gaming, especially given how generally negative the world of AAA “real gamer” titles tend to be. Overtly dark, ominous, gritty…any number of catchall words that means you see a video game and you want to paint it black. So when I originally saw Flip Wars (previously called Battle Sports Mekuru in Japan) as an upcoming title hitting the Switch, I was curious, especially given the colorful nature of it all and what appeared to be a pretty simple thread. Then I saw it in action at BitSummit over the summer as a tournament centerpiece and was delighted by the atmosphere generated by people going head-to-head with a game they hadn’t played previously. Now the West has finally seen a release and I’m pleased to announce that, despite some shortcomings, the little things in life really can be the best.
There isn’t really a plot to speak of for Flip Wars. Basically you, a colorful soldier of some kind, are tasked with dominating a board that can have anywhere from one to three other players (totaling four) running around at the same time. You win by doing a jump and “hip drop” (butt slam is more apt) and creating a shockwave that turns tiles nearby to your color. If an opponent is caught up in the shockwave, they get knocked off the board. If you are on your own color pieces, you can run slightly faster, and there are powerups hidden under randomized tiles that increase your speed, shockwave range and even allow for diagonal pieces to be unlocked.
Aesthetically, Flip Wars works great and comes across exactly as non-threatening as it seems. The soldiers take on a Chroma Squad appearance, but a little more big headed and certainly slower moving. The boards are just large, bare checkered boards , three different core designs in total, with several variants mixed in. For more “expert” boards, immovable blocks provide places to hide, whereas trap boards have things like massive lasers that can flip multiple tiles at once. The simplified design allows players to focus on what’s really important at the core, which is keeping track of your color and where everyone else is on the board.
Playwise, the controls are tight. You run, you jump, you can hip drop at any height and you can also cancel mid-drop if you need to fake out an opponent or realize you’re about to get yourself wrecked. There isn’t any sort of combat except for the flipping, and you need to make sure you hit the other players with a shockwave, not actually dropping on top of them. Turns out they’re perfectly fine with you landing on them, and you may line yourself up for a loss in the process. The rumbling is not exactly HD, but it’s still appreciated as a reminder that you’ve just been slammed off the map. One thing that I LOVE that Flip Wars does is the constant ability to change controllers at every screen of the game. Rather than make the player home out and repair if something changes, the ability is right in Flip Wars, which is perfect for a game that might add or drop players at a moments notice. Good call.
The powerup system is something that either feels incredibly broken or balanced, depending on your play style. Everything that you pick up stacks, so, if a player gets on a breakaway, he can end up becoming a speedy, swarthy God of Tiles, and the other players live in fear of being on his bad side. At the same time, when a player with powerups gets knocked out, all those powerups then re-appear on the board in scattered locations. This gives players incentive to put aside their differences and work on taking down one person should things get a bit crazy. It’s a bold strategy, but I think it actually works out well. No combination of power ups makes the game impossible for the others, but it certainly gives you an edge that encourages a “GET HIM” mentality.
Playing online went well, but, unfortunately, there aren’t many people playing Flip Wars at the time. I was only able to pair for a couple games despite multiple attempts, and one of my matches fell victim to an unstable Internet connection (mine or his, I can’t tell). Hopefully, as the playerbase picks up, you’ll find more matches that come front and center. I noticed I had a bit more success when I logged in through my Japanese eShop account, though that may have been coincidence.
With no single player mode to speak of, the importance and replayability of the game came down to how well the multiplayer worked. When I saw Flip Wars at BitSummit – hundreds of people cheering with a bracket of players facing off for a prize and actual pressure on the outcome – the game looked amazing, ready to become a mainstay in the minor eSports arena. However, out in the wild, at home on my Switch with just my wife and kids to play against, it loses a bit of it’s sheen. This is a party game, pure and simple, and treating it as such will temper your expectations. The CPU difficulty, even maxed out, is no match for a player who’s done a few rounds and gets the game. There are different modes of play – tile conquest, first to be knocked out, a life counter approach – but it’s still the same game, in essence. At the current time, playing online against random strangers or playing against people at home are the only options. There are placeholders for rankings and local play, but those haven’t been coded in just yet. I wouldn’t call Flip Wars unfinished, but there’s definitely a bit “coming soon” that might be the different between a purchase and a pass for some.
I personally found Flip Wars to be delightful, if only in small bursts. I can see this being something I use when I bring the Switch out on the road, and it’s another great game that showcases the joy of mobile multiplayer. It’s charming, the soundtrack is good (but a bit loud, watch your speakers) and it looks like there’s more still to come for the game. If you want a replacement for Smash Bros or something to tide you over till Metroid arrives, don’t delude and disappoint yourself, this isn’t your game. But if you want a fun experience in short bursts and maybe a succinct game that will settle disputes in who’s turn it is to cook dinner, then Flip Wars could be your weapon of choice.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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