You'll want to like Flip's Twisted World. But you won't.
This ambitious, Wii-exclusive platformer has been a long time coming. Developer Frozen North Productions, since being founded over four years ago, has worked entirely on this one game -- an inventive adventure starring a wizard's apprentice with the power to alter gravity. Its development has hit a lot of snags and delays, but we've watched it make steady progress all the while and hoped that its unique core concept would carry it through to becoming a worthwhile final product.
It didn't. Flip's Twisted World is still inventive, still unique, and still ambitious, and with its fun character design and its levels that do their best to pay homage to Super Mario Galaxy
, you'll really want to like it. But in the end, all the glitches, errors, and poor design choices that have somehow stayed in place after nearly half a decade of work ruin the experience.
The intro to the game is strong. We first meet Flip as an abandoned baby boy, taken in and raised by a kindly old wizard named Master Fulcrum. The fatherly sage does his best to keep Flip away from magic as he gets older, fearing that if he learns to cast spells too quickly he'll get himself into trouble. Well, he does -- one night as his master/surrogate dad sleeps, Flip sneaks into a forbidden room in the lab and gets unwittingly sucked into an enchanted book. It's a good setup to the story and establishes our hero as a likable, mischievous misfit.
But it all goes south from there. Inside the world of the magic book, Flip gains his signature ability to spin gravity around himself and sets off on a mostly linear journey through half-platforming, half-puzzle stages -- but rather than that being an enjoyable hybrid of two kinds of gameplay, the levels just feel disjointed. Most of Flip's environments feel like they would have been better if presented solely as platforming challenges, as floating surfaces in the sky seem like they've been placed at odd angles instead of laid flat just to give players a reason to pause and activate the flipping mechanic.
That mechanic, too, feels rough. You have to be standing perfectly still to use it, breaking the potential for any kind of real flow to the action. You hold down the B Trigger on the Wii Remote and Flip starts waving his hands and performing the incantation, while a swirl of arrows starts spinning around him. You then twist the Wii Remote or push the Nunchuk's Control Stick in the direction you'd like gravity to shift -- but it's always a stark 90 degrees at a time.
The game's promotional materials and your own incoming assumptions would have you thinking that Flip might end up walking on ceilings or walls, as Mario often does in his Galaxy games. That never happens. Flip simply stops dead in his tracks, clicks the environment around him in a stiff rotation like a Rubik's Cube, and then keeps on hopping along, always with his feet flat on whichever surface he's made into the floor.
What's more, Flip will frequently just plunge into the void after an errant gravity shift -- and the controls are touchy enough that those errors will happen a lot. If you're standing on a flat platform and there's a wall to your left, you'll want to flip gravity to the left so that wall becomes your new floor, right? If the Remote doesn't like the way you're twisting it, though, or the Nunchuk's Stick isn't held at a precise angle, kiss Flip goodbye. Gravity will likely switch to a direction you didn't intend and he'll go sailing off into the abyss.
If quirks with getting the gravity mechanic to work were the only problems found in Flip's Twisted World, that could be forgivable and you could still have some fun. Unfortunately, though, those quirks are only the beginning.
Collision detection is terrible. As you try to attack enemies, you'll almost always get tagged by them first -- you're pretty much forced to absorb one bit of damage from certain foes before you can eliminate them.
Falls are instantly fatal. Flipping Flip into the void is one thing -- he'll just restart at a checkpoint. But if you spin gravity and he ends up falling too far and hitting something solid, it's instant death, which resets the entire level and totally disregards any checkpoints you passed along the way.
And the game's just glitchy. In an early castle-themed level I jumped Flip up into the air and he inexplicably just stayed there, stuck, hovering and not coming down. The game reset the level thinking he'd fallen into a void -- and it was a completely interior stage. On the next life I took off through the dungeon again and the graphics glitched out, projecting an image of Flip's giant book of spells at his feet constantly as he ran around. Then, after that, I tried switching Flip over to another weapon and the HUD graphics got scrambled -- it showed the giant mace, but he kept wielding his default book.
After enough of that I just sighed, hung my head low and reached to turn the power off.
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