Review: Mighty Flip Champs! DX
It took me a long time to pen this review of Mighty Flip Champs! DX. Primarily because the game is ridiculously hard, and at the time that I took the assignment I didn’t realize that MFCDX fit solidly into the masocore genre (or at least I would be so bold as to group it within said heading). Having said that though, Mighty Flip Champs! DX is a fantastic 2D puzzle platformer with relatively simple concepts that are applied in original and mind bending ways. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that it’s the best 2D puzzle platformer on PSN. And I say that regardless of its status as a Minis title, and think that its one that every person with a PS3 or PSP should have regardless of the $6 price tag.
Considering some of the offerings on PSN, that’s high praise for WayForward’s debut PSN title. Some of you may remember WayForward from their previous game Shantae, which became a cult classic on the Game Boy Color. In fact, Shantae is such a beloved game that finding copies of it is a monumental task (not to mention expensive if you troll eBay for listings). Mighty Flip Champs! DX is actually a direct sequel/follow-up to Mighty Flip Champ! which was originally developed for DSiWare in 2009. Now three years on, WayForward has created this new hi-res version as a Minis title.
There isn’t really a story to speak of in DX and there really wasn’t much of one in the original either. I actually had to go to Wikipedia to get the narrative. You play as Alta, a girl who is in possession of a wand which allows her to flip through different puzzle tiles. On the DS the different tiles were displayed vertically with the top tile being your active tile (ie: the tile that you are currently in and can move around on). The bottom tile was the next tile and could be flipped to with the use of the wand. The Minis version has a similar set with the tiles set up left to right, with the left one being the active tile and the right being the next in the sequence. Before you flip you can see your position in the next screen with respect to your current position. At first this strange dichotomy can be difficult to grasp, but the game does a great job of easing you into the concept as being comfortable with it will translate into success throughout the experience. The object in each level is to reach the Fishman, one of Alta’s companions. This is accomplished by flipping the puzzles and traversing through the environments by climbing on chain link fences, or by moving left and right on the D-pad. But, unlike most platformers, there are no jump or dash buttons, and while falling you have no air control. Meaning that if you fall, you can only go straight down.
At the outset the game seems deceptively simple. The anime art style and sprite work immediately evoke feelings of playing a game like Link to the Past (where the dimensional flipping concept originally came from). The art style is complimented by a pretty sweet retro soundtrack that again harkens back to simpler times. Add these elements to the fact that the only two ways to die are to flip into a wall in another tile or fall on spikes and the game sounds like it should be a breeze right? Well at first it is, but the game quickly begins to expand and show its depth by the end of world 1. In fact, by the end of the first world you’re dealing with situations where they are more than 2 tiles, with some puzzles consisting of as many as 6 or 7. This is further complicated by the fact that reaching the Fishman becomes the last of a list of objectives which consist of collecting your other companions who happen to be two pigs and a cat with a jetpack. Yeah…a cat with a jetpack….I have no idea what his actual name is, but if that isn’t enough to pique your interest I have no idea what will. At the end of each puzzle you’re graded on the time you take to complete the puzzle. Later puzzles also keep track of how many flips you do, but this does not seem to have a bearing on your end of level ranks.
Each world contains 8 levels with the last level being a timed puzzle traversal where you cannot control the puzzle flips. The game actually takes control of the flipping and sets the timer for when the puzzle flips to some interval which is determined by the point within a tile that you are at currently. Later worlds introduce elements such as portals which beam you from one area of a given tile to another, and switches which can toggle blocks of a specific color in a given level’s stack. All of these elements only work to further surprise you as you stumble upon them. Indeed, if there is one thing that MFCDX does well its that it flips the script just when you think you have it figured out. What results is an incredibly deep gameplay experience which is coupled to a charming game.
So is there any bad news? Sadly MFCDX’s difficulty coupled to its puzzle platforming core gameplay immediately invites comparison between it and Super Meat Boy. While the controls within both games are ultra precise sadly the load times are not. Sure, the load times are small in MFCDX, but the fact that you don’t instantly respawn after death takes you out of the experience and makes you more inclined to shut the game off if you can’t beat a tricky puzzle. It also makes you feel entitled to some sort of checkpointing system when you die and the game asks if you want to retry. Furthermore, the graphical up-res on a PS3 can look a bit rough around the edges, but this isn’t enough to mar the experience. Finally, the game also lacks any tutorials which means you typically learn through trial and error. This is fine in the early goings, but can make things crazy when puzzle elements are stacked together.
If you were worried about buying a Mini that costs $6 on PSN, you can lay those fears to rest. Mighty Flip Champs! DX delivers loads of challenging gameplay which takes minutes to learn, but hours to master. So if you’ve been looking to invest in a few Minis to play on your PS3, or you have a PSP which you haven’t touched in a while (like in my case) you can’t go wrong with Mighty Flip Champs! DX.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation Portable version of the game.
What I Like:
- The game begins with some very simple puzzles, but becomes challenging quickly.
- Musical tracks are fantastic and immediately evoke memories of retro console games.
- The anime art style works well in tandem with the sprites.
- Cat with a jetpack...or is it Jetpack Cat...or perhaps Jet Cat?
- Simple mechanics are rooted in a very deep gameplay experience.
- Features 40 levels worth of content which can take hours to go through!
What I Dislike:
- Load screens after you die can sometimes dissuade you from continuing to play.
- The up-res on a PS3 can look a bit jagged compared to the res on a PSP.
- There isn't a tutorial mode, and the game's heavy reliance on death as its main didactic technique could be a disincentive.