Release: Out now
Publisher: WayForward Technologies
Mighty Flip Champs is a WayForward game, which, if you’re familiar with the developer’s latest work, means it’s smartly turned out, creative within budgetary constraints, and built around an explosive collision of old-school aesthetics and sharp new ideas. Having brought an entirely unwarranted degree of energy and cleverness to the ludic wastelands of third-party Game Boy development for a number of years, the team’s recent output – involving both licensed titles like A Boy And His Blob and original IP such as WiiWare’s LIT - has seen it emerging as a credible candidate for the role of a western Treasure – a boutique studio with plenty of ideas for every occasion.
On top of that, its new DSiWare title Mighty Flip Champs certainly shares the rich visual spectrum of Treasure’s Megadrive classic Gunstar Heroes, unfolding as a bloomy mass of purples, dirty yellows and deep oranges, in which pixelated characters move through tightly organised environments. The games themselves couldn’t be more different, however: a stripped-back platformer shorn even of its jump button, WayForward’s latest sees players reach each level’s target by cycling through a series of different dimensions, each containing shades of the same geometry while varying the details – placing a handy ladder where there was none before, or transforming an innocent stretch of unbroken path into a deadly drop.
With the next dimension in line always visible on the DSi’s bottom screen – Mighty Flip Champs even projects a ghost of your own character onto it to allow you to orientate yourself – it’s frighteningly clever stuff, and the challenge can be unremittingly steep as the game opens outwards, building increasingly elaborate levels, throwing in more dimensions for you to cycle through, and mixing up obstacles to include spike pits, secondary targets, warps, and switch blocks.
Just when the whole thing seems in danger of becoming a cold study in design brilliance, however, the on-screen clock comes into its own, raising the game’s temperature by turning each challenge into a speed-runner’s dream. Almost every activity, from falling off platforms to climbing ladders, can have a few extraneous frames of animation cut away by switching dimensions at just the right moment, slicing a few micro-seconds from your completion time and turning an otherwise cerebral challenge into a twitchy reaction test. It’s fitting, then, that an idea that revolves around shadowy dimensions should have a second game all but hidden within it, and it's a delight to discover a title that can concertina so many ideas into such a tight space.