Flip Them All, for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, is described as a “mind-bending puzzler”, and while it’d be difficult to find anything that could bend your mind any further; providing Uri Geller always has a decent supply of spoons and doesn’t simply start destroying the minds of the general public, the game is equal parts enjoyable and challenging. That is until all sense of thought disappears from your head and brain matter starts trickling out of your ears. If anyone is familiar with the classic Lights Out game, or it’s numerous clones, then you’ll know the idea behind Flip Them All.
The game is by Software Prodigy, who some of you may remember from the limited days of the NGage? Anyone? NGage? No? Never mind. The aim of the game here are simple: you have some blue tiles on the screen, each of them styled as one of five different buttons, and your mission is to flip them all to orange (don’t forget: Title = Instruction Manual). Your score is based on time taken and amount of taps used to complete the level. Also there is a 3-star rating system for anyone who isn’t already bored silly of me mentioning these in mobile app reviews. I think it’s getting to the point where I should start a tally of the number of games that use this function, and compare it to the number of FPS games that have token shopping-trolley driving sections.
I don’t often praise a menu screen, in the same way I wouldn’t give praise to a paving slab for doing it’s job well, but I must give particular credit to the guys at Software Prodigy for implementing an explanation of how each game tile works onto the menu. Plus the fact that each tile has a coloured shape on it, which gives some clue as to how it works when pressed. For example, the tile with a small, blue circle on it, when tapped, is a selfish bugger and will only flip itself in the name of self-preservation. Meanwhile the horizontal and vertical diamond-shape tiles, coloured yellow and green respectively, will flip themselves, as well as the tile to the immediate left and right, or above and below, dependant on which axis it is pointing in. The orange four-pointed star tile will hit any adjacent buttons, and finally the great red square button hits every button surrounding it, in all eight directions. The practice levels for the game ease you into how to play well, getting the player used to how certain patterns of buttons work, and how to develop some early strategies to combat the impending harder levels.
The earliest levels are simply 3×3 grids, while the hardest levels feature an 8×8 grid of pure hatred for the player. And believe me, trying to complete an 8×8 grid is difficult enough without the game freaking out every five minutes. So many times I found myself a few mere taps away from completing a level, only for everything to crash spectacularly and wipe my progress on the level. I’ve sent more crash reports for the game than Christmas cards last year. The menu screen I so greatly praised earlier isn’t above wigging out, like a schoolgirl discovering her brother has put a spider in her hair. The icons for changing settings, entering the game and volume will be turned on their side, stuck in mid animation, so you have to tap randomly around the screen in the vicinity that you think your desired button regularly resides. This does not fix itself until the game crashes, so it then becomes a frustrating game of trying to crash the game so it will restore itself so you can return to playing. And then a few games later the level selection screen will refuse to register your finger taps on the screen.
So Flip Them All is a contrary madam of a game, which at the best of times can be described as flippant, and will quite happily lock itself in its room until it decides it is going to come out and play fairly. I’m getting through the levels slowly, but surely, and when the game is behaving nicely it is a pleasure to play and provides a great challenge for puzzle nuts like myself. In last week’s Tetro Mania review I mentioned that the game didn’t really scratch my puzzle bone, whereas Flip Them All definitely scratches, gnaws, chews, scrapes and generally snacks upon my puzzle bone. And you know what, I would definitely like to see them expand the game in the future, maybe adding another tile to mix up the gameplay? I showed the game to a friend of mine, and she suggested a tile that removed tiles in a ‘T’ shape, like the tetromino of the same shape, and the direction of the ‘T’ on the button would reflect on which direction in would flip the tiles?
Hopefully a future update will fix the bugs in the game, because right now, short of spraying it with Raid and sitting near a Citronella candle, it’s a struggle to play Flip Them All for any great length of time without bugs setting in. The game would definitely receive a much higher score were it not for the bugs, because otherwise it is a challenging puzzler for all ages and skill levels, and should definitely be part of your mobile gaming roster.
MLG Rating: 7/10
Platform: Mac/iOS Release Date: 08/07/2011
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a digital copy of Flip Them All for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of one week on an iPhone. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.