The DSiWare service continues to serve as a home for independent developers with innovative ideas, and Flipper 2: Flush the Goldfish is another example of that creative spirit. A sequel in name only to Flipper, this latest creation from Goodbye Galaxy Games is full of surprises.
The main link to the first game can be found in the characters, though on this occasion the roles are reversed and Flush the goldfish is rescuing his kidnapped owner. Flush has a ‘super-secret robot suit’ to help him chase down and defeat an evil monster with a resemblance to Firebrand from Gargoyle’s Quest. It’s a premise both wacky and simple, setting the tone for the experience on offer.
Flipper 2’s gameplay hook is a remarkably basic concept: all actions are executed with just one button. There’s no D-Pad or touch screen controls to be found — everything is done with the A button. Flush’s robotic suit moves through a number of single screen rooms, with the action button serving a different purpose in each area. It only takes a few seconds to go through a screen, with the button function quickly moving from ‘tap to run’ to ‘sidestep’ or ‘duck’, to name just a few. The puzzles in each room need to be navigated with good timing, often necessitating a few attempts: this quick-fire action has a similar vibe to a Wario Ware title, but with platforming thrown into the mix.
The first mode that you’ll experience will be the Story Mode, completion of which will unlock extra features. This serves as a gradual learning exercise, with the difficulty increasing over its four levels. Each level has its own theme and is broken up into three sections of six screens each, with useful checkpoints thrown in. Lives are plentiful, and even when they’re all gone play resumes from the most recent checkpoint: it’s a generous system, but does mean that most gamers will be able to complete the story mode in under an hour. It may be short-lived, but the levels are well balanced and the gameplay compulsive: we’d also encourage our readers to patiently read all of the end credits as well, it’s worth it.
Once the story is finished the Random Castle Mode is unlocked, which represents the majority of the title's replay value. This allows you to choose a difficulty level and theme and then random levels are generated which are variations of those in the story mode. This mode is ideal for short 15 minute bursts, as there appears to be a genuine diversity to the screens and puzzles, with the difficulty levels accommodating all players. There's the occasional screen that's overly frustrating, such as one that requires rapid tapping of the button to make Flush sprint. The speed required to make it across a moving platform is right at the edge of what’s feasible, and we found ourselves losing all of our lives repeatedly without being able to tap the button fast enough: a rare misstep, but frustrating when it occurs.
Completing a round in this mode opens up the Editor, which allows you to create your own stages. In principle this is a nice idea, with simple tools that allow you to determine the assigned action on the screen, the structure of the platforms, placement of hazards and the inclusion of enemies. In practice it provides the gamer with the same creation tools as the developer, presented with a level of accessibility typical of the title. There are issues and major restrictions, however, which take the shine off this feature. Each level created is only a single screen — barely a few seconds of gameplay — and there's only enough space for three of these creations, with no way to share them with anyone else. There have been hints, even within the game, that this will be improved in a future update, but in its current form it’s only a curious diversion, rather than a fully-fledged level editor worth attention.
The overall presentation of the title deserves praise. The graphics engine utilises some pleasant pixel art, with stages and environments often featuring nice touches, such as a sinister looking moon in the night sky. Small touches of humour are also present, with a variety of animations used depending on how Flush has met his end. There’s also some entertaining music to round things off, reinforcing the impression that this title was developed with a great deal of passion and care.
Overall, Flipper 2: Flush the Goldfish provides a decent amount of content, albeit for bite-sized gaming sessions. The story mode is enjoyable in multiple playthroughs in pursuit of a higher score, particularly as the levels are well designed and balanced, while random castle mode is ideal for a quick burst of play. The level editor does feel like an afterthought, however, while the occasional frustrating level will agitate most. At 500 Nintendo Points it’s decent value, and an example of casual gaming that's also creative and full of charisma.