Flip Wars began as a little project by the name of Project Mekuru, a game developed with the Unity Engine in which players could duke out a war for tile-based dominance while using their own Mii character. Since then its brand has naturally evolved in localisation, but the Miis have been replaced with characters that vaguely look as if they've been pulled out of Metroid Prime: Federation Force.
The action takes place with up to 4 players on a battlefield of white tiles, and they change the white tiles on the field to match their own colour in red, blue, yellow and green. Players do this by jumping up and ground pounding on a tile; doing this will not just flip the tile directly underneath the brightly coloured cybernetic gladiator, but it will also flip over a few tiles vertically and horizontally from the position. Think of it as similar to how a bomb explodes in Bomberman.
Those tiles, however, can be flipped over by other players ground pounding and seeking dominance of the field, just like how others in ChuChu Rocket! can re-route the mice from going to your rocket. Player movement is also affected by what coloured tile is beneath their feet; if it's of another player's colour then you slow down a lot, but if it's the same colour movement is far quicker, so you really want to change those tiles quickly so that you traverse around the battlefield with ease.
If a player is standing on a tile that's being flipped by an opponent, meanwhile, they get knocked out for a short period of time, giving others time to change the tiles before that player returns. Gimmicks on the battlefield - such as a laser turret and a big red switch - can also be exploited. The turret will turn slowly in a clockwise fashion; by flipping the tile underneath the turret it will fire a laser to transform the tiles it hits, and it will knock out opponents that are foolishly in the turret's aim! Turning the tile under the Switch causes all the tiles around it to flip over, even if you activate it at a distance, making it a great trap for opponents that haven't been collecting power ups. If used heavily, gimmicks will start to overheat and cause a cool down period to take place, preventing players from using them again until the cool down ends.
Environmental hazards can also appear randomly in a match; there are lightning storms that send a barrage of bolts onto random tiles to knock out unfortunate players, and there are tidal waves that causes tiles to jolt upwards and throw you off the battle field. The strategy is to run away from lightning, and with the right timing jump to avoid tidal waves.
Things can be spiced up on the battlefield with a few power-ups: when tiles are flipped they can reveal one of four pick-ups that can change your odds in battle. There's the Panel power-up that can increase the number of tiles you can flip by one, reminiscent of the Fire items in Bomberman. A Speed Up that increases your movement speed. There's the X-Item gives you the ability to flip tiles in a diagonal "X" formation, though you will lose the ability to flip tiles vertically and horizontally, meaning that you'll have to change your strategy. Finally there's an invincibility power-up that prevents you from being knocked out, slowed down or harmed by environmental hazards.
After two minutes the match ends and the tiles are counted; whoever turned over the most tiles with their colour wins the game, and that's just the "Panel Battle" mode. There's more than just flipping tiles on a grid due to two other game modes; there's "Knock Out" that uses a Smash Bros-like scoring system where knocking an opponent will earn you a point, getting knocked out yourself will lose you a point, and whoever has the most points when the time is up wins. There's "Life Battle" too, where each player has a fixed number of lives and the last character remaining wins.
These game modes can be picked before starting the game in local multiplayer rounds. Online games can either be set up where a game mode is picked out randomly (this is Flip War's equivalent of a Quick Match) or the player can make a lobby with a selected game mode. There is a single player mode of sorts in the game, but it's not actually clearly mentioned in the user interface. Starting a local multiplayer game without two or more players, you can populate the other spots with bots if you're the only player. You can select the bot's difficulty level, 1 for easy, 3 for hard, and there's even a "None" setting to use if you're playing in a group of three but don't want a bot on the battlefield.
The game can be played locally with friends on a single system - it's the Nintendo Switch after all, time to use that right Joy-Con as a controller for player 2! It's in online play, however, where the first set of problems come in. To begin, there are modes in the game that have “Coming Soon” signs over them; this appears on the Achievements, Local Wireless Battle and Rankings menu icons, but the real kicker is the unstable online play. Since the game's launch the chances of having an online battle that lasts a full 2 minutes are fairly slim, and expecting a full 4-player battle is destined for disappointment. The servers don't seem quite up to snuff in the early days, with random cut-outs and crippling lag from time-to-time.
That's a real shame seeing as the game itself is rather fun, especially when you huddle a group of friends around a TV. You'd think that this would make for a great online experience, but the server issues and netcode are letting it down. This will likely put some early adopters off, especially those that don't have direct access to their friends. Because of this, Flip Wars has a bit of a Steam Early Access feel to it. The game is there and offers some quality, but with modes "Coming Soon" and flaky online connections, it feels a little undercooked and needs to be put into the oven for a bit of time.
It's a pity, especially the online issues; you can lose an online Flip Wars battle connection between three and four out of five times, which is a massive shame seeing as this has so much potential as a great little quick-fire online game.
Flip Wars has a great premise for multiplayer fun, especially for local battles. Joining your mates huddled around a Switch the concept works nicely, but in an age where online gaming is bigger than ever you'd think a game like this would nail online play at release. Instead there are missing game modes and spotty online connections will put some people off this very enjoyable title. Due to its early access-like feel it might be worth saving your pennies for a few weeks before splashing out on Flip Wars, to see if the promised future updates will actually deliver the modes that aren't available right now and iron out the kinks in servers. The game has some real potential as a fun multiplayer game, offline and online, but right now Flip Wars isn't quite as good as it could be.