With WayForward's impressive pedigree, and some tantalizing gameplay mechanics, we knew we could expect their DSiWare debut to be something special, and we couldn't resist tracking them down for an interview. WayForward Technologies very own Matt Bozon was kind enough to discuss his upcoming game, and what we can expect from it.
Nintendo Life: WayForward seem to be ahead of the curve in announcing a DSiWare game before anyone else. Did the idea of a downloadable platform for a Nintendo handheld appeal to you from day one?
Matt Bozon: Definitely. We’ve been expecting to see a download on DS since Wii’s Virtual Console was announced. We had a hunch and took action early on.
NL: Can you tell us a little about the storyline and basic premise in Mighty Flip Champs?
MB: The game is all about this book-like series of mazes, with a character existing in the spaces in between. As you manually advance through the maze pages, you try to keep from being smashed as the next maze stamps down on top of your current one. There’s no real story that explains the game…like someone said awhile back the whole thing is like a fever dream.
NL: It looks like a good deal of the strategy will come from flipping back and forth between two screens in order to progress. What kinds of obstacles will we be expected to overcome?
MB: We throw the occasional curveball, like cracking blocks or blocks that must be switched on and off. Typical labyrinth stuff, but when you add in page flipping old ideas can feel new again. In many cases, your main obstacle is the time it takes to fall to your death. After playing for awhile you begin to see the opportunities you didn’t see before, and start flipping pages at a fevered pace. As a player you really get to grow with the game.
NL: Will there be enemies to battle along the way? If so, what forms will they take?
MB: No enemies this time. There’s so much to get your head around already that we didn’t want to complicate things. If players respond well to the game and want more, I think we’d find clever uses for enemies the next time around. We focused on the puzzles for this one.
NL: What can we expect from the control scheme? How will the stylus be implemented?
MB: It’s extremely simple to control your Champ! You move Alta around and climb fences with the Control Pad. Any button makes you page flip. If you need a hint, you can mark a position on the Touch Screen and it will stay there between page flips. The marker is mirrored on the top screen, making it a useful tool for players who like to be more methodical. But we never require you to use it.
NL: What do you think is the most distinctive feature of Mighty Flip Champs?
MB: The page flipping is the game’s hook, and really that’s the whole game. It also has a cool retro art style that’s sort of a celebration of our older GBC games. Readers have been picking up on that from screen shots and giving positive comments. It’s all very encouraging.
NL: LIT had a strong strategic element, expecting the player to think several moves ahead, and it’s obvious that this game will as well. What other games have inspired you in terms of puzzle design?
MB: A Link to the Past is my favorite game, so I’m sure the Dark World/Light World and the upstairs/downstairs of that game’s dungeon’s inspired us. When compared to LIT, Flip Champs is more of a twitch puzzler…heavier on action, lighter on logic.
NL: How long do you think it will take for an average gamer to complete Mighty Flip Champs? Will there be extra modes to go back to when the main game is completed?
MB: The scope is similar to a $19.99 retail game. It should take a player several hours to play it all the way through. Once you’ve mastered the game, you can speed run it in a couple of hours. Players who get the Special “S” Rank on every puzzle will get a special reward ending, though it’s mostly there for bragging rights. A couple of cute unlocks exist, but no upside down castle
NL: Since the Nintendo DS has a lot of young gamers, has the difficulty level of Mighty Flip Champs been balanced in order to appeal to them? Or is there enough of a challenge to keep even veteran gamers on their toes?
MB: We didn’t cater to a young crowd on purpose, but the early levels are well balanced for first time players. We’ve tried the game out with kids as young as 5-6 years old, and found that they can hold their own for quite some time, and are surprisingly good at working out the puzzles. But, after a while the game begins to show its teeth, so be prepared for some ramp. If you’re a hard core, old school, game & watchin’ gamer you’ll find plenty of challenge, and you’ll probably appreciate the old school purity of the experience. At any age, it’s a lot of bang for your buck.
NL: Have you encountered any significant limitations in developing for DSiWare as opposed to a full-fledged retail release? Are you still working with a 40MB download limit, or less?
MB: The file size hasn’t presented any problems for us, and the game is very small. We’ve got the benefit of small sprites, and pretty simple presentation. It’s giving us room for some really high quality audio and full color cut scenes. Since we’ve been doing this back on GB monochrome, this still seems like plenty of space to work with. So no complaints here!
NL: What did you learn from developing Contra 4 for the DS? What limitations with the DS hardware did you have to take into account?
MB: With time constraints, huge player expectations and the very challenging limitations of wireless multiplayer on DS, Contra had to run lean and mean. In the end we were very happy with our version of Contra and the choices we made in creating it for DS. The lean and mean approach is very evident in Flip Champs. That, plus a solid foundation of DS tech is why we’re able to offer up a lot of game in such a short dev cycle.
NL: Were you pleased with LIT’s positive reception in the media and strong sales as evidenced by the “most popular” data shown on the Wii Shop?
MB: I couldn’t be happier with LIT’s warm welcome from fans and press! Adam Tierney and the rest of the LIT team really poured themselves into the game. It’s one of the most inspired games on WiiWare, and definitely puts the controls to good use. I hope more people will discover LIT now that the Wii can run games from SD card.
NL: How far along in development is Mighty Flip Champs at present? Roughly when do you think it will be available in North America?
MB: The game is done now, so we’re more focused on publishing concerns at this point. We don’t know how the DSiWare launch lineup will be decided exactly, but expect to see it “not in stores” very soon! Hang onto some Nintendo Points for us please!
NL: European and Australian gamers are still eagerly waiting to download LIT in their territory. Do you plan to publish Mighty Flip Champs outside North America sooner rather than later this time?
MB: It’s not been decided yet. But, localizing Mighty Flip Champs will require much less work than a Wii game.
NL: The Nintendo published games for DSiWare all seem to be in the 200-500 Nintendo point region. Are we to think that Mighty Flip Champs will retail within that price range too?
MB: The price hasn’t been set yet, but we’ll make sure it’s an exceptional value to players.
NL: With your work on Contra 4 and the upcoming Wii version of A Boy and His Blob you have picked up pre-existing licenses and left your own distinctive mark on them. If you had the chance to create a game from any other franchise, what would you pick?
MB: It’s always a different answer depending on which WayForward person you ask. I’d love to do a high res 2D Metroid spinoff, Mega Man, or Guardian Legend (still trying to figure out who owns that thing). Another Kid Dracula would be pretty cool too. I like stuff with strong characters in it. Publishers with classic IP’s should give us a call!
NL: Does WayForward have anything else up its sleeve in the future for DSiWare? May we suggest Shantae?
MB: I can’t think of a better place for Shantae than DSiWare. It’s really a match made in heaven. We track fan interest using the Shantae Fan Club, so visiting the WayForward site and signing up is always a good way to throw a vote in her direction. We’ve got other original games on the table too, so expect to see more from us down the line.