Finally, a horizontal shooter I can beat.
Flip the Core is an interesting horizontal space shooter for DSiWare. Although simplistic on its surface, the game hides its complex roots well, and it’s quite impressive because of that. Flip the Core brings to mind the old-school sensibilities of Space Invaders Extreme, and tiny bit of Super Paper Mario. I guess what I’m trying to say is I like it a lot.
Your little green ship flies through a pixelated landscape you can “flip” by tapping L or R. Doing so creates an effect similar to turning the interior of a cube—objects are rearranged. Flipping the landscape also affects enemies: you’re basically flipping them from lateral view to dorsal (or ventral) view, so enemies that fire a ring of lasers around themselves, when flipped, suddenly fire a straight line of lasers to either side (imagine a ring viewed horizontally). While this basic concept doesn’t take long to figure out, you don’t always get a feel for where environmental obstacles will end up when flipped. If you ever flip the landscape and end up “inside” an object, the world flips right back, which is preferable to dying, but may screw you up if you were trying to avoid enemy fire in the first place.
The game’s core combat mechanic is switching between three distinct attacks: a “bubble gun,” which surrounds your ship with energy bubbles that track enemies; a straight beam; and a radiating array of lasers. As you destroy enemies and absorb their diamond-shaped leavings, your attacks gradually power up. Eventually, your bubble gun is all encompassing, your laser wide and strong, and that laser array has an impressive spread. All three weapons have situational uses, so it’s good to switch up and experiment. You’ll also start slowly building up “overdrive” power. You can hold three “overdrive” attacks at once—by pressing X, you can unleash a screen-filling mega-attack that destroys smaller enemies with a single hit and does considerable damage to larger ones. Overdrive is useful when you’re feeling overwhelmed or when you don’t want to deal with environment flipping and enemies at the same time.
The game has an 8-bit look, but remains colorful and lively. There’s not a lot of enemy variety, but there is a nice uniformity in their art direction. The music is surprisingly good, but the individual tracks are too short—you’ll hear them repeat a dozen times per stage. I should mention there are five stages and a final boss stage. This is not a long game, but that’s fine with me since it’s a high-score game. After completing stages in Arcade mode, you can select individual stages from the main menu. With no online functionality like leaderboards, however, you’re left to beat your own high scores.
Flip the Core is a fun—though short—horizontal shooter with some interesting ideas. The fact that I was able to beat it, given that horizontal shooters are anything but my forte, speaks to the accessibility of the game. It’s a fun one, folks. Try it out.