Flipper Critters Review

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Publisher: Ignition Entertainment
Developer: Zen Studios

Platform: DS
Reviewed on DS

Gawain the Tiger and Bubba the Monkey are two well-meaning teenaged animals eager to help their fellow animals in and around the town of Aldenor – whether or not their friends need the assistance. The unlikely mammalian pair begin by setting out to help a Bull who happens to be an oracle with a bad cold; move on to discover what happened to some Boar guards; and end up getting caught in a vast sequence of quests, complete with a dragon and a sorceress. And they do it all by acting as the ball in a world-sized game of pinball.

Kyle Ackerman

Flipper Critters is intended to be a cheerful, animal-themed pinball game aimed at children. It's convenient that Flipper Critters was launched as a bargain title, selling for just under $15, or there would be little reason to consider it.

Every zone in the Flipper Critters world is a pinball table, making the world one giant, extended pinball game connected by chutes, and littered everywhere with flippers. The premise is good – the pinball isn't. The world is broken into such small segments that there's very little to do on any given table segment, except keep hitting the ball until it reaches the right target or chute that will further the quest or take the ball to the next table.

Despite the underlying over-simplicity, the tables typically look complex and confusing. Most table segments have several things you can touch (on the touchscreen) to change the nature of the table. In some areas, that's as simple as raising a ramp or moving an obstacle. In other areas, it's important to touch a gate or divider with just the right timing to ensure the ball reaches its next quest destination. Again, the idea seems strong, but the execution is poor. The game is best played using the two shoulder buttons to control the flippers, and that makes it uncomfortable to tap specific objects on the screen. It's perfectly doable, but the good idea becomes an irritation in execution.

Fundamentally, Flipper Critters is intended for kids, but the plot is poorly written and the table dynamics are far too confusing for younger gamers. At $15, a kid might enjoy just hammering the flippers and seeing things happen, but the game would be far stronger if it sported a straightforward logic that pre-teens could easily follow and enjoy. This problem is aggravated by the poor graphics. The game looks like the developer attempted to scale it up from a game originally developed for the GBA and the character animations are awkward and clunky. Even the tables are poorly enough drawn that table elements become nearly indistinguishable. The game would be better served by a clear 2D engine, or if a lot more care was put into the 3D engine.

The pinball-style play is broken up with a couple of mini-games, but these, too, are poorly executed. For example, one game is a vertical, scrolling shooter in which you fire bananas (and more destructive fruit) at a series of incoming enemies. It should be a pleasant distraction. But it isn't as well executed as many free Flash-based games available on the web. That's disappointing.

If you want to pass Flipper Critters off as an inexpensive gift to a younger gamer, you might get away with it. But this is not a game you should give a second thought unless you're desperate for a DS pinball game, and have had enough of Metroid Prime: Pinball. Flipper Critters scores higher than it might have because of it's bargain price tag, but not high enough.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on November 13, 2007 9:58 AM.

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