Developer: Chillingo Ltd.
Price: $0.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★☆☆
Game Controls Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Gameplay Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★☆☆☆

img_00018Flip Disc is a connect-five puzzle game where you must deal with jewels that move to the center of five concentric discs. The player may spin any of the discs in order to line them up into like-colored lines of five. Successful alignments are rewarded with points that send you to the next level. There are, as in most of this type of puzzle game, special jewels that either complicate or boost your performance.

Chillingo seems to have brought a different take to the connect-five genre. It’s nice to see something a little different than the mass of grid based connect puzzles. The sounds and music are nice and the graphics, while not at the top of platform, are fine for the genre.

The real problem with Flip Disc is that it’s not an iPhone game. I can’t see a single thing that’s been adjusted for this port from Windows Mobile. This is a real problem on the platform. There are some great games that would be great on the iPhone if the developers would just take a second to think about the hardware they’re using.

The first and most frustrating thing is the controls. An up button (to move to outer discs) is on one side and a down on the other. This carries over from Windows Mobile and I can’t imagine that it was a much better control arrangement over there. If you press up and then want to go down, which way does your finger move? Right. Press Left to go up. Press Right to go down. On top of that, up and down really doesn’t describe the way the discs move. In and out is a better description. Neither works very well with the buttons in their current configuration. The rotate buttons make slightly more sense in that you click the bottom-right button to rotate from the bottom to the right and vice-versa for the left.

All this isn’t a dealbreaker and certainly isn’t the worst control scheme that we’ve seen. The problem is that it could be much, much better. Why not use the platform’s features? Landscape orientation is good. Move the platform to the left or right side. Enlarge it. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t fill the screen. Let’s get rid of the rotate buttons. Place the up button on top of the down button on whichever side of the screen is open. Now the user selects discs moving up and down. Then, do something platform aware and use multi-touch. When the appropriate circle is selected the user can already has their hand on the platform and rotate it instantly, intuitively and with much greater confidence. Alternatively, remove a disc (making it a connect four game), blow it up to the edge again and let the user simply select and rotate the discs with their fingers. Another option, let the user touch the center to move inward, and outside the circle to move outward. Continue to spin the discs with multi-touch.

One aspect of retro-gaming I'm glad to leave behind...

One aspect of retro-gaming I'm glad to leave behind...

There are a lot of other indications that things weren’t ported in quite the right way. When, for example, you enter your name to record your score, you’ll find yourself taken back to the NES glory days, pressing up and down arrows to scroll through the alphabet letter by letter. It seems like the iPhone’s keyboard would have been a better choice. The games also has, strangely enough, an exit button. Not a problem, I suppose, but just another example of something that really doesn’t have a reason to be there.

A couple days into playing Flip Disc, the app refused to launch at all even after a restart. Only an uninstall and reinstall would rectify the issue. This is a 1.0 release and most of those come with a few bugs. You might at least wait for 1.0.1 if you’re considering a purchase.

After some time with the game, it seems like a good concept that was delivered in a completely wrong way. I couldn’t encourage anyone to purchase this game at this stage of its development. There are plenty of other really fun games out there that were made with the iPhone platform in mind.

Update: This morning, April 22nd, Chillingo released their 1.01 update to Flip Disc to address a few of the issues mentioned in this review. The first change is an option to use multi-touch controls. While these controls work (barely) it’s fairly easy to switch discs when trying to rotate and vice versa. Rotation works in steps instead of a smooth motion, which limits any feeling of control. The second change was to increase the size of the disc and graphical upgrades, which are definitely a positive. The last change lets you select the letters in your High Score name by swiping up and down, which, ironically, doesn’t work as well as the original method. The iPhone keyboard should be used. I’m glad that updates are coming and hope this addresses stability (though that wasn’t noted in the release), but this update doesn’t really address the weaknesses of the port at this time.

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