There's no getting around the fact that Flipnic is an incredibly strange game, and one that sits in a niche so narrow that it meant it was easily overlooked at the time of release. The strange animation that plays as the game loads up should be your first clue that this is something "different". Different good or different bad depends on how you personally feel about pinball, the digital recreation of it, and how patient you are.
You see, purists of real pinball machines are more often than not likely to turn their noses up at video games attempt to do justice to their favourite past time, at least up until recently where Pinball Arcade has come along to challenge those notions. Likewise, a good deal of videogamers probably don't want pinball coming anywhere near their precious entertainment. The number of people who straddle the middle group who appreciate both as valid forms of electronic excitement is quite small, yet it is these people who will get the most out of Flipnic.
The first "table" is the one that most resembles a real pinball machine, replete as it is with familiar elements like pop bumpers, drop targets and ramps. It is comprised of a dozen or so interconnected screens, each of which feature some kind of mode such as multiball or having to knock down specific targets. Flippers are of course a given, and are present in all tables except for the last set, which choose to use a paddle much like the one found in games like Breakout and Arkanoid as the method for you to keep the ball in play.
It's challenging, to say the least. In fact the entire game is quite high on challenge. Even though it is actually quite hard to completely lose your ball on the first stage due to there being only one out hole on the bottom screen, the things you have to trigger to fully unlock the next stage are not easy and will take a fair amount of time, luck and skill to overcome. Thankfully, even when you get a game over, if you save your progress to a memory card you won't have to beat what I call the "core" challenges again. These are the ones in red on the progress screen that have to be defeated in order to fully unlock the next stage. Even if you haven't unlocked them, the game is kind enough to let you play the other stages on a trial basis for five minutes and one continue. This is a nice touch when you lose your temper with a particular challenge (you will) and need to do something else for a while.
|The graphics in Flipnic are very polished and each level has its own style.|
Later tables grow increasingly wacky in their design and each has their own visual style. The music that goes along with each one is nice and funky in places. As for value, Flipnic contains a ton of things to keep you occupied. There are four different table styles and four separate levels within each one. As you gradually progress through, fully unlocking the later ones, you will also gain access to mini games such as football and basketball which can be played in two player mode. Speaking of which, the main game has a two player option as well, though I have not had the chance to try it out yet, sadly.
Overall, if you enjoy digital pinball, or just want a game that's a little different from the norm for that matter, then Flipnic is a very worthwhile purchase. Looking at eBay, it would appear that the game goes for around £15 in the UK and $20 in the US - though it can be found for less if you're patient. I would say this is a fair price for the game, and if you're tempted I would recommend adding to your collection now, before the game becomes any rarer and the price increases. With pinball itself enjoying something of a renaissance at the moment, the number of people interested in classic games like this one will only be on the rise.