FLIP RIDERS is a title I’ve been waiting to get my hands on for a while now, since first playing a PC build of the game at San Diego Comic-Con earlier this year. The game, from husband and wife development team Agimat, makes its iOS (and PC debut) today offering iOS gamers a crazy, humorous and challenging, two-wheeled obstacle course-like experience. You’ll laugh and scream as you attempt to navigate one of the game’s cute and unique riders past hungry sharks, avoid explosive bombs and get some air time above low flying helicopters.

Gameplay is spread across six distinct worlds, each with their own captivating visual style and 5 new levels (or courses). Select your rider from the crazy collection of characters including the TRON-like Light Rider to the fearless Maverik. As you make your way through each of the outrageous obstacle-laden courses, jumping, flipping and dodging, there are a number of stars and a trophy cup which can be collected. If you successfully reach the end of a course, you are rewarded with one, two or three stars based on the percentage of the pickups that you collected. These stars are used to unlock additional worlds with more levels (and possibly more riders).

Players have a choice of two control schemes, tilt or a dynamic slider. The tilt controls are exactly what you’d expect, you tilt your device left or right to flip your rider in that direction or do wheelies, etc. As is often the case, I personally felt I had tighter control with the slider controls, which is a left/right virtual slider that appears wherever you place your finger on the screen and you slide left or right in the direction you want to flip. Also at your disposal are an accelerator button, jump button, and a brake/reverse button. Finally, you have the panic button, a nifty little feature which (while pressed) slows down the on-screen action allowing you to better adjust your bike to stick your landing. However, points will be deducted while the panic button is active, so you will need to use it sparingly.

Having only played the game before using a real joystick, I wasn’t sure what to expect with the virtual controls. I was please to discover that they actually responded quite nicely, and the flip sensitivity is adjustable for even better fine tuning. You have a bit more room to spread out your fingers out on the iPad, making it a little more comfortable than iPhone play (at least in my opinion). On the iPhone things are a bit more cramped, with the four buttons angling for space on the right side of the screen. While they work fairly well, ideally I’d like to see an update in the future which would allow you to reposition these buttons for the most comfortable setup.

Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by FLIP RIDERS’ welcoming, friendly and bright Anime-style graphics. The developers contend that “this is not for the faint of heart, as each level requires skill and mastery to beat the course.” They are not kidding! One bump of your head and it’s game over and you’ll need to restart the level all over again. While I think this may possibly be a detractor for some, to them I say, just stick with it. Each rider has their own “physics” so try them all out and see which best fits your individual play-style or the course at hand. Also, with practice and perhaps a little tweaking of the flip sensitivity option you’ll get into the groove.

The one area where the game seems to be lacking is momentum. There have been a number of times when I felt like my bike just seemed to completely lose its speed after bumping into a hill or a pile of blocks and despite having the accelerator button ‘floored’, there was just no umph left in the tank. With no “boost” button to aid you, you are left having to trudge along trying to build back up speed and more than likely dieing in the process, or just preemptively restarting the level from the beginning. FLIP RIDERS would benefit from either some tuneups to the bikes to give them better acceleration (after the initial starting line), or the addition of some sort of “nitro’ aspect which is charged by pulling off tricks and then perhaps initiated via double tap (anywhere on the screen). On a similar note, it sometimes seemed that with a little luck I could just make it through some courses simply holding down the accelerator and doing nothing more than the occasional jump or steadying of the bike (if it looked like I was was going to face plant).

That’s where the Game Center leaderboards come into play, giving you an incentive to pull off tricks and score big points. There are at least two leaderboards for each world based on both score and time, as well as an overall total score leaderboard. A pile of Game Center achievements await to be unlocked as well as 5 additional riders (revealed when completing all courses in a single world). So there is plenty to keep you coming back for more.

In Conclusion

If you are looking for a more realistic and detailed trick racing sim like Trials HD, try another dealership, as FLIP RIDERS is unlikely to fulfill that void. However, if you want some stylish, quirky, challenging and fun, bike flipping entertainment, then you should pick up this universal app for the limited-time launch price of just 99¢ during its first week of release.