iPhone It In: bitFLIP

I first heard about iPhone pseudo-puzzler bitFLIP from the game's developer, Metamoorephosis Games owner (and JPAG member) Josh Hernandez. I'd be remiss to not mention upfront the hesitation with which I approached reviewing said game for iPhone It In, given the development source being a Joystiq reader and podcast listener.

It was a convenient delight then when I first loaded the game up on my 3G and had a thoroughly enjoyable time playing it. Though a truly egregious boot time put me off from playing bitFLIP during my every free moment over the two or so weeks I spent with the game (that time was reserved for Canabalt), I was still anxious to play it when my free time was longer than a scant few moments. Mixing interesting puzzle mechanics, great music, a truly unique (and often beautiful) visual presentation, and a variety of gameplay options, I can confidently say that there's more than enough enjoyable gaming to be had here to warrant your two bucks.
Pushing past the initial load time's poor representation of bitFLIP, the brightly colored main menu immediately shows off the sheer amount of game included in this package. At first jumping into the game's medium difficulty Campaign Mode, I spent a quick 20 minutes matching three shapes or more on a five by five grid, with variation on the classic "match three" formula added by flipping pieces (two sides per piece, and thus two colors). Getting a phone call mid-play and having to rush out, I was relieved to see that the game had automatically saved my progress when I next loaded it up.

There's a lot going on during each level's harried three minutes. A meter at the top of the screen is being constantly filled by matches made and special icons that can be hit, eventually resulting in one of two minigames (Bubble Pop or Tilt) popping up mid-puzzle. While it sometimes feels like there's no real punishment for messing up or not moving quickly enough, an ever-decreasing timer and a handful of on-screen cues give each level a real sense of suspense.

Endless Mode ("Endless Play") offers the same gameplay as Campaign Mode, albeit with no level cap in sight. Rather than reach an end to the game, you're tasked with holding on for as long as you can before the board is overwhelmed. A steady stream of new piece shapes help to make Endless Mode ridiculously difficult as time goes on, though I still found myself bouncing along to the game's soundtrack as the levels got progressively harder.

Metamoorephosis Games went an extra step with bitFLIP compared to the usual low-priced iPhone game by including an achievements system, dubbed "iComplishments." These work exactly like the Xbox 360's Achievement system, popping up as you go, recording your iComplishments for that particular game, and encouraging specific gameplay. While it'd be nice if these badges of honor were part of a larger ecosystem than games from publisher Hands-On Developer Network, I couldn't ignore the (maybe silly) draw of artificial accomplishments.

Unfortunately, I was unable to test the game's multiplayer mode, though the developer claims functionality across Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections. That being said, the very fact that such a mode was included makes bitFLIP all the more attractive (especially given the price). Even if you don't pick up bitFLIP, at least do yourself the favor of downloading the game's soundtrack for free. You'll thank me, I assure you.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.