It’s fair to say that many of us here are not exactly specimens of physical prowess. Sure, we walk now and then, but we wouldn’t necessarily count exercise among our favorite pastimes in the world. We’d much rather be sitting on a couch playing video games and eating something unhealthy than running at the crack of dawn, watching the sun rise and shivering in our sports gear.
Of course, that doesn’t apply to all of us. Some of us here are exercise fanatics, and they’ve got the bodies to show for it. There might even be a few of us who can do that freakishly impressive gymnastic thing of somersaulting or backflipping on demand, spring-loading our muscles to perform incredible feats of physical contortionism at the drop of a hat.
The protagonist (or protagonists) of Backflipper, the latest game from MotionVolt on Poki, would probably count themselves in the latter camp. MotionVolt themselves have a very interesting story indeed. Lead designer Atte Ilvessuo was one of the founding fathers of RedLynx, whose name you might recognize from the Trials series of games. Ilvessuo founded RedLynx with his brother, with the company going on to be purchased by Ubisoft and the Trials series skyrocketing to international fame as a result.
As such, it’s not unreasonable to expect a certain standard of design genius when it comes to Ilvessuo’s subsequent works, and it’s a pleasure to report that Backflipper does indeed represent those expectations being met. Much like Trials, Backflipper is a challenging physics-based game that tests players’ reflexes, strategic forward planning ability, and capacity for adjusting plans that have fallen through on the fly.
Indeed, on a superficial level there are a lot of similarities between Backflipper and the Trials series. Like Trials, Backflipper is based entirely around death-defying leaps; like Trials, Backflipper allows players to adjust their trajectory slightly in the air, allowing for more pleasant landings; and like Trials, Backflipper gives players the opportunity to unlock extra courses and characters for themselves by playing well and consistently demonstrating skill.
The similarities do end there, though. Where Trials is a sprawling journey across many global locations, each of which contains a series of self-contained levels, Backflipper takes a more Crossy Road-style endless approach. Levels essentially continue until they don’t any more, usually because you’ve died in the pursuit of some incredibly difficult jump or overreached trying to get a collectible coin.
If you ask us, this approach is actually superior to Trials. We do love the Trials games, but we’re big fans of the idea of a browser game ending when we want it to. If we realize we’ve overshot our lunch, we can simply leave our hapless backflipper to his or her fate and nobody will be any the wiser. Thus, Backflipper establishes itself as a compelling companion to a short lunch break or brief moment of procrastination before the work day continues.
Also unlike Trials, Backflipper consists of only one method of input: your trusty, humble mouse. The only way to interface with the game is to click the left mouse button, which both begins the backflip when the desired trajectory is reached and ends it once a favorable landing position has been set up. Your flipper of choice begins on a rooftop with an arrow moving smoothly over their heads, and the direction of this arrow dictates where the jump will aim. Once in the air, your character will begin backflipping (funnily enough), and you’ll need to make sure they’re in a good position to land so as not to end up with the dreaded “fatal hit” message.
It’s a system that works well and consistently provides not only satisfaction on success but also hilarity. The way the Minecraft-esque 3D models of the characters waver and wobble when landing is a joy to behold, and it’s even funnier when you fail, with characters slipping pathetically off the rooftop they tried to land on and falling, legs akimbo and arms askew. It’s a rare game that manages to make both success and failure compelling options, but Backflipper achieves just that.
Once you’ve mastered the initial rooftop area, there are a number of extra levels to unlock using the game’s coin currency. Perhaps you’d like to hop from wing to wing on a mid-flight jet, or maybe you’re more of a one-with-nature type who would master the art of balancing perfectly on tree branches, ninja-style. Whatever your particular proclivity for jumping backwards, it’s likely to be met here in Backflipper’s many levels.
There are also optional characters to unlock once certain coin thresholds are reached, and they’re all pretty funny. If you’ve ever wanted to watch the President of the United States leap from building to building like Batman, this is the place to do it, and may we say you have weirdly specific tastes (no shame, though). Backflipper is simultaneously a challenging physics platformer and a fantasy sandbox for the slightly odd.
For a game that could have been so slight, Backflipper feels surprisingly fully-featured. Its central gameplay mechanics evolve and change in satisfying and intriguing ways throughout the game, and its rounded roster and excellently varied level design keeps things interesting long past the point when it should be old hat. Inventive, creative and constantly funny, Backflipper should be on everyone’s radar.