Review: Fliplomacy03 May 2018 1
Released 28 May 2018
Fliplomacy is absolutely rubbish as a simulator of international diplomacy, but as a puzzle game it’s pretty great. You play a diplomat that must flip a bunch of flags to the player's side by jumping over them like a chequer’s piece, as well as conduct other diplomatic tasks like picking up briefcases and taking transcontinental flights to the other side of the game board. Because, as everyone knows, a diplomat's primary purpose is to retrieve their own luggage.
In many ways, Fliplomacy is a board game. The key mechanic is jumping a single playing piece (or two, in the most difficult puzzles) over various stationary tiles. It feels a bit like those plastic sliding-tile puzzle games (e.g., Rush Hour) that were always on sale at the big-box bookstore.
But Fliplomacy quickly reveals levels of complexity that could only be accomplished digitally; You'll have to deal with teleporters, disappearing tiles, and switches among other frustrations.
The game looks like a board game too. The playing field is represented by a plane of 3D rendered tiles and pieces floating in a pastel mist. The player piece hops along like a meeple while tiles flip, spin or simply fall away. It is all very clean and easy to understand, although the default color scheme can be a bit frustrating in bright light; the pink and purple are not quite distinct enough. Controls are simple and solid: just swipe in the cardinal direction you want to move and use on-screen buttons to reset and undo.
You'll have to think ahead to beat the puzzles and consider the unexpected effects of every move. Jumping over one flag might land you on a switch that undoes all your hard work, but sometimes that is necessary to get you into position to jump all those flags right onto the home space you must end on. Adding to the fun is a 'par' number of moves that represent close to the minimum number of swipes you must make to solve the puzzle.
Since the number of moves you are allowed is often unlimited, you can technically brute-force the puzzles, but that's far less satisfying. Instead, I encourage the player to try, try, again to finish each puzzle under the given number of moves and score those sweet three-star rankings.
Because the puzzles can be so diligently worked out, Fliplomacy doesn't have as many of those 'eureka' moments that characterize the very best puzzle games. You can work out step-by-step the moves you need to make, and unlimited resets and undoes make trying things out a breeze. It is very satisfying to get all those flags flipped to the right color and clear a puzzle, but it’s not as mind-bending as, say, SpaceChem.
All the puzzles are available from the beginning, divided into five chapters of thirty. Each chapter introduces new concepts to the game. You start with basic switches and teleporters and end up having to control diplomats of two colors. In terms of theme, I guess this represents some sort of compromise at the negotiating table? The first handful of puzzles in each chapter have tutorial messages that introduce the new twists the chapter adds. These are easier, but they are still real challenges, not just walkthroughs. Once the hand-holding is over things can get deviously complicated, with multiple traps and interdependencies to contend with.
Fliplomacy has a bargain premium price for the whole game. The only in-app purchases are solutions to the puzzles and different themes that change the colors and the style of the pieces.
The differences are pretty dramatic, and welcome after you've been staring at the same pink-and-purple theme for ages. However, these are also unlockable simply by solving puzzles. This is a great puzzle game that deserves more attention from fans. It is fair and fun with an attractive and easy-to-use interface at a price that is more than reasonable.