Game Boy Guru – Flipull (1990)

Image shamelessly stolen from GameFAQs.
Nothing says 1990 like ransom note style text, bright colors, and
a pun on the word “tubular”. Michaelangelo, the Teenage Mutant
Ninja Turtle, would be so proud, and would totally play this game,
if he had small enough “fingers” to hold a Game Boy.

While I have tried to, thus far in the Game Boy Guru project, show a balanced set of games, with carts spanning multiple genres, for those unaware, something needs to be put on the table right now.  The Game Boy has a LOT of puzzle games.  We got quite a few in the Us, though there are even more in Japan.  Jeremy Parish, who does the excellent Game Boy World series, has lamented the glut of puzzle games on the Game Boy throughout several of his YouTube videos, because you can only have so many puzzle games to play before the novelty wears off.  The overwhelming barrage of puzzlers makes sense, however, given the original hardware’s limitations, what with its decidedly underpowered CPU, its small dot-matrix screen, and tendency to blur horribly when playing anything with fast action.  The real trick for developers was to come up with a unique way of implementing puzzle solving that was just different enough to warrant folks spending their hard-earned cash to buy yet another game in the genre.  Thankfully, Flipull has two advantages: being early enough in the system’s life to beat the glut, and setting itself apart enough to matter, even after the flood of “me too” puzzle games.

I’m still not clear what “AN EXCITING CUBE GAME” means, Taito.

Flipull is not an original Game Boy title, but rather, a conversion of an arcade game by the moniker Plotting.  It saw a Famicom and Game Boy release in Japan, though curiously, only hit the Game Boy in the US.  I confirmed with noted UK Game Boy expert Matt, the Game Boyle, that Flipull did not, insofar as he’s aware, receive a European release.  The rather exhaustive game database at RF Generation also shows in a cursory search for Flipull that only 3 versions of the game exist by that name, the Japanese and US Game Boy versions, and the Japanese Famicom version.  Though the game was released in the arcade as Plotting, and apparently ported to a number of European micro-computers during the 1980’s, most notably the ZX Spectrum and Commodore Amiga, curiously none of those versions appear to exist in the database.

So I’m a tiny blob throwing blocks at other blocks, and then after I bit
a block, another block comes flying back at me. It’s all fun and games
until someone loses an eye.

I’ve been unable to find a scan of the game’s manual online anywhere, and despite the fact that the US Flipull cart is quite common, I’ve not stumbled across the manual in the wild as of yet.  As such, the only documentation I was able to find on the Game Boy version was a relatively small FAQ over at GameFAQs, and that barely covers how to play the game.  I also found a PDF scan of the US arcade version manual, which gives a brief overview of how to play the game, as well as noting that there are (in the arcade original, anyway), 60 stages.  I have been unable to confirm that in the Game Boy version thus far, because it’s a difficult game, and I’ve not been able to complete it.  Even so, it’s a hard enough game that I suspect even the most skilled puzzle gamers may find some real challenge.

How is it that the incoming block only lands on top of you when you
have no moves left? Or is it just beside you, and you, as the blob,
are just beside yourself with shame in knowing you failed your task?

The basic premise is as follows: you are a blob creature, and you are given a block with the letter “S” on it.  When you throw that block at any other block, you clear it (and any blocks just like it directly connected to the target block in the same trajectory), and whatever block it hits next, gets “flipped” back to you, and that becomes the next block you throw.  There are 4 basic block types: a block with an “X” in the middle, a block with a smaller square in the center, a dark block with a white diamond, and a block with an upside down “T” that looks a bit like the t-shaped tetrad from Tetris.  If my first statement about clearing blocks didn’t make sense, let me set the stage.  If you have an “X” block that you’re throwing at another “X” block, and there’s an upside down “T” block behind it, you’ll clear one “X” block, replace the upside down “T” block with the “X” block you threw, and the “T” block will be thrown back at you.  If there are more than 1 of the “X” block in line (vertically or horizontally) with the “X” block you’re aiming at, and they line up with the direction you’ve thrown the “X” block, all those blocks will clear, save for the one you just threw, and whatever the next non “X” block is, that’s what will be thrown back to you.  If the block you just received has a corresponding block you can throw at, the process repeats.  If not, you “MISS” and lose a life, denoted by the “S” block at the bottom right of the screen.  Your blob can only move up or down on the playing field, so in order to throw blocks to places you could only target vertically, you have to throw against part of the stationary wall blocks, and a handy-dandy arrow will show you which column you’re aiming for.  Clear as mud?

“Ooh, a swing and a miss for the rookie! Tough break, kid!”

In practice, it’s actually more intuitive than my overly verbose description might make you think, and once you start playing, it’s something you pick up on rather quickly.  Toward the top-right corner of the screen, you see “CLEAR” and a number below it – that number is the maximum number of blocks that need to be left on the screen to clear a level.  “TIME” is, of course, the amount of time you have left to play a stage, and “BLOCK” shows how many blocks are actually left in a level.  Once you reach the max number of blocks in a level, the stage doesn’t automatically end, however.  If there are still available moves and time, you can continue playing until you’re out of moves.  This is advantageous, as you score additional bonus points for clearing more blocks than what you need to reach the “CLEAR” total.  As you advance a few levels, you begin to have obstacle “pipe” blocks in the stage that you can throw against to catch blocks 1 column closer to you, or if you throw against stationary wall blocks, you can often pass through the pipe block to reach whatever is below it.  As the game goes on, each stage will have more and more blocks, more obstacles, and less time to reach your goal, so you have to manage your time very effectively in order to complete a level.

That little blob jumps pretty high when clearing a level. I suppose
if I were just a blob, such things would excite me like that as well.

A couple other considerations: first, if you’re targeting blocks vertically, and you clear the last one from the column you just threw the block at, rather than disappearing, the last block will be flipped back to you, so you have to be careful to not pull such a maneuver too early in the level, lest you waste “S” blocks.  Second, for each block you clear on a level beyond the “CLEAR” count, you earn 1,000 bonus points.  If the “CLEAR” count is 9, and you have 9 left on screen when there are no more moves, you get 1,000 bonus points, but for each block you eliminate below that total, you get an additional 1,000 points.  So if the “CLEAR” count is 9, but you finish the level with just 7 blocks left, that’s 3,000 bonus points.  In addition, for every second left when you finish the level, you earn an extra 10 points, so between that and the block count, you can really rack up the score if you can think on your feet and act quickly, decisively, and most of all, correctly during each stage.  The other major consideration is that each level is randomly generated, which means no two experiences will be the same, at least not unless you play the game a lot.  So each time you go into Flipull, you have to be cognizant about the moves you’re making and think critically.

As mentioned, you can rack up a lot of points simply by playing
each stage carefully to eliminate as many blocks as possible.

I don’t have any information about how well this game sold, but I do remember seeing quite a few ads for it as a kid, and I remember it getting generally positive reviews.  I also remember being intrigued by it, but never remember seeing it in stores when I went to buy the occasional Game Boy game.  Either that, or I was already set on which game I wanted to buy, and had tunnel vision when I got to the store.  Despite that, it seems to be quite common, which is good, because it’s a good game that, for puzzle enthusiasts, is worth a look.  I haven’t played enough of them yet to know whether this would be considered a top-tier Game Boy puzzler, but I certainly had fun with it, and it has an addictive quality that makes me want to keep trying, even though it brings a relatively stiff challenge.  I paid $7 for my copy, which is close to the current (as of this writing) average price of a loose cart on eBay.  If you can score it for less, go for it.  If not, it’s still a good game, and has enough content to keep you coming back, assuming you enjoy puzzles.  If so, give Flipull a try.  Hopefully, you’ll be entertained as I was.  Casually recommended.


Originally published on the official Game Boy Guru blog:

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About GameBoyGuru

I am the Game Boy Guru. I am attempting to collect, play, and review every licensed North American Game Boy game release. Yes, I realize I'll be doing this until I die. I also enjoy other retro/modern gaming, and collecting games and gaming items. I'm also a music lover (metal!) and collector of CD's and vinyl albums.

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