WWDC 2010: Backflip Studios Hands-On Previews and Videos

The company behind Paper Toss and Ragdoll Blaster 2 has some of the most jaw-dropping download numbers of any developers on the App Store. Millions upon millions of players have downloaded those two titles, and many are following their newer games like Strike Knight as well. The team at Backflip Games are dedicated to the concept of developing ad-supported games that make them money, while entertaining you for free. We went hands-on with three of their upcoming free titles, and one paid title, to give you a glimpse at what’s next from Backflip.

Ninjump

If Ninjatown: Trees of Doom! and Canabalt walked into a teleporter at the same time, Ninjump would come out on the other side. You control a ninja who automatically scales between two buildings, zipping past clotheslines. A simple tap will cause him to jump to the other side while whirling his sword.

As you climb, you have to jump to avoid obstacles, but you can also try to hit flying ninja stars, birds, and scrambling squirrels. Hit three of the same object in a row with your sword, and you’ll temporarily take on the properties of that item, bounding up as a swirling star, bird, or squirrel yourself. Ninjump will be free, ad-supported, and contain OpenFeint high scores, and after just a few tries we were reluctant to give it back.

Graffitiball

Another ad-supported game with OpenFeint leaderboards, Graffitiball is a physics game where you draw lines on the screen with a virtual spray can, which will guide a bouncy rubber ball to the exit. The physics were surprisingly spot-on, with the ball behaving as you might expect within a pachinko-style board.

There are levels set in different cities, with themed backgrounds like Chicago, New York, Paris, and Tokyo. Some of the special backgrounds we saw included a dragon in Tokyo, and a hot dog in Chicago. With over 100 levels, Graffitiball has no shortage of content, even for a free title.

Buganoids

While Ninjump and Graffitiball both feel fairly modern, Buganoids is deliberately retro. The controls on the bottom of the screen are replicas of an arcade cabinet, and the graphics are pure 8-bit nostalgia. Gameplay is fairly simple: You control a spaceman on the surface of a small planetoid, and can zip around the outside edges, shooting down through the planet’s core. Beasties like turtles, birds, and centipedes will pop out of holes, and you have to take them out before they come to the surface and devour you.

There are seven different levels, and each one should only take a minute or two to complete. Then they’ll cycle through again, but with greater difficulty. Once again, this is a free, ad-supported game using OpenFeint, so Backflip is expecting you to have no reason to turn it down.

Tunnel Shoot

Tunnel Shoot stands out from the other games we played from Backflip at WWDC. It runs natively on the iPad as a universal app, it costs a few bucks instead of being free, it uses tilt in addition to touch controls, and it uses Plus+ for high scores instead of OpenFeint. This is partly because it is being published by Backflip, and was developed by Team Phobic.

Running on an iPad, Tunnel Shoot looks pretty amazing. You fly through a vector-graphics tunnel surrounded by enemies and obstacles, tilting to move around the screen. Holding one finger will issue a steady stream of bullets, while placing another finger on the screen activates a bomb. This game seems a bit more substantive due to the price, but the free games we played were all just as deep.

Tunnel Shoot looks good, but it doesn’t feel like it has quite that same unique vibe as the other games. Then again, it’s hard to top a trio like Ninjump, Graffitiball, and Buganoids.

Keep an eye out for these games– they’ll all be out over the summer months, and then Backflip has even more games planned for the fall and winter. If you thought their download numbers were astonishing before, we haven’t seen the end of it.

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