The Switch may appear to live in the same family as tablets and smartphones at first glance, but Nintendo, perhaps wisely, has kept those comparisons at arm’s length. The Switch OS doesn’t react when you pivot the system from landscape to portrait orientation, and the vast majority of Switch games feature only minimal support for touchscreen interaction. These limitations aren’t generally an issue, but there is a subset of Switch games that may cause you to question Nintendo’s apparent rigid view of the system’s identity.
Thanks to the efforts of developers such as Hamster Corp. and Digital Eclipse, the Switch plays host to numerous arcade ports, a large number of which were designed to be played with the screen rotated 90 degrees. Playing them that way, of course, requires you to disconnect the Switch’s Joycons so you can prop up the system. That’s all well and good if you’re in a suitable environment, but the process is easier said than done on the go. Thankfully, the $12 Flip Grip has arrived to pick up where Nintendo’s design team left off.
Inexpensive, straightforward, and hugely impactful in the right situation, the Flip Grip quickly feels like a must-own accessory once you start using it. Simply disconnect the Joycons, rotate and insert your Switch into the Flip Grip, put your Joycons into the tracks on both sides of the bracket, and you’re basically ready to go.
One caveat of an attachment like Flip Grip in a world where Nintendo isn’t concerned with portrait mode is that navigating the system requires a bit of roundabout thinking on your part. Because the Flip Grip will obstruct access to the power button and the volume toggle, you will have to resort to pressing the Home button and using menus as an alternative means of powering off the system and adjusting your audio. Once in a game, you will also have to enter a menu to rotate the image into portrait mode. There is a bit of an adjustment period while you get these habits down, but once you’re used to the process it’s hard to imagine playing certain games on Switch without Flip Grip.
Arcade ports like Punch-Out and Donkey Kong go from using a small portion of the Switch’s display to filling up the entire screen, and rather than sitting away from your Switch with a controller in hand, you get to be up close and personal with it while you play–the way Nintendo originally intended. It’s not only a more enjoyable experience, but when playing vertical shooters like Ikaruga or Gunbird 2, the larger viewable area makes it easier to navigate complex bullet patterns and live to fight in another level.
While you’re enjoying your newfound appreciation for Switch, it’s easy to take the Flip Grip’s finer details for granted, but they are worth noting both for piece of mind and for the added appreciation of the accessory’s thoughtful nature.
The inside of the bracket’s support wall features four felt pads that prevent scratches and smooth out the insertion process. Nearby is a flexible plastic tab with a rubber stopper that helps secure your Switch in place by slotting into one of the two speaker grooves on the back of the system. Releasing it requires just a little tug from the backside of the Flip Grip, but not so little that you’d disengage the stopper by accident.
Most important of all, long gaps along the inside edge of the Flip Grip allow for sound and air to move relatively unimpeded. And while you may not realize it at first, you can also slot a plastic card into one side for a makeshift vertical stand.
With adequate safety measures, thoughtful design considerations, and a very modest asking price, there’s almost no reason to think twice about Flip Grip if you have interest in the Switch’s current and upcoming vertically oriented games. The only other minor considerations to keep in mind are that the Joycons won’t be able to charge while you play and that the OS isn’t built to support the Flip Grip the way some games are. These grievances aside, 12 bucks is a trivial cost for an improved gameplay experience. The Flip Grip will make you think twice about what the Switch is capable of–and perhaps wonder why Nintendo hasn’t capitalized on an obvious opportunity.
Editor’s note: An early production model of the Flip Grip was provided to GameSpot courtesy of Fangamer.