The Flip Grip unleashes one of the Switch's best features
I'm not sure when exactly it was decided that putting a screen on its side was a smart way to go about playing games, but I know that for some games it's the only way to play. It's why, over the years, I've risked various monitors by placing them on their side, so I could play the likes of Gunbird 2 or Ikaruga the right way. It's how I killed the hulking 32-inch CRT TV in my old shared flat in Deptford, its innards expiring with an almighty pop as I tried to demonstrate to a friend the magic of this thing they called tate mode.
Tate mode just being the fancy way to say 'vertical mode' - and 'tate' being the term that slightly annoying people like myself who insist that if you're not playing a vertical shooter while putting your expensive monitor at risk of serious harm then you're just not playing it at all, of course. Thankfully, the Nintendo Switch's detachable screen has allowed a way to play tate mode games with little pain or fuss, and since the launch of the console developers have taken note - there's a sizeable list of games that support the feature, and in a short amount of time it's become, if you're of a certain inclination, one of the Switch's best features. Pick up one of the Hori stands, plug in a stick and you've got your own portable arcade machine.
And now it's a touch more portable still, thanks to the Flip Grip, one of the simpler Switch accessories but also one of the most transformative. It's a modest piece of black plastic that's host to some smart engineering - courtesy of Mike 'Mechachoi' Choi and Jeremy Parish, who it should be pointed out for reasons of full disclosure is formerly of this parish and remains a good friend of Eurogamer - and a handful of surprising features. What it does, quite simply, is gives you a place to lock your Switch in vertical mode, with two rails either side to position the Joy-Cons for a complete handheld unit. And that it does well - it feels as sturdy as playing unadorned in horizontal mode the way Nintendo intended, and thanks to the use of soft plastics in the right places there's no risk of scratching your console.
It's the other small details that really make it, though - there's a catch at the back, highlighted in brilliant orange, that locks the Switch in place and makes installing it a doddle, and removing it just as simple (though remember to pull, not push - something I was too dim to realise at first when I prodded the button and wondered why nothing was happening). Around the back is a small slot for you to insert a credit card as a makeshift kickstand, something that works remarkably well.
As for games to play with the Flip Grip, there's a sizeable amount (too long to fully detail here, though there is a list that's intermittently maintained on Reddit). My own personal recommendations would be any of Psikyo's vertical games - there's Strikers 1945 and its sequel, the brilliant Dragon Blaze and the two Gunbird games and, if you're looking for something a little more quirky, the Breakout-ish Gunbarich. There's Ikaruga, of course, while the Namco Museum also plays host to a fair amount of vertical games, while the ultimate pick has to be the recently released SNK 40th Anniversary Collection. Here you can play Vanguard - one of the pioneers of vertical shooting - all the way through to the three Ikari games, and it's a must-have accompaniment to the compilation.
Downsides to the Flip Grip? There are a handful, though not really through any fault of the Flip Grip's own. The device blocks off a sizeable amount of the top of the Switch console, meaning you don't have access to the volume or power buttons - but you can control the volume by holding down the Switch's Home button, so it's a problem with an easy enough workaround. There's also the problem that your Joy-Cons are disconnected from the console itself while they're in the Flip Grip, which means the Hori variant with the d-pad that'd be oh-so-welcome when playing the older arcade games this is designed for is a no go. A small shame, even if it's hard to imagine there being a workaround for that particular problem.
This is a relatively inexpensive peripheral, though - you can pick it up for $12 from Fangamer's site, with units expected to start shipping next month - and it does what it sets out to do with class and flair. A quirky little device for a console that's host to some quirky little games - and if you've any love for the older arcade classics that are available on the Switch, the Flip Grip is pretty much essential.