Zoink Games first caught my attention on Xbox One back in 2014 with their utterly bonkers platforming adventure, Stick It To The Man!, involving a man who acquires an extraordinarily long arm that proves quite useful. Their latest offering, Flipping Death, is seen as something of a spiritual successor to the aforementioned title and so one must expect it to be another creatively bizarre experience, full of laughs and inventive characters. But sometimes in gaming, expectations don’t quite meet with the reality…
Fortunately for Flipping Death though, it’s still flipping good fun for a while, despite a few aspects holding it back from being the best version it possibly can be.
The story of Flipping Death begins with our unassuming protagonist Penny Doewood meeting an early demise under rather mysterious circumstances. Now in the land of the dead, she’s mistaken for the next person to take up the mantle of ‘Death’, to enable the current scythe wielder to go on a well-earned vacation. Whilst here, Penny must help solve the problems of the many souls lurking about, whilst also figuring out what caused her premature death and who the heck is roaming around Flatwood Peaks – her hometown – possessing her body?!
It’s an adventure full of zany characters, both alive and dead, all of whom have a little tale to tell; whether it’s the tennis legend Captain Grandslam who spends the afterlife wishing one of his descendants could live up to his legacy, or the magical duo of Hocus (a bloke) and Pocus (a rabbit) who don’t quite have the spark to succeed in life and constantly bicker. As long as you have a penchant for silliness, there are laughs to be had, especially when Penny uses the mind reading ability on them. There’s no doubt that the creative minds over at Zoink have done a great job in conjuring up such a varied bunch of strange folk and ensuring the voices are spot on.
There are two sides to the gameplay in Flipping Death, with you literally flipping between the world of the living and the dead. In the latter, Penny must traverse many platforms within the area to collect different soul types to use when possessing folk that are still alive and kicking. Some of the ledges are tricky to reach, which is where the grim reaper’s scythe comes in handy as it can be thrown at ledges, before allowing Penny to be dragged towards its destination. It’s a bit fiddly when you’re in a hurry, especially when occasionally being chased by a monstrous creature, but as long as you gather the required souls in the process, the possessions can begin.
The dead world is essentially a darker, mirrored form of Flatwood Peaks, so if you find the silhouette of the character you wish to posses on the living side and pay the soul fee, it’ll flip the field of play and enable you to control whoever it is. This in turn lets you fix a few problems for the troubled souls, investigate Penny’s death and take on a handful of side challenges.
The gameplay in this part has more of a puzzling nature, with you needing to figure out which character has a special ability that could come in useful to further the story. Is it time for tiny Tina to chomp on something with her big gnashers, Lou the fireman to put out fires, or lumberjack Biff’s big wood chopper be of use? Every character has something quirky about them, with my favourite being the hero that can poke stuff using an extra long arm, but it’s up to you to determine if it’ll be a useful talent or not. Should you get stuck with what to do next, as I did a few times, a handy selection of hints are available at no detriment to the experience, which ensure you’re never stagnant for too long.
Then there are the optional, often silly, challenges on offer, which can take place in either world and completing these will unlock ‘Ghost Cards’. The Ghost Cards are like collectible cards that give further insight into the lives and back-stories of the characters featured on them. As a sucker for lore, I spent ages trying to work out how to succeed in each challenge – one of which has you listening to a conversation on a loop numerous times – before giving up when the auto-saves didn’t retain my progress in challenges I’d almost finished. Frustrating? Yes!
Flipping Death’s art style is very similar to that of Stick It To The Man!, with the environment coming across like it’s been made from cardboard cut-outs and then formed into a world that pops out at you. It’s very easy on the eyes, especially the land of the living due to the autumnal colour palette that’s used. Couple that with the soundtrack that plods along in the background without a care in the world and there’s a real melancholic vibe created.
On the whole, Flipping Death delivers a creative idea that will satisfy for a little while as you have fun possessing weird people, working out which one’s the key to progression and, of course, literally becoming Death himself. You’ll either giggle a lot at the humour or find it a bit too inane, but I personally enjoyed the daftness. The quirkiness wears off eventually though and the experience suffers from lasting longer than feels necessary, going off on tangents and dragging out the plot too much. And the fiddly scythe wielding doesn’t help matters either.
Still, there’s enjoyment to be had for the most part and if you’ve had a taste of what craziness Zoink usually offer in their other games, then Flipping Death is worth a look.