Zoink Games is a Swedish indie game studio that is slowly rising among the indie development scene. One thing that is clear in their games is that they all feature a very distinct art style and are full of humor. I remember playing Stick it to the Man, which released free for the PS Plus subscribers, and I really enjoyed the humor and gameplay presented in it. It was a side-scrolling platformer that had a strong focus on story and character development.
Zoink Games followed it up with a couple of different games including Zombie Vikings that had their trademark art style and Fe, which was a pretty good interactive adventure albeit with some flaws. They have finally returned to what made them so great with Flipping Death, which is essentially a successor to Stick it to the Man. It follows the same storytelling and art style, however, the premise this time is very unique and draws your attention right from the get-go.
Flipping Death is all about playing the role of Death. You know? The Grim Reaper who is in charge of taking down the lives of humans that have met their fate. Flipping Death does let you role-play as a Grim Reaper but it is not explicitly about killing humans. Not like that at all. It is more about helping the undead spirits in the afterlife by taking possession of humans and using this to solve puzzles or story elements. The name Flipping Death is cleverly used here because the main character essentially flips and flops between the real world and the afterlife.
The lead character of the game is a loudmouth girl named Penny who tends to make a lot of self-deprecating jokes and throws out plenty of clichés, but it still works well somehow. I think the writing and humor are not the greatest here, but the story scenarios presented are all very interesting and it feels good to figure them out, even though the game offers plenty of hints if you get stuck on a particular scenario. This is why it is fun to play Flipping Death which divides the story into various chapters. You are free to replay a chapter if you miss out on the optional missions that offer collectibles.
The game is apparently written by Eisner-award winning Ryan North, and it shows too since the writing is really enjoyable. Your character can read the thoughts of each human that they are able to control and it can often lead to hilarious scenarios. Penny herself is the center of a mystery as she dies in the prologue due to mysterious circumstances and the rest of the game mostly revolves around her role as the Grim Reaper. The real Grim Reaper who passes the baton to Penny takes this opportunity to go on a vacation on the moon because according to him, there are no souls there.
Flipping Death is part platformer as well. You have a scythe that you will be able to throw and can teleport anywhere within its reach. If you want to jump higher, just throw it to the sky and teleport with the press of a button. It is also possible to use it to hang and reach inaccessible locations. The platforming mechanics only work mostly in the afterlife and are not really used that well for the human world. There are different collectibles in the afterlife and for possessing a human, you need to collect them since each human carries a certain requirement. There are 3 types of them with the first type being the most common one that is easy to find everywhere.
Each human that you can control in the game will come with an unlock requirement, which you can collect through platforming in the afterlife. Once you have the required amount of collectibles for them, you can control them in the real world. This opens the door for some fun interactions as you can hear their thoughts and use a unique dialogue, quirk or skill of them in the real world. There are many great cases of human possessions used in the story to figure out the narrative and it was mostly well designed and beautifully integrated into the overarching plot of the game.
Flipping Death on the Nintendo Switch is a good port but the load times between chapters are rather long. You also get a monologue and recap of the previous chapter during the loading so it is not all that bad. The good thing is that loading is only limited per chapter so once you get done with it, you don’t have to face any more load times and it is all a seamless experience. The visuals in the portable mode look alright but I feel like to better appreciate the art style, it is best to play it on the big screen.
This is not a long game by any means. You get done with the story rather quickly, but there is some incentive to replay the game again due to the optional goals that you can complete in each level. They result in unlocking the ghost cards for any NPC that you can interact in the game. These NPC all feature a personality and their ghost card helps you get a better understanding of their background. It is a fun optional content that is also easy to figure out if you pay attention to the quirks of each character.
Flipping Death Review (Switch)
Game Reviewed on: Switch
Game description: Possess the living, aid the dead and flip between the worlds of Flipping Death - a puzzling adventure platformer where you find yourself filling in for Death. Maybe your new powers will help you solve the mystery of your own demise?
Flipping Death is a worthy successor to Stick it to the Man and takes many of the elements from its predecessor to make for an even better experience. The premise of controlling Death and finding out the fate of certain humans is an interesting one and the art style gives the game its own unique personality, but it can also be divisive for others.