Flipping Death Review
Another charismatic tale by Zoink!
*Editor's Note: Minor story spoilers ahead
Flipping Death is the newest release by Zoink! out now on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. It is the pseudo-sequel to Stick it to The Man originally released back in December of 2013 and later released for the Nintendo Switch in November 2017.
I reviewed that game here:
Flipping Death stars Penny Doewood, an angsty young adult that works at the Funeral Home. She has a flair for the dramatic and dresses like the Devil while scaring customers away, quickly resulting in the loss of her job. Frustrated from her firing, she immediately finds her boyfriend for comfort and then wants to run amok. She winds up in the cemetery, where she falls victim to a freak accident and plunges to her untimely demise. And that is where this tale begins.
After a miscommunication with Death himself, Penny Doewood is left in charge of the afterlife. Her mission is to solve the problems of the dead and the living. And she must find her way back to her body which has been mysteriously taken over by another being.
Flipping Death is an interactive story with an emphasis on puzzle solving. The primary concept of the game is to flip between the living world and the land of the dead. As Penny, the player will spend time in the afterlife and possess the living to solve clues and figure out other mysteries or problems for the townsfolk of Flatwood Peaks.
Each chapter in the game follows the same formula. As Penny, you must collect one of three different items, the Ghost critters, the Spirits, or the Skulls. By collecting these items in the land of the dead, you can use them as a form of currency to unlock and possess a human (or animal) in the living world to advance the story. Generally, most characters are unlocked by collecting the ghost critters that fly around the death world in packs. They will respawn, and it's very easy to collect over a hundred in a single chapter. Occasionally, there will be more difficult characters to possess, and these require the special Skulls or Spirits. Skulls are collected by playing a mini-game where the player must collect all the skulls in the area before the timer runs out. It's usually between 10-20 skulls spread around multiple platforms, and the challenges get harder the deeper into the game one gets. The Spirits are interesting as they are inside what appears to be a giant jellyfish type creature that you must lure around but avoid. It's a different type of mini-game for these Spirit orbs, and the player collects these by avoiding the jellyfish creature for an extended period. Eventually, the creature will explode, and the player can collect the items left in its wake.
In each chapter, Penny must possess several of the different townsfolk and have them perform specific actions to advance the story. In one chapter, the user must possess a guy and have him paint a boat with his tongue. In another, Penny needs to take over a seagull's body and poop near a Meatchef to unlock the next scene in the game. Overall, each character Penny possesses has unique character traits that allow them to do something specific to solve the next puzzle. For instance, possessing the Police Officer to arrest a criminal. There are lots of clever puzzles throughout the game. This game mechanic is the updated system that Zoink! built with Stick it to The Man where you'd place Stickers on people or objects to solve puzzles and advance the story in that game.
The Reading minds feature is back, this time instead of latching an alien sticky hand to people's brains, it is performed by pressing the L Button after possessing new characters. A lot of good dialogue takes place between Penny and the possessed character, but it is generally just for fun and doesn't have a major impact on the game or completing the chapter's objectives.
One of my favorite additions to Flipping Death that was not in Stick it to The Man was the inclusion of a hint system. I think this is great, although it definitely makes the game easier, I really appreciate it being added to the game. In most chapters, the player can bring up the menu and view a list of hints of what needs to be done to advance the story. While it doesn't completely hold your hand and sometimes you still have to tinker around and try a few things to get it to work, it generally does a very good job of informing the player on what to do next. The Hint system is built with beautiful character drawings and scenes on what to do.
Replay value is added to the game by the additional sidequests that appear in most chapters. Unlike the main story puzzles, these puzzles don't have the hint system tied to them. Instead, they are legit challenges that the player must figure out by exploring the town and possessing other characters that may not be directly related to the storied events in the current chapter. Some examples are possessing the Jazz musician and attracting other characters nearby with his trumpet. Or spraying holy water on an area that needs water. By performing these special sidequests, the player can unlock Ghost character cards. I believe there are 34 cards in total.
Another nice addition to this game is the map, which can be used as a way to check chapter progress and see which characters have been unlocked and which ones still need to be. It also serves as a fast travel warp system which works well and speeds up playthroughs.
By far, the best reason to play through Flipping Death is to experience the story, the characters and all the wonderful voice acting. This is really where the game shines the brightest. I often compared Stick it to The Man to playing through an adult cartoon and the same can be said about Flipping Death.
While the characters mostly consist of standard professional tropes, they all bring a unique charm to the game. Whether it's talking with the sea captain, the firefighter, the police officer, a little girl with an oral fixation or a vulture, they all bring funny dialogue and crazy scenarios to the player.
Some of the art techniques are really impressive in this game. Driving through the town of Flatwood Peaks makes it feel like you're moving through a Pop-Up Book. The developers have done some really impressive things with this art style. Characters are lovable and grotesque all in one.
Death stumbles a bit ...
As someone who really enjoyed playing through Stick it to The Man, I was honestly a bit disappointed with a handful of things I encountered in Flipping Death.
The worst offender was a couple of gaming breaking bugs. In Chapter 3, while playing as the Mermaid, I encountered a game crash after pausing the game and then unpausing in the underwater area. I was able to repro this soft lock multiple times, where I was completely stuck and had to quit out of the game/current chapter. One time, the game itself completely locked up and crashed and filed a report through the Nintendo Switch OS.
In the final chapter of the game, Penny loses her scythe and warping ability. And you encounter certain monsters. I won't go into full spoilers, but one of the monsters trapped me against a wall, and I was unable to jump away or move, so I kept bouncing in the air and coming down only to be knocked back in the air repeatedly for several minutes. Eventually, I just had to quit out of the chapter and restart from the last save point which was frustrating.
Lastly, I also had issues with the map not properly updating after possessing and unlocking a character. The map read it as if I hadn't unlocked that character in the current chapter, but I had. While this issue wasn't nearly as severe as the others, the combination of experiencing multiple bugs during my playthrough did put a damper on my experience.
Game bugs weren't the only issue I had with the game. While certainly more of a design choice I'm sure, I was disappointed that the game was shorter than its prequel. Stick it to the Man was ten chapters long and some of those chapters got really long. Meanwhile, Flipping Death is only eight chapters in length, and I felt that each chapter generally was shorter than what I experienced in SITTM.
Another area that I felt took a step backward was the environments in the game. Over the eight chapters in the game you mainly play in the world of the dead and the town of Flatwood Peaks. While Flatwood Peaks expands a bit as the game goes on and the land of the dead adds some variations, it's primarily just these two locations throughout the entire game. One other section plays out in the past and provides a different location which was a nice change of pace. However, overall, I felt compared to Stick it to the Man, which included locations like the town, Ray's subconscious, an insane asylum, a carnival, and a space station; Flipping Death felt a lot more limited.
I was also disappointed in the Chapter select menu. In Flipping Death, there is just plain white text and the number of cards you've unlocked. In Stick it to The Man, there were beautifully drawn set pieces to show off the chapter like an image of the insane asylum. I'm not sure if it was budget reasons or design choices, but this was another area that felt inferior to its prequel.
Overall the platforming is a bit loose and floaty. It's not super fluid and responsive and reminds me of something like Little Big Planet that had adequate platforming controls but not great controls. At times, Penny would also jump after I performed a jump, almost a double jump, despite me not pressing the jump button on the controller a 2nd time.
One big change to the platforming is the addition of Death's Scythe that is used as a warp mechanic in the game. If you see an item or area high above that you need to reach, you can throw your scythe and then warp to it by aiming with the Right Analog Stick and pressing ZR to throw the scythe and ZR a 2nd time to warp to it. This improves traveling around the Death World and makes it easier to reach difficult areas on the map. It's a nice addition that is fun to play around with but ultimately doesn't have a huge impact on the game.
Each unique character Penny possesses is a bit wobbly, something that is probably by design as the person is trying to fight off another spirit taking over their body. It results in some awkward maneuvering around the town at times, however.
Tunes for Toons
As someone who visited New Orleans earlier this year and got to experience Bourbon Street first-hand, I appreciate the emphasis of Jazz music that plays throughout this game. Jazz and Voodoo are a big part of the New Orleans culture, and this game adapts well for the fictional town in this game. While there are a few other tracks in the game's soundtrack, Jazz music is by far the most apparent throughout its entirety.
Who Should Play This Game?
If you previously played Zoink's Stick it to The Man and enjoyed their comical characters and story and you're eager for more. Players that value a more cinematic or cartoon experience that enjoys problem-solving puzzles and witty humor.
What Makes the Game Worth Buying?
Zoink! delivers another clever and fun story to play through that is entertaining while it lasts. At $19.99 it may be slightly over-priced due to its short length; which is difficult for me to say because of the high production values of the voice acting. However, if you haven't yet played Stick it to the Man, I'd recommend that game first and suggest waiting for Flipping Death to go on sale.
Amazing voice actors and art style give this game a lot of character.
The different characters become the stars of the game.
Hint System is a very nice addition to prevent players from getting stuck.
Extra Challenges and Ghost Cards add replay value.
Game breaking bugs - crash and soft locks encountered.
Environments aren't varied as much as the prequel.
The game is on the shorter side and can be completed in about 3-6 hours.
Chapter UI menus are very bland and basic.
Platform controls are a bit loose and floaty.
Disclaimer: A Switch review code was provided by the developer.