Flipping Death (Switch) Review – Flipping Great
Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PS4, Xbox One
Developer/Publisher: Zoink Games
Release: 7th August 2018
Zoink Games is known for making weird games, just look at their previous titles like Stick it to the Man. While Fe looked more like a conventional game, their latest title Flipping Death resembles pretty much anything one would expect from them: A quirky 2D puzzle game with seemingly endless amounts of personality. For someone like me, who never actually played many games from them except the quite lovely Stick it to the Man, I was pretty excited about something with the same charm!
Death is something no one truly associates great things with. After all, once our existence ends, there´s nothing left of us … or is there? When Penny falls victim to a terrible accident one day, she finds out how much is still waiting for us after death … on the flipside of our world, the ghost world. On top, she´s also confused as the new intern for death himself, who´s just happy to finally take some time off his job. So her adventurous life starts anew, tasked with helping the ghosts out with their problems and guide them to their eternal rest … or something like that.
Sounds quite strange, right? It very much is. Flipping Death is the culmination of Zoink Games’ unmistakenly crazy humour. From the fact, Penny is death´s intern, to the dozens of citizens and ghosts lurking in every chapter of the game. Coincidentally, those are by far the strongest parts of the game too. Through the ~6 hours long playthrough, you will be presented with a plethora of strange characters. Damn, I still remember my reaction when I found out about the kid who´s obsessed with naming and eating ice cream or the meatball-shooting, war-obsessed cook. With the abilities to shift between the ghost and real world, reading the minds of the citizens or even controlling them entirely, Penny has a wide arsenal of tools to explore those surreal persons (besides solving puzzles).
At the start of every new chapter, I often found myself taking control over citizens just to hear more crazy stuff from them. Every one of them is a charming, sick but unbelievably funny person. A huge part why all of them work so well is the excellent writing, which really breathes life into those people through great puns, personalized patterns and the simple lunatic humour known from Zoink. Especially since many of them actually undergo some sort of small character arc over the gametime, making it worth to be invested in them. Then there are the ghosts, who have their own, equally absurd backstories of how they died, that are even more leaned toward dark, gritty humour than the rest of the game. Honestly, everything about the characters is just a lovely, mix of strange, unique ideas, that spending time with those people was some of the most fun I had since months.
Unfortunately, the overall plot can´t keep up with this high quality, due to a simple problem: It never makes use of the clichés. Flipping Death doesn´t feature a rich or particularly amusing story, telling the tale of Penny saving some ghosts, while finding out more and more about her seemingly reincarnated corpse. Naturally, the overarching plot has not much to go for it except foreseeable twists, what´s the far bigger problem are the questlines. To go along with the crazy humour, the individual questlines try to merge self-awareness with story and fail like many other titles. Instead of choosing an overused cliché and evolve it into something great, they simply took them as given. As a result, many of the puzzles and even storylines seem somewhat underdeveloped.
Let me explain: For example, the first quest revolves around finding the murder of an old wife, who naturally was her husband. Considering how cliché and clear both set-up and writing are, that´s fairly easy to know right out of the bat. However, in the last task, Flipping Death actually wants you to incapacitate the guy so he can be arrested by the police. At this point, both the characters nor game ever explained he´s the murder, simply assuming the player knows what to do and needs to additional input. As a result, I was stuck for several minutes, trying to find a way to make it clear he´s the murder.
In short, the game often fails to communicate the end goal to the player, because it´s too self-aware in a way. Luckily there are some great hints to make those puzzles easier but still. Such hard walls are all the more frustrating when the base gameplay itself isn´t great. As I said, you use the citizens and their individual quirks to solve puzzles, creating a simple but really quite fun experience. Yet, those passages are obscured by jumping sequences, required to reach certain areas or collect tiny ghosts needed to infest the minds of those humans. Frankly, jumping doesn´t feel very good, resembling more of a fast, kinda uncontrollable, easy to miss feel, often due to Penny´s huge body but tiny hitbox.
On the other hand, those huge bodies, as misleading as they may be in the gameplay, are part of Flipping Death´s second big pillar: The art style. Rocking the obscure style known from Stick it to the Man, the world presents itself as a giant, deformed mess at first glance. Cars are tiny with huge cabins, people look like the Canadians from South Park and nothing makes any kind of physical sense. Luckily,y that´s exactly what´s so great about it. Except for Zoink Games, I´ve seen no developer able to pull this kind of style off, especially not in such an amazing manner. Like the characters, I immediately fell in love and still look at screenshots with pleasure. The fact it runs surprisingly great on the Switch, despite long loading times, as well as rocking a super good soundtrack just add to the enjoyment.
Zoink Games really didn´t disappoint with their new titles. Even though it has some gameplay and story problems Flipping Death is everything at least I came to love about this studio: It´s funny, stylish, incredibly well done, entertaining and strangely unique. For 20 bucks you get one of those few titles that will likely stick with you for quite a long time after finishing it, simply because it´s such an enjoyable experience.
[A Review Code was provided by Zoink Games]