Developer: Zoink Games
Publisher: Zoink Games
Release Date: 7 August 2018
Price: $19.99 / £17.99
Reviewed by Gary Gray & Phil Myth
Humour comes in a variety of forms, from lowly slapstick to cerebral one liners, and Flipping Death puts its hilarious yet dark and twisted writing at the forefront of its artistic construction.
The protagonist, Penny, meets her unfortunate end early in the game, and her soul is transported to the flipside where she gets mistaken as a temp for Death himself. It's reminiscent of Terry Pratchett's Mort, and is equally entertaining, with the writing as hilarious as some of the Discworld author's own.
After being given the Grim Reaper's trusty scythe and cloak, Penny gets tangled between freeing trapped ghosts on the other side and helping out the living in the town of Flatwood Pines. Players flip between the land of the living and its shadowy mirror by possessing characters who have not yet kicked the bucket. Doing so allows you to solve puzzles as Penny tries to figure out what's happened to her.
Not only is the story itself side-splittingly hilarious, but each unique character brings rib-tickling problems to be solved too - whether it's tracking down a ghost's murderer or simply polishing off some decorating they didn't have chance to finish before they snuffed it. Problem solving is the main focus of the gameplay, with the game largely centred around a point-and-click style adventure, albeit with some light platforming elements thrown in for good measure.
Where the platforming is infrequent, it’s not Flipping Death's strong point. Jumping animations feel a little lacklustre and controls can be a touch on the stiff side. Luckily though there’s no real penalty involved in making a bad jump, as there’s no pitfalls or hazards around. It’s merely used as a way of getting from point A to point B.
As you hop around the level, you're given a different ability depending on the body that you possess. For example, 'Poke-man' lets you take control over his arm and poke things and people (much to their annoyance), or you can take control of the swinging arm of a lumberjack and wield his axe. These unique attributes are all the tools you need to get through your adventure, and you're often required to think somewhat outside of the box in order to solve the challenges at hand. The obscure nature of these solutions can be a little frustrating at first, but once you embrace the insanity of it all, they're just as pleasingly amusing as the dialogue that leads you to them.
Characters are all brilliantly voiced throughout too, and possessing the living inhabitants of Flatwood Pines before listening to their thoughts often yields the clues you need to solve the townsfolk's problems. Story progression and character interaction continually build across the two realms as each story chapter slowly evolves. As you progress you'll expand your reach into Flatwood Pines, and while new areas do open up in each chapter, gameplay is largely confined to the one town. A little extra variety in setting would’ve been nice.
Visually though, Flipping Death is outstanding and easily one of the best looking games to hit the Switch so far. The hand drawn characters and backgrounds laid out in a pseudo-3D environment are a real treat, and characters bend and flex as they ragdoll around the environments. The land of the living is bright and colourful, whereas the land of the dead is filled with contrasting pallets of dark purples and pinks, really adding to the 'flipped' vibe.
Things aren't always as you’d expect flipping between the two realms either. On one side you might have a normal looking house, but on the other side, it becomes an angry stomping monster with dark and piercing eyes. This separation is what makes the flipping mechanic work so well. Everything's similar, yet different enough to surprise in hundreds of little ways.
Complementing the twisted Tim Burton-esque visuals, is a perfect soundtrack that adds to the atmosphere wonderfully. 1940s jazz-style chiming pianos and strained brass sections collectively give Flipping Death a whimsical charm that fits the overall tone and humour to a tee.
Flipping Death's side-splitting dark comedy is refreshing, well written and brilliantly performed, complemented by some incredible art and a wonderful soundtrack. With so much character, it's a must buy for fans of comedy or point-and-click adventures, with some excellent mechanics and puzzles throughout.
Pros & Cons
+ Hilarious dialogue
+ Visually stunning
+ Unique characters
- Little level variety
- Clumsy platforming