Stick It To The Man! was one of the first PS4 games I played and since then I’ve had a hankering for another quality comedy adventure by Zoink, so you can probably imagine my excitement for Flipping Death when it was first announced, and now that I’ve played it I am not disappointed.
It’s Halloween and Penny has just lost her job at the funeral home for inappropriately combining the ghostly holiday with the arrangement of burying dead people (which, if we’re being honest with ourselves, makes more sense than it should). With nothing to do Penny and her boyfriend head home and take a shortcut through the graveyard, where Penny falls through a mausoleum and dies.
Penny wakes up in the Land of the Dead and due to the Halloween horns she’s wearing, is mistaken by Death to be a demon temp. Death hands over his ghastly hood and his broken scythe, and takes off to the Moon on vacation.
You would think that Flipping Death would task you with killing people and reaping souls but in actual fact the concept of death is flipped entirely on its head and you’re actually a glorified agony aunt solving peoples’ problems. Collect ghost critters in the Land of the Dead to possess people in the Land of the Living. Flip between the two realms to help the living achieve life-long goals and to help ghosts wrap up their unfinished business so they can pass over to God-knows-where.
As you would expect with any adventure game, Flipping Death sets up each chapter with an initial goal – for example, maybe it’s something simple like “catch the killer” – but in order to complete it you have to first solve a series of absurd dilemmas that inexplicably have a domino effect that breadcrumbs the way to the finishing line. Sometimes it can be a little obnoxious but because Flipping Death is a comedy it rightfully made me laugh, or at least made me roll my eyes and tut forgivingly for its tongue-in-cheek justification.
Flipping Death has a playful art direction that mimics the flat two-dimensional fluidity of childrens’ sticker books while being ironically gothic due to the characters’ heads being split in two; when a character talks the top of the head is always disconnected at the jaw. If a game isn’t going for realism I am always willing to get behind a unique style, especially as its fast becoming an expectation of Zoink.
The writing is top notch too. It’s not always hilarious but it’s always clear what’s supposed to be funny. Sometimes it strays into dad-joke territory but that’s okay as Zoink are being buffoons on purpose. Nothing is supposed to be serious. The clowning around is embellished and it should be embraced because of it.
I did find the difficulty to be unbalanced. I thought Chapter 2 was much more difficult than the final chapter and I don’t think it’s because I was better at the game by that point. I think it’s because Chapter 2 is a large level with too many characters that can be possessed, so I struggled with the overwhelming thought that each character was important and necessary for the task at hand, which they weren’t. It was mentally draining trying to figure out who could be ignored and it was a situation I never found myself in after Chapter 2. There are hints that can be accessed in the pause menu and unless you’re a stubborn grump like me I would definitely look at them. They won’t spoil the journey for you and they might be the one thing to get you out of a sticky situation. If you get lost swallow your pride and give ‘em a go.
Flipping Death could also have done with a better pedigree of voice actors. I found it grating on the ears how most characters sounded like the same person straining their vocal chords in a variety of ways. It was like listening to myself make a prank phone call with my mates back in school: at the time you think you’re doing a decent impression but with 15 years of hindsight it’s obvious now that the person on the other end was never falling for it, and ultimately the joke was on me. Deep down we all know who had the final laugh.
Should you play it? Yes
Why… If you’re looking for a game that isn’t driven by a heavy combat system or you’re looking for a light narrative experience then Flipping Death is a no-brainer. With simple controls and a funny plot it’s the perfect game to play with your feet up.
But… If you’re looking for a quick pick-up-and-play game then this isn’t the one. You’ll want to finish a chapter at a time otherwise you’ll lose your train of thought. Although not thought-provoking Flipping Death will hold your mind hostage until you find the mental capacity to finish whatever abstract quest it asks you to finish.
Reviewed on PlayStation 4. Review code supplied by Zoink.