Tuesday, August 7

Review: Flipping Death [Nintendo Switch eShop]

The classic PC adventure genre is one that is near and dear to my heart, but that isn’t to say that it’s not without its flaws. For all of the positives of things like their humor and aha moments where things click there are all-too-familiar problems like a tendency for you to get lost, needing to click everywhere to find items, and solutions using your inventory in odd ways that aren’t intuitive. Stepping into this problem with a bit of a different take, and perhaps a brilliant solution to many issues, is Flipping Death. With its thoroughly quirky and entertaining characters, lack of inventory management, and a hint system that nudges you in the right direction without always giving everything away it does a fabulous job of mining the positives of the genre while doing away with many of its problems.

In the game you play as Penny, an adventurous young woman who meets an untimely demise and through an accident of timing inherits the job of being the grim reaper from Death, who is in need of a long-put-off vacation. If that seems weird, buckle up folks, that’s just what happens in the first few minutes and it’s just the tip of the iceberg. In this new role Penny has a few very useful powers. She can throw her scythe in the air and then teleport to it, which is very useful for platforming around. In addition, if she collects the 3 different types of souls she’ll find through exploring (and sometimes completing small challenges) she’s able to take control of people still in the living world, with each person she possesses having a specific skill or tool that she’ll need to advance the story. Using these abilities and “flipping” (the mechanic of moving between the living and dead worlds literally flips the screen the other way, much like a mirror) between the worlds of the living and the dead you’ll have to try to help various dead characters and then eventually work to stop someone who has taken control of your own dead body.

Very much building on the foundation they’d established with Stick it to the Man, Zoink has maintained and even improved upon the best elements it had to offer starting with its humor. It’s been quite some time since a game made me laugh out loud this frequently. Taking possession of someone or something in the living world allows you to not only control them and make use of some ability they have, it will also allow you to mentally communicate with them. These bits of dialogue and how each person or animal reacts to being controlled like a puppet are both varied and hilarious. Whether it’s the cleverly-named Poke-Man, the dive-bombing pidgeon, or the brace-faced little girl who just wants to find something to go full Chompzilla on the voice acting for these characters is plain brilliant and as well-produced as you’d find in any AAA title or movie. The major area where it has stepped away from Stick it to the Man and other adventures is that it really has done away with an inventory and needing to find things. Instead the act of possession will put you in control of someone or something that already has an item or skill you need, greatly reducing complexity and giving you an excellent excuse to go out and possess everyone to help yourself understand the part they may play in things.

Aside from finding a clever way to avoid the issues with inventories and items another thing Flipping Death does very well is provide you with just enough help when you get stuck. In general the key to all levels is to first explore, gather souls, and possess everyone you can. This will fill you in on the situation, give you a feel for what everyone has to offer you, and hopefully give you a starting point for what you need to do. Each level is almost like a Rube Goldberg machine when it comes to resolving their ultimate issues, it requires a sequence of events to take place, and on the surface most of these would seem to be unconnected. Since it can be a stretch at times to see where you need to go next opening up the menu will give you access to hints. Rather than directly point you somewhere or give you a long explanation these hints are instead just a single picture, typically giving a few crucial pieces of info: Who you need to be in control of, what they need to do, and sometimes where they need to do it. This is usually just enough information to give you a direction but it doesn’t typically give away everything you need to do to get to that point either. Most of the time when I used it I found it to be just the nudge I needed without telling me too much and I appreciated the care they used in their method and delivery.

Overall, Flipping Death is an outstanding title that is among the most outright entertaining games I’ve played. Rather than use its humor as a crutch to prop up some convoluted puzzles and messy gameplay elements it instead tackles those issues with care and what I think is a great new direction others should look to emulate. If you like a good laugh, even if Adventure games typically don’t work for you, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

Score: 9

  • Amazingly funny and impeccable voice acted across the board
  • An inventive mechanic allows you to take control of people and their skills to solve puzzles
  • A map that is very useful for pointing elevators and ways to get around
  • Has a hint system that gives you a nudge in the right direction without completely spelling out what you need to do

  • The puzzles can still be quite convoluted at times, and there will be situations where you’ll think a certain solution to a problem would work but won’t be the one they’re looking for
  • The platforming elements are weirdly under-used on the whole
  • Hint overuse and abuse... don't do it!