Flipping Death is a funny puzzle/adventure platformer in which you switch between the land of the living and the realm of the dead. While it isn’t a direct sequel to Stick it to the Man, Zoink’s previous game shares a similar aesthetic and focus on humour so don’t be surprised if I reference it a few times.
Story & Gameplay
You play as Penny, a tall goth-chick with odd comedic timing. The latter trait didn’t stroke well with her employer in the funeral home, especially when she decided to show up to work dressed as a demon. Needless to say she quickly found herself without a job and if that wasn’t a bad enough start of the day, Death was waiting for her right around the corner.
Not just the state of being that occurs after getting into a tragic accident like Penny did, but the actual persona of Death. Turns out he’s in dire need of a break, on the moon of course because there are NO dead people there, and our protagonist’s demonic attire made him think she was the temp he asked for thousands of years ago.
He hands her his scythe and takes off, leaving little to no explanation or job description. Luckily for both realms, our unfortunate temp is a goodhearted person and she decides to use her newfound powers for good.As the new Grim Reaper, it falls to her to solve the woes of those trapped in the afterlife. Fix their unfinished business and they can move on.
For you, the player, this means you’ll have to collect information to find out how to solve a particular set of problems. Your powers allow you to possess the living and read their minds/make them do her bidding. While the puzzles themselves are often farfetched, the methods you’ll apply usually follow the same lines: You platform around the underworld to gather a few souls, find enough with the correct colour and you can control a living person in the real world. You read their minds, get a funny interaction, test their particular ability and see if it’s useful to solve the puzzle at hand.
Eventually you’ll see pieces of the puzzle fall into place and how to solve the many Rube Goldberg machinations that are present in this game. You don’t have to worry about them being impossible either, as there is a built in hint system without any penalty for consulting it. It’s just a rough sketch of what you should be doing, but it proved to be effictive, nevertheless.
The overall idea is quite original, but despite the wacky situations and even crazier characters, it starts to feel a bit samey. What doesn’t help the matter is that you have to retread the same level over and over again, even in different chapters. While I enjoyed most of the set-ups , this is probably the area where Stick it to the man fared a little better. In the predecessor, I felt like I was seeing more interesting locations and as if you were progressing THROUGH the game, because you actually move ahead. In Flipping Death the progress happens on a more character based level: you help more people and gradually the plot moves along.
Focussing a bit more on actual gameplay for a while: what I really couldn’t get behind, but I realise it may be a very personal sentiment, is how the characters move around when Penny possesses them. They flail about waving their hands like those inflatable balloons you see at a cardealer and using their powers often relies on weirdly applied physics. It caused some frustration when I couldn’t hit back a bowling ball, with a tennis racket, with my newly found zombie arm, to smash a hospital window for example… Yeah, don’t ask. The scenario itself is fine and I can always appreciate a comedic approach, it’s just the execution that was sometimes lacking.
I REALLY enjoyed the loading screens. That may sound weird, but the recap you hear before starting a new chapter just makes me chuckle at how ridiculous the situations I’ve found myself in have been.
Comparing it to Stick it to the Man may have grown old already, but it’s interesting to see how a developer grows in a few years and finds ways to improve the formula: the platforming itself is a lot more fun now as Penny can throw the scythe and then warp to its location, making for some dynamic movement in a game-type that usually requires little less than some point and click puzzle-solving. There are also no frustrations if an enemy gets you as you no longer have to respawn and try again but you can just shrug it off and only lose a few collected souls.
Graphics & Audio
I really, REALLY loved Stick it to the Man’s cardboard visuals and I was happy to hear Zoink was making a game just like it. And while Flipping Death looks absolutely amazing, it dropped the “paper” aesthetic and lost a tiny bit of the charm in the process. When I say tiny, I do really mean tiny: the game looks gorgeous and you feel as if you’re on stage in a play, the only thing missing are the wires holding up the decor. I wish more games went for this faux-3D style, with multiple layers of flat objects…
As for the audio: the voice acting is as stellar as ever. Every voice actor delivers their lines perfectly. The one-liners are timed just right and you can tell some of them had a lot of fun reciting their dialogs. Missing this time, is the fast forward option where everybody sounds like a chipmunk, I enjoyed that bit of ridiculousness in Stick it to the Man but it’s by no means a requirement to keep around.
Making a return are the repeated phrases that can occur if you walk by a certain trigger point in the game, though this shouldn’t be too frequent if you know where to go each time and only annoys if you’re going back and forth looking for the next piece of the puzzle. Funny enough, there is even a major joke in the game that centers around repetition: listen to this couple long enough (saying the SAME thing over and over again) and there’ll even be an achievement in it for you.
Flipping Death is similar to its spiritual predecessor in many ways. It has a lovely aesthetic that never gets old and a type of silly humour that seems to have become a trademark for the developer. While the platforming is a lot more fun, the physics based mechanics rubbed me the wrong way and I didn’t care much for revisiting the same level (and possessing the same characters) over and over. It’s still an enjoyable game for a single runthrough and one that I would recommend for fans of the genre.