First time I heard and played a Zoink! game was during my first visit to Rezzed and the game was Zombie Vikings, a title I would go to pay, love and review. This year, continuing with Zoink!’s strange fascination with death, we have Flipping Death, a puzzle platformer all about being dead and influencing the living.
Flipping Death stars Penny, a young woman and Halloween fan. At the start of the game she loses her job and follows that unfortunate event with an accident that sees her fall down a chasm and land on a rock, apparently killing her. But due to a misunderstanding, Death doesn’t realise she’s just a mortal soul and hires her as a temp while he goes on vacations, leaving Penny to learn on the job, helping the dead find resolution and move on, her new powers allowing her to possess the living and invade their minds, with hilarious results.
I really enjoyed my time with Flipping Death, finding that wonderful humour and zany storytelling I’ve come to adore from Zoink! games, making me laugh up to the very end, sometimes from good jokes and other times from how surreal it all feels.
Flipping Presentation: Flipping Death has the same pop up book 2.5D cartoonish style that I now find synonymous with Zoink! The world is large, sprawling and above all, completely mad. The city you play in and the surrounding countryside is incredibly colourful and vibrant, but at the press of a button you literally flip the picture to its back, which is the world of the dead, using darker tones, various shades of purple and copious amounts of eyes, teeth and tentacles, giving the afterlife a definite Lovecraftian feel. It’s the same overall map but treks across and between worlds feel fresh because of both the aesthetic differences and the layout changes.
The Needy Dead: As a newly minted Grim Reaper, one of your jobs is to make sure the dead make it to the afterlife and don’t get stuck in the world of the dead with grudges or regrets. And boy do they have weird requests and to help them you need to manipulate and aid their even stranger living relatives and former neighbours. This results in genius multi-part puzzles that are as challenging as they are funny, and they’re really funny at times.
Charming Vocals: While the music in Flipping Death is fun, what I truly enjoyed were the character voices. Penny’s both charming and snarky in a way that just makes the comedy work ever better as she’s often the deadpan element of the joke, the “straight man,” in the insane world around her. The rest of the cast is equally amazing and watching the credits roll by it was another case where I’m amazed at just how many voices a single voice actor can perform and yet make them sound unique.
Hi I’m your Conscience: From the start, as soon as you get your standard Death Hood and Scythe, you’re stuck in the world of the dead and your only option to flip the world around is to possess the living and move them like marionettes, which is exactly how they move, making some of those experiences really silly. Best of all, you can read their thoughts, and the way they respond to this new voice in their head is fantastic. Some dig it, some get freaked out and a badass biker is completely immune. That was a surprise!
Lots to do: Aside from the main quest in each chapter, you have tons of challenges around the map. These are essentially mini quests and completing them unlocks ghost cards with the information on the many denizens of the underworld. I’m not a fan of these kinds of things, but the puzzles to complete the challenges have enough meat in them that I enjoyed the few I did complete. The Santa Claus ghost gift challenge was the best, as some of it is part of the chapter’s story.
Reaper Moves: The city you play in, as I’ve said, is sprawling, with multiple levels and paths to reach every character—and you must reach and posses them to enable fast travel—and even more so in the land of the dead, where the flipped world might lack hills and have ledges instead and pits instead. Fortunately, Penny is not only a quick learner in the arts of reaping but extremely athletic, and her scythe not only grants her teleporting abilities but if used at the right time, you keep the thrown weapon’s momentum, which means you’ll often fly to your destination. Reaching even the farthest reaches is not only quick but a lot of fun—especially if you have to collect some of the tougher to get currency. And if you don’t want to platform, there are lifts and taxis all over the place. Hell, some of the creatures you possess can fly!
Unnecessary Recap: Every chapter begins with a skeleton recapping the one you just completed. It’s funny at first, but it’s so slow that enduring it becomes a waste of time, especially considering how much the character recaps. It’s optional, sure, but if the narrator had stuck to the important bits, the most recent developments, the entire thing would be more bearable.
Too little of a good thing: The music in Flipping Death is great, and I really enjoyed the soundtrack. The problem is that the songs are too damn short, so in every chapter you’re likely to hear the same song repeat over and over to the point where it outstays its welcome and you really want to turn the volume down!
Level Reset: Every chapter in Flipping Death is a new “level” which brings with it the most annoying of consequences: a full reset in terms of currency and characters possessed. This means that if you spent the last chapter “unlocking” every citizen and ran around collecting the necessary minor spirits—the currency of the underworld—to posses’ people, you’ll be back at square one as soon as the chapter ends. It becomes increasingly frustrating as the game progresses since the size of the map expands constantly.