Flipping Death is Zoink’s latest narrative-driven puzzle platformer, and echoes their work in Stick it to the Man. It’s out now on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Playstation 4 and PC – this review is about the PS4 version of the game.
Stick it to the Man is one of my favorite Playstation Vita titles, so I was very eager to go hands on with Flipping Death. Stick it to the Man was innovative with its gameplay, had tons of character in its writing and art style, and was fun to play as well. Zoink’s most recent title was Fe, which was published by EA just a few months ago. Flipping Death, however, is a return to the art style and universe of Stick it to the Man.
In the game, you play as a girl who meets her untimely death – and then meets Death himself as she’s forced to take his place as he leaves to enjoy a long-awaited vacation. Temporarily in charge of the world of the dead, you’re granted the power to transcend the realm of the dead and control characters in the world of the living as well. Possessing them, you can read their thoughts (which propel the story forward through clues and objectives) as well as steer them towards their goal and use their often unique abilities.
While the platforming is fairly generic, the puzzles in Flipping Death are often quite wacky in nature. In that sense, Zoink harkens back to the era of the classic Lucasarts adventures (and later Double Fine productions, I suppose). Combined with the art style, it’s almost like playing through some kind of crazy comic book adventure – perhaps not entirely surprising considering the narrative was written by Ryan North.
My switch from the Vita to the PS4 means that Flipping Death doesn’t have the wonderful touch screen implementation “Stick It” did on the Vita, but perhaps the Switch version does. Then again, it would be far less impactful here since you’re not actually sticking things to in-game objects this time around. As a result, the gameplay feels a tad less innovative than it did in “Stick It”, but you get a more streamlined experience as a result. Flipping Death has handy markers in place and uses a map to help you get around and to the right spot – which is extremely useful in a game where the individual parts can seem nonsensical (but intentionally so).
I would have loved seeing Flipping Death on the Vita, but Zoink has significantly upgraded their visuals for this spiritual successor and it’s designed to run only on current-gen hardware as a result. The screen flipping mechanic looks cool as well, and it shows every time you switch between the mortal and undead realms – showing they’re two sides of the same coin. Controlling the citizens of Flatwood Peaks can look a bit awkward because of their flailing limbs that you use to usher them around the scene. It’s a design choice, as are the floppy mouths that keep reminding me of Terrance and Philip.
Talking about specific puzzles and characters would spoil a bit of the fun, so I’ll try to refrain from doing so. The narrative structure of the game does mean that the replay value is limited, but it pays to explore a bit while playing to get access to hidden (optional) challenges. Even without doing so, the game is quite a bit meatier than Stick it to the Man was, showcasing that Zoink has grown as a developer with a bigger and more streamlined game. If you enjoyed their previous title, you’ll certainly enjoy this one.