Ever wonder what it’d be like to spend a day in Death’s shoes? Don his dark cloak, wield his signature sheath, sever souls from recently deceased bodies and lead them on their path to the afterlife? Ok, I know what you’re thinking… Death doesn’t wear shoes! Alright…fair. But, if you did want to know what it’d be like to play Death for a day, now you can.
Flipping Death, developed by the Swedish indie game company Zoink, is a comical adventure platformer. Set in the whimsical town of Flatwood Peaks, the story follows Penny Doewood, a super rad goth-like girl with big dreams and an obsession with the morbid. After being fired from her job at the local funeral home, Penny meets up with her boyfriend Elliot for food, movies, and smooches. But after a car wreck and taking a shortcut through a graveyard, Penny accidentally falls to her death. Game over.
Just kidding. Penny wakes up and is given a second chance, except this time, she’s a ghost.
She finds herself in the Land of the Dead and is greeted by the spirit of a boat captain with an anchor stuck in his head. I suspect that has something to do with how he died, but I’m no doctor (nor do I play one on TV). Penny insists she’s an alive human, as opposed to the dead humans around her, and that this whole situation is a mistake. Eventually she runs into Death himself and tries to explain to him the predicament she’s found herself in. Unfortunately, he mistakes her for the temp he ordered. Before Penny can get a word in edgewise, Death gives her a cloak, his scythe, the responsibility of managing the souls of the underworld, and then leaves for a well-deserved vacation on the moon.
After a quick tutorial with ghost Lady Elderdough, Penny is well on her way to help trapped souls move on and ultimately try to find her way back to the Land of the Living. The gameplay is relatively simple; explore the world, possess the living, solve puzzles, complete the missions, and if you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can try your hand at bonus challenges.
The scythe Penny is equipped with can be used as a means of transport to get to platforms that are out of reach. However, playing on the PS4 I never quite got comfortable with the mechanics needed to operate the scythe. The buttons required to throw and teleport just didn’t feel natural to me. It’s an important skill to learn though as it’s not just needed to teleport but to also burst through pods of Ghost Critters. In order to have enough power to possess a living person, Penny must collect the Ghost Critters, who have a nasty habit of running away when she gets close to them. Don’t bother being stingy with how you spend your Ghost Critter collection, there’s plenty to go around and each Ghost Critter pod regenerates if you leave the area and come back to the spot they were at initially. Part of me wishes there was a finite number of Ghost Critters to make it more challenging. On the flip side though, I enjoyed being able to collect them quickly and proceed with possessing the living to complete my missions.
While built in 3D, Flipping Death has a 2D cardboard aesthetic to it, similar to is predecessor, Stick It to The Man! The environments are all drawn on flat surfaces, with platforms built to pop out and provide depth. The color pallet for the Land of the Dead even has the same shades of purple that Zoink tends to use in all their games. But what this game has that their other games don’t, is that this time you can flip between two different worlds. When players possess the living, the characters and background flip, exposing the colorful world behind them. Once you take possession of a human you can control their movements and read their thoughts, which often provides comedic commentary. I shouldn’t limit the possession to just humans though; you’ll have the opportunity to possess a dog, a bird, even a whale.
The off-beat jazzy soundtrack sets the tone and perfectly accentuates the game’s quirky feel, while the voice-acting undeniably gives life to the characters, providing them with distinct personalities. But it’s Ryan North’s script that brings it all together. The story’s pacing never faltered and the narrative is chock full of jokes, some of which touch on hot topics like toxic masculinity and gun rights. Zoink’s PR and Community Manager, Alexandra Dahlberg stated that, “We really wanted a game full of humour, and humour without connection to the world we live in can (in my very personal opinion) fall kinda flat. And some of the characters definitely opens up for discussing certain issues.” Providing commentary around topics seen in the headlines certainly wasn’t the goal of the game, but I appreciate the execution of including those types of moments. They never linger on the topics, and they don’t hit you over the head with them either. But I have to say there were a few moments where I definitely chortled when an unsuspecting joke about our society would appear.
Flipping Death is ultimately a fun and eccentric game that never takes itself too seriously. When asked what players should expect to take away from the game Alexandra responded with, “I hope they are a bit tired from laughing. The game doesn’t really have one big wisdom to leave the player with, our goal is for people to feel like they had a really fun time with it. Maybe they can feel a bit better with being a bit weird after realizing weird people are quite likeable.”
Flipping Death is currently available on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Steam (PC).
Check out the trailer below: