Ghost Tricks and Treats
A highlight of Nintendo’s Super Mario Odyssey was its capture mechanic – the ability to take over another creature’s body to complete challenges. Zoink Games takes that possession concept and injects its own wacky sense of humor with Flipping Death, a game that blends adventure, puzzle platforming, and a bizarre artstyle that is out of this world.
Here’s my Video Review for your viewing pleasure!
Flipping Death stars Penny, a girl who dies within the first five minutes. Following her untimely demise, she meets the grim reaper, who mistakes her as his temp worker. She gains the otherworldly power to possess living humans, using their unique abilities to solve problems, the biggest of which is the mystery behind what happened to her original body. The story is fine on its own, but the highlights are the characters. Despite being a body-snatching ghost, Penny’s one of the more normal people in this town of absolute oddballs, which includes a deranged man who licks anything in sight and a masked supervillain with the power to poke others – the Pokeman.
The dialogue is just as ridiculous, and the solid voice delivery brings the town to life. It’s worth possessing everyone simply to hear what they say, from a dentist with an overactive imagination to a psychiatrist singing his happy song. Speaking of music, the jazz lounge soundtrack doesn’t stand out, but it fits the easygoing tone. The cartoonish Tim Burton-esque artstyle adds to the charm. People’s heads split in two while they talk, and their arms flail hilariously as they walk. The 2D paper cutout backgrounds present a distinctive diorama aesthetic. I still can’t wrap my head around driving down the paper-thin ribbon roads that weave in and out of the city.
Flipping Death’s gameplay is just as noteworthy. The game is akin to point-and-click adventures, but instead of pointing, you have manual movement. In the world of the dead, Penny can seek out living people and inhabit their bodies. Upon doing so, the screen literally flips around to the world of the living, and you are free to control your new character. Everyone has their own special quirk. For example, the lumberjack wields an axe, the musician plays a trumpet, and the young girl can blow bubblegum to float. You use these unique abilities to solve puzzles, and you can bet that they’re weirder than your average game. To illustrate an early one, you end up using a dentist’s drill to destroy a paint can so that another man can lick the spilled paint to color a boat…with his tongue. Every chapter’s objectives test you to find the right person to do the job, and all of these brain teasers feed into a larger goal, like exposing a murderer’s identity.
The puzzles and interface are overwhelming at first. After all, within the first hour, you have access to about a dozen characters. Not to mention there is only one solution to each problem, and you usually have to set up a chain reaction of events to solve it. Due to the game’s absurd nature, there are big logic gaps, and I often had to stumble to the answer by trial-and-error. Luckily, the game does its best to ease players in to the mechanics, allowing you to test-drive each character and learn their quirks in a safe environment. It’s clear the developers want you to succeed. Objectives are clearly listed, a skeleton hand points towards the next destination on the map screen, and picture hints essentially provide a step-by-step walkthrough. While it’s more enjoyable to figure it out on your own, the hints work well as lifelines for the esoteric in-game logic, provided you can resist abusing them.
Flipping Death isn’t perfect; it has its flip sides. Although the living world is fun to explore, the world of the dead feels underutilized and comparatively empty. It’s a shame because Penny has some stellar moves of her own, like a neat teleport by throwing her scythe. Her platforming abilities are mostly squandered, and you spend your time there doing the same challenges repeatedly: luring creatures into chasing you, avoiding exploding jellyfish, and collecting skull currency that you expend to possess humans. It’s the same predictable formula every chapter. The fact that you can conveniently teleport to any human you’ve possessed makes the underworld travel feel moot. My other major complaint is that your possessed targets have wonky controls. You use the right stick to control their limbs, but they wiggle around so wildly that it can be difficult to perform precise actions.
Clocking in at about seven hours, it’s a short adventure, and I was left craving more. It’s unlikely you’ll play through the main campaign again, but there is some replay value through bonus challenges. You can go back to each chapter and attempt several bonus puzzles. Success awards you with collectible cards featuring character artwork and full biographies. It’s a wonderful inclusion that extends game life and expands upon the charismatic world.
Flipping Death delivers a creative spin on the adventure genre, all while embracing its own quirky sense of humor and stylistic art. It’s a short game but a treat to experience, thanks to clever gameplay and an insane cast of wacky characters. If you’re a fan of point-and-clicks and puzzle platformers, you may want to flip the Switch on this one.
Note: A review copy was used for this article.