A true spiritual successor
Flipping Death is the follow-up to the hilarious Stick it to The Man. While not a direct sequel, it takes place in the same universe and features a few familiar faces. You don’t need to have played the first game to understand what’s going on, due to its standalone nature, but I highly recommend that you do.
The story of Flipping Death centers around a young girl named Penny who meets an untimely demise and finds herself filling in as a substitute for the grim reaper. Without any training whatsoever, she’s expected to fulfill the last wishes of some needy ghosts, so they can finally find peace and move onto the afterlife.
Flipping Death (PC, PS4, Switch [reviewed], Xbox One)
Developer: Zoink Games
Publisher: Zoink Games
Released: August 7, 2018
Ryan North, known for his work as the writer of Marvel’s The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, is back again with his signature brand of schlock-filled humor, and it’s clear that the team is aiming for the same zaniness that made SitTM so damn endearing. Unfortunately, the jokes here feel slightly more forced, and it never quite captures that same surreal, “flying by the seat of your pants” atmosphere. It still got plenty of chuckles out of me, but it never delivered any serious gut-punch laughs..
A lot of that can be boiled down to the way you interact with the world. It’s just extremely “by the numbers” and safe. The core mechanic here is a basic perspective swapping ability where you’ll switch between the lands of the living and dead. You’ll take possession of a character’s body, interact with an object, and then shoot back over to the other side to start that whole process over again with someone else.
It’s a far cry from the ever-present physical humor of the first game, where the main character ran around with a giant, wriggling spaghetti arm popping out of his brain and slapping unsuspecting thoughts into NPCs’ heads. The puzzles and presentation here are rather tame in comparison. It’s still fun watching scenarios play out after setting up a huge series of events, but I never felt like there was any real challenge or creativity to solutions, and the experience dragged a bit as a result.
However, if you do ever find yourself stumped by a particular brain teaser, there is a hint option available on the pause screen. These aren’t so much “hints” as literally pictures showing exactly what you need to do. On top of this, NPCs are prone to give out thinly-veiled clues as well during dialogue sequences. All in all, even if you do get tripped up here and there, you’re looking at roughly five hours of play time.
That’s not such a terrible thing either. The credits rear their head well before the experience has outstayed its welcome, and it left me with a genuine smile on my face. It’s a tad bittersweet because it never quite lived up to its potential, but it’s still a delightful little romp in its own right. The art style of the original is improved upon greatly, with more animations and detail, and the soundtrack will keep your head bobbing from start to finish. As a returning fan of the series, there’s plenty to love. I just wish it didn’t all feel so gosh darn comfortable.
In my eyes, one of the biggest things holding Flipping Death back is its lack of feeling like there’s ever much at stake. SitTM’s titular The Man was out for world domination, and the lack of a truly memorable villain this time around really hurts the pacing overall. It still works, but the story mostly saunters to its inevitable conclusion.
The lead character, Penny, never sees any true growth as a character. She is largely the exact same person from beginning to end, and it’s difficult to shake the feeling that she’s essentially only serving as a tour guide, escorting you from set piece to set piece.
Despite my complaints with the game, it’s still a hugely enjoyable time. The background characters are what make this world worth visiting. Whether it’s a dentist who wishes he had drills for arms, a seagull that likes to poop on people, or a would-be super villain that obsessively pokes things with his finger, Flipping Death offers plenty of laughs.
However, it had some pretty big shoes to fill, and it left me slightly wanting. I really hope this isn’t the last we see of this universe, and I’d love to eventually get a direct sequel to Ray’s adventures from the original, but this serves as a wonderful appetizer in the meantime. If you’re looking for some low stakes, goofy fun, you could do far worse.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]