Stick It To The Man was an underrated puzzle-platformer so clearly designed to be in the style of Double Fine that Tim Schafer was thanked in the credits. It was really fun, highly amusing, had a gorgeous and eccentric papercraft world, and while it had some annoying action moments we’d highly recommend it. It was a like a 2D Psychonauts in many ways.
Since then developer Zoink has worked on co-op beat-em-up Zombie Vikings and the wonderful 3D Fe for EA, but now they’re finally heading back to the 2D puzzle-platformer with Flipping Death, which can be best described as Grim Fandango meets Psychonauts in the style of Stick It To The Man, which could be a veritable cornucopia of Tim Schafer goodness - and he’s not even involved. It looks great already, too.
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You play as Penny, who has a problem - she’s dead, and she’s in denial about it. After she’s just about to get used to life as a ghost she meets Death, who mistakes her for a temp he requested a few thousand years ago. He passes his duties on to Penny and immediately goes for a vacation, leaving her to reap souls and clear up the mess the Afterlife’s been left in around Flatwood Peaks. But Penny’s more concerned with clearing up the mystery behind her own death...
Flipping Death is played entirely in 2D with platforming elements, and Penny can throw her Scythe and transport to it to get distance, grab hold of things and platforms, or get the jump on collectable Souls. But what gives the game its hook (and title) is the ability to flip between the Land of the Dead and the Land of the Living. Penny can possess mortals (or just their ice creams) and the screen flips to reveal the much more colourful living world on the other side.
Here’s where the puzzles come in. Penny’s goals are twofold - to find out how she died, and in helping the ghosts on the Dead side pass on. To help the ghosts she has to visit the Living world and complete their unfinished business, using a patsy or Regan. For example the fisherman I encountered wanted to see his beloved boat painted and launched, which was also helpful because he said Penny could use it to get across a lake. Unfortunately there are complications on the Living side - there’s no one with a brush around, the only source of paint is hanging out of reach (and is, somehow, staring at me), and even if I did get it down how do I get the paint out?
Here’s where things get adventure game-like in their logic, but Flipping Death is so quick and fun it’s more like ridiculous experimentation than solving obtuse puzzles. I “solved” this particular puzzle easily just by trying things out, and I was both delighted that they worked and grinning from ear to ear about how silly they were. Getting that paint can down I had to possess a, ahem, “tickling” superhero-wannabe and “tickle” a switch that knocks the can down… at which point it revealed itself as inhabited by a monster that chases Penny through the Dead side, until I lead it to a big ghostly hand that grabbed it.
Then I possessed a dentist, holding his drill, which he enthusiastically started threatening the townsfolk with until I got him to drill a hole in the now-stationary paint can. But what about the brush? Well, I possessed an annoying rich guy’s tongue and, just for the heck of it, tried to make him lick the paint. It worked, and I used his tongue to paint the entire boat blue. The joy of comedic adventure games is trying something silly and having it work, and Flipping Death nails that. What was even better was knowing that the fisherman was killed by his wife when she discovered he had a secret mistress, which she found out about because he named his boat ‘The Secret Mistress’.
Flipping Death currently has a release date of Q1 2018, so can’t be that far away. It’s due out for PC, Xbox One, PS4 and Nintendo Switch.
Flipping Death is a crazy but incredibly fun game, just from the little we’ve played. The demo concluded, after a boat ride on The Secret Mistress to an island, with a fight against an entire house - which chased us as we were possessing a lumberjack. All the characters are weird and interesting, and most have something grotesque wrong with them that makes them even more interesting. We don’t know how hard the puzzles will get as the ones we played were already pretty nuts, but as long as they allow for the same mad experimentation we’re happy to keep playing.
We admit we hadn’t actually heard of Flipping Death before playing it, despite loving Stick It To The Man which this is intended as a spiritual sequel to. Now we have played it though, Flipping Death is one of our most anticipated games of the year. Hopefully that release date will come very soon.
Most Anticipated Feature
Delving deeper into Penny’s backstory, as she seems the crazier character in the whole nuthouse.