Most game I’ve played that center around death do not tend to be particularly whimsical or zany. Flipping Death, however, has both of these attributes in abundance. It’s a puzzle platformer with heart and style that has a sense of humor that is 100% safe for work but more than a little bit off-kilter. It’s certainly a unique game and an almost instantly recognizable one, but let’s take a closer look to determine if there’s some meat on these bones.
Flipping Death is a story that focuses on Penny, a young woman with a bit of an eccentric streak but an overall positive outlook on life. This outlook, it turns out, actually extends beyond what we would traditionally call life. Due to a quick series of misunderstandings, Penny finds herself filling in for Death (who is glad to finally have a chance to take a vacation…on the moon since it’s the only nearby location where no one has ever died). It’s a job that suits her, and she soon finds herself helping the dead move on from the form of purgatory she exists within. Along the way, Penny begins to unravel the mystery surrounding her death as well.
This game is both a platformer and a puzzler, with quite a bit of adventure game DNA thrown in for good measure. As the game’s title suggests, much of the gameplay revolves around “flipping” into and out of the realms of the living and the dead. This is accomplished by possessing the bodies’ of the living. Once a person’s body is taken over, you can use them and any special abilities they might have to interact with objects in the real world. Many of these objects affect the land of the dead, and even when they don’t resolve issues on one side can help individuals on the other. The special abilities range from a jazz musician’s ability to blow a horn to a seagull’s ability to… well, to poop on things. Figuring out when to use the right living beings’ ability is key to solving the games’ often humorous puzzles.
This title’s platforming sections are more of a mixed bag. When in the underworld Penny can run, jump, and throw her scythe. The scythe throw can be aimed in order to reach different platforms. You can then teleport to the platform with the press of a button. This usually works fine, but it can be a bit tedious working your way through a stage at times. You also don’t have much in the way of a penalty for death. There are a few enemies thrown your way, and they cost you “souls” that act as a sort of currency that can be collected on the stage. These souls are also needed in order to possess living beings, but they are fairly abundant and I rarely found myself actively hunting for them. Where the gameplay takes a bit of a dive is when you control people on the living side of the world. The physics engine is, for lack of a better word wonky. The controls for these sections felt imprecise, and at times I had to repeat the same solution to a puzzle for several minutes because I couldn’t get the game to recognize exactly what I wanted it to do.
As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, this game is funny. It’s fully voice acted and you can talk to each and every person (or dog or bird or whale) inside their head once they are possessed. This adds a ton of personality to this title. It’s wholesome yet weird, in a way that reminds me of old LucasArts point and click titles. There is also something Tim Burtonesque about the whole affair, with the weird almost abstract creatures and vistas of the land of the dead. The actual art direction is also a plus…the world looks like it was made from old props from a local theatre. Perhaps that is not the best way to describe it. Everything is 2D in a way that makes it seem like it’s made of paper, but in a less clean style than something like Paper Mario. It is a very unique look and one that works strongly in the game’s favor.
Flipping Death has its faults. The platforming and controls are not always where I want them to be, for instance. Despite this, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the title. It’s a funny, wacky, and charming adventure with memorable puzzles and even more memorable characters.