Flipping Death has a gorgeous art style, some solid voice acting, a mostly successful take on updating the gameplay vocabulary of the old adventure games I grew up with, and it made me genuinely laugh several times. Hell, even despite feeling worn out with the game when I finished it – I still had enough interest in what it was doing to go back and get the few achievements I didn’t unlock the first time around. It definitely earns my recommendation, but… it is a qualified recommendation.
Originally, this video was going to be about double in length as I walked through a specific example of the way that the game starts to specifically spell out what it is you need to be doing. Thankfully, I found a (what I hope) is a visual cue for the same concept that required a lot less explanation. But it seemed a shame to throw away those several paragraphs, especially when I have this blog here. So why don’t we talk a bit more about how Flipping Death starts to be a bit too heavy handed with suggesting what the player do next?
Take for example one of the mid game puzzles. You meet a witch whose was burned at the stake, and whose hat is still on fire all these years later. She has information related to your mysterious death, but first you have to help her put out this eternal fire. The game quickly shows you that there is a horror movie obsessed firefighter you can posses, but being alive – he is no use to the witch in the land of the dead. And initially the game is content to let you try and figure this out on your own – giving you various options, allowing you to possess different characters and seeing what stories they have to tell.
For instance, you can meet the ghost of a father dressed as Santa, who died trying to surprise his daughter by coming down the chimney of their home. His wish is for you to finally deliver the gifts he had with him to his daughter. Again, after trying various options you determine there is no way to solve this currently so again you move on. Then you run into the kid who bites everything, and now when you posses her she immediately starts hinting strongly at wanting to chew gum. So, you take her to the gumball machine and since this is channeling the cartoon logic of absurd old school adventure games, once she chews up the bubble gum she can of course use the gum bubble to fly around the level. Armed with this new quirk, you can fly over the house with the Santa dad in the chimney and knock his remains along with the gifts he had. This allows you to deliver those gifts and put his soul to rest, while also getting the little girl all covered in soot and claims one of the stuffed animals as her own.
Curious what the little girl would then say about her new present, I leveraged the other ability being ‘Death’ gives you, which allows you to talk to those you have possed. Expecting some great joke about the situation, I was instead given explicit directions on how to solve the puzzle of the firefighter.
Now, instead of wandering around the town, looking for how to use this new quirk and seeing the amusing reactions of the other townspeople to this crazed looking little girl, and then eventually realizing that the soot covered little girl now looks exactly like the demon in the horror movie the firefighter is watching – I was just told the solution, and sent on my way.
If this was a one off instance, then it would be just a blip – a bummer in an otherwise great game. The problem is that this continually happens, more and more the later into the game you get. Characters will clearly state what they are supposed to do, and if they don’t the game HEAVILY implies what you are supposed to be doing. Given that the puzzle solving is the main activity you do in this game, it felt cheap to not have to actually “think” about the solution. Possess a character, listen to what they say they do, then do it – and onto the next part. It became less critical thinking and more checking boxes and busy work. Part of the joy of those older adventure games was trying all of the various absurd combinations and seeing what worked. By having the game strongly hint at what you should do – I felt robbed of that ‘AHA!’ moment.
Now, as I say in the video – even despite all these issues, I still think it’s a fun game, and would recommend people check it out. It’s just… got issues. I’m actually really looking forward to the next title from this team as it’s obvious they understand the adventure game mentality and know how to translate into a more ‘accepted’ genre… but it just seems like they ran out of budget, or time, or both. Here’s hoping the next one wears out it’s welcome a bit less.