Nintendo's 'Nindie Showcase' delivered on its promise, unveiling some intriguing titles for the new system that could certainly prove interesting in the coming days, weeks and months. One title that stood out was Flipping Death by Zoink Games, or just Zoink for short. Very much adopting the comedic look and style of previous games from the studio, it could certainly add a lot of flavour to proceedings.
Prior to its big unveiling we had a chat with Zoink CEO and Creative Director Klaus Lyngeled, who's very much the driving force behind the studio's charmingly zany sense of style. He tells us about how the idea came together, the return of Ryan North as a co-writer and we discuss other Switch topics; yes, we get an update on the teased Zombie Vikings in terms of its Switch future, too.
For those unfamiliar with you and Zoink, can you introduce yourself and the studio?
Yes! I've got the weirdest name - Klaus Lyngeled - and I'm originally from Denmark but now run a game studio in Sweden called Zoink. I am the managing director/CEO of Zoink and also work as Creative Director for most of our games.
Zoink was started many years back when I had an idea for a game. Over the years that one idea multiplied into quite many, mostly for console and a few for iOS. We actually also took a pause from games and did some music videos and short animations.
Our two latest games were Stick It to The Man and Zombie Vikings. Stick It to The Man was quite a big change for us as it turned out to be our first real indie hit. That game really made us decide to fully trust in our own ideas and only develop our own games!
Last year we managed to get EA to sign one of our games - Fe. You might have seen a really nervous guy at their EA Play announcement during E3? That was me up there. sweating. An amazing moment for Zoink - quite a scary moment for me...
But what's really cool is that we now have two amazing projects in development, Flipping Death and Fe!
You've announced Flipping Death for the Nintendo Switch; when we first saw the trailer Stick it to The Man sprung to mind, so is this a 'spiritual successor' in any way?
It's funny, because right after we finished Stick It to The Man we actually started on a prototype for Flipping Death. During the development of Stick It we talked about how fun it would be if someone had drawn something on the OTHER side of the cardboard planes. And that's how the idea sprung to life, what if the drawings on these planes hid another world drawn on the other side, and each object had two meanings?
We finished the prototype, but the game wasn't quite where we wanted it to be and we also really wanted to make Zombie Vikings, so we put it on ice for the time being. I also really wanted to work with Ryan North (who wrote the dialogue for Stick It) again, but he was busy with another project. Now he is back on Flipping Death and the dialogue is a just as funny as before!
So I guess it's not exactly a successor, but it has that feeling and mood of Stick it. The story is totally different as this is about Penny and her problems with... death and dying. Sounds dark, but it's really funny! And as you might have noticed from the trailer, Ray from Stick It will show up in a small part.
Can you talk about the possession and reality flipping mechanics, and give some examples of how they'll be utilised in the game?
Absolutely! So the game has two worlds; one for the living, which is this cute little village called Flatwood Peaks, and one for ghosts which we simply call The Otherside.
As you walk around on The Otherside you can see the silhouettes of living people. If you collect enough ghost critters you can then open up the souls of the residents of Flatwood Peaks and actually jump into people. You kind of possess them! It's funny because as Penny is inside their head she can actually have a dialogue with their thoughts, we call it Brain Dialogue.
Anyway, as you're inside you can influence their movements. You can force them to walk around as you please, but also use an arm, their legs or some other weird body part. For example we have a guy who the only body part you can control, besides his legs, is his tongue. This causes for some hilarious situations! So it's up to you to use the people to solve puzzles that the ghosts needs help with. The tongue is actually used to apply paint on a boat (yeah, poor guy, but don't worry - he's is a real bastard)!
I remember we came back from a meeting quite blown away with the concept of the console and we knew directly, Flipping Death had to come out on the Switch.
When did this project first start to come together, and was the Nintendo Switch always the target system? If so, why was that?
We picked up Flipping Death right after Zombie Vikings, so that's about a year ago. It wasn't originally for the Switch, but I was lucky enough to get invited to the Nintendo European office around that time. It was very hush-hush, I went with a programmer and we weren't even allowed to tell the team about the trip. I remember we came back from that meeting quite blown away with the concept of the console and we knew directly, Flipping Death had to come out on the Switch.
Does this game make use of any of the Switch's unique features, such as the Joy-Con controllers?
We are playing with the HD Rumble, which is really fun and crazy. It's actually amazing what you can do with that and it's something we are going to use a lot when possessing people.
You mentioned the return of Ryan North as a co-writer - can you talk about how that works?
I am writing this with Ryan North who worked with us on Stick It to The Man. His style just fits our games so well. Ryan actually used to write Adventure Time comics and he also has a web-comic which has been going forever called Dinosaur Comic. He also has his own comic book with Marvel called the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.
The way we work together is that I come up with the characters, story and the puzzles (sometimes I also get help from Andreas Beijer at the office) and then I send all that crazy stuff over to Ryan and he fills in all the funny dialogue. He is the one who REALLY makes it funny.
This game has the distinct 'Zoink style', to put it one way, is that part of a conscious effort when making new games or is that just a natural part of the development process?
It's part consciously. I do all the character designs and I wanted to draw them in this style to make sure people recognized the game. It's also just a style that comes naturally to me. The other day I had to draw something with elbows and a face that wasn't split in two - it was hard!
But we are not going to just stick to that style - Fe is obviously something very different that I wanted us to make and we are also looking on other styles for new games.
Is this a full or timed exclusive on Switch, will it eventually come to other systems too?
It will come to all the consoles. Not sure yet if it will be exclusive for a short period.
We did a quick test with Zombie Vikings on the Switch and it works out really beautifully with two players with the two Joy-Con. I really want to do it and even though it's early it looks like Nintendo is positive to it.
Do you have a target release window for this game?
This time we are really taking our time to make it perfect, so I decided not to put a release date. Hopefully this year.
You've teased the prospect of Zombie Vikings on Switch (on Twitter), do you have an update on this?
We did a quick test with Zombie Vikings on the Switch and it works out really beautifully with two players with the two Joy-Con. I really want to do it and even though it's early it looks like Nintendo is positive to it. If we get it approved, then it will release as early as this summer.
Is Zombie Vikings still coming to the Wii U eShop?
No, sorry. Unfortunately it was too hard to convert.
Fe looks intriguing, but we understand that this is being published through a partnership with EA. Is there any prospect of that coming to Nintendo Switch?
Yes, we are so proud of that game! We are talking about a Switch version and looking into it, but it's a little too early to say.
In more general terms regarding the Switch, what do you consider to be the system's biggest strengths and weaknesses?
I think the biggest strength is obviously the mobility. I love that I only have to buy one game and I get it both for TV and Handheld. I also think that it's really important that Nintendo only focuses on one console. This means more of their badass titles will come out quicker!
The weakness, hmm, it doesn't come in pink?
No, but maybe the concept of switching can be a little hard for some people to get used to. In that case it might just turn into a handheld device with people not playing that much in TV mode.
Based on what we've seen so far, do you think the Switch can be a major commercial success for Nintendo?
Yes I do think it will be a success. It will be hard to beat the PS4 right away, but that's not necessary. It will still be a great success for Nintendo.
How important a role can the eShop play, in your opinion, on the Nintendo Switch?
You'll get your big Nintendo games boxed, but the eShop is super important to keep the Switch a dynamic console to come back to when you are done with Zelda. The eShop is for the indies, the smaller games. The place where you just try out small creative titles.
Thanks for your time, do you have a final message for our readers?
We'd like to thank Klaus Lyngeled for his time. Is Flipping Death going on your Nintendo Switch eShop wishlist?