Felix The Reaper – Xbox One Review
Puzzle your way through a romantic comedy about the life of death!
People can die in strange circumstances. An incredible chain of events leading to its victim departing the world of the living that may make those left behind exclaim “what were the chances of that happening?”. It turns out there is no random theory at work, all the events are manipulated from another dimension by the Ministry of Death. If your time is up, they make sure all the actions line up with the end result being your mortal demise. Felix the Reaper is an employee of the Ministry, he’s new in the job and he needs your help in his daily work.
Felix the Reaper is a 3D puzzler with an unusual theme and fun storyline, with gameplay that is easy to pick, simple to start with, but can get fiendishly difficult once you get deep into it. Remember the logic problem often given to school kids about the man getting across the river in his boat? You know the one; he has to get a fox, chicken and sack of corn across but can only take one at a time, so you need to work out in what order they go and come back. This game deploys the same thinking, but ramps it up to a level that will really tax your brain, but all with a great sense of humour.
There are five stories to play out, each with multiple sections, and they are alternatively set in medieval Europe, and 1980’s New York? Why those times and places? Well, that’s just where Felix has been assigned to do his reaping! At the start of each level, Felix arrives on the map via a trans dimensional elevator onto a terrain split into little squares, he must traverse the squares, but must stay in the shad at all times. You are told the aim of each section in a little vignette before you start and then you have to figure out the moves required. You’ll have to move objects to create new shadows in different places as well as utilising the ingenious mechanic of moving the sun. At the press of a button the angle of sunlight changes through 90 degrees, and press it again and it moves back. Get Felix in the wrong place when you move the sun and you’ll be in no doubt that you’ve made the wrong move as the blinding light will hurt him and the sun will move back to it original position.
The levels start by easing you in with not so much as a tutorial but ramping up the difficulty in short steps so you’re drawn in without becoming stuck. Later if you do become stuck you can get hints as to where to go or what object to move next, The game doesn’t want you to get stuck on a problem as ultimately you’ll give up playing, but once you’ve figured out how to solve a level you’re encouraged to go back and play it again, but this time either trying to beat a certain time, in a set number of moves, or by only moving the sun a certain number of times. Solving levels in a combination of these factors will result in gaining a red skull on completion, and there are 3 to win on each level. Once all the levels are completed and you’ve got competent enough to gain a good haul of skulls, there is the hardcore mode to take on. In hardcore you cant afford to make a single mistake, so I had to rely on a few notes by my side of a sheet of paper to glance at to remember the complex series of moves.
The concept of the puzzles is a simple one, and if not presented well would come across as cold and clinical, but the developers give us an experience that is visually impressive and full of character and humour. Felix isn’t just a drone conducting his work in a staid manner, but brightens his day with his music. He constantly wears headphones that pump out some nice dance tracks, which has the effect of making him move to the groove and dance his way across the terrain. The developers have motion tracked real dancers and applied them to Felix, making all his dance moves fluid and realistic, helping create a well rounded character. The macabre subject matter of arranging fatalities is injected with loads of humour, and most of the deaths were done in a way that made me chuckle. The audio track compliments the visuals perfectly, although I think the the music Felix is listening to could be a bit more prominent. The narration is of the highest quality, as Hollywood legend Sir Patrick Stewart has been drafted in to lend his vocal skills to the proceedings, which adds gravitas and authority to the story while being very tongue in cheek.
There are 5 stories to complete in the game, which doesn’t seem a large amount even when split into sections, but the initial completion took me about 5 hours. Of course there are the skulls to win and the hardcore mode to tackle so you can at least treble that time which gives the game a pretty good duration for the price tag. I liked the fact that the game wants you to keep progressing and not get bogged down with a single problem, so the hints and replaying of moves are there if you want them, and the challenges of the skulls mean you’re encouraged not to take the easy option and keep going for the hints. There is plenty of scope for expansion on the story and I’d love to see more levels added as DLC or even in a sequel. The story of the doomed love affair between Felix and Betty come to a ;loose conclusion at the end but I think it could’ve been a bit more prominent through out the game in the set piece cut scenes between levels.
Felix the Reaper stands out as a well rounded game with very high production values, that taxes you mentally while entertaining with its fun game play and great sense of humour. If you have Xbox Game Pass its been available to download from launch but if you don’t I’d recommend it as a purchase as one of the best puzzle games of the year.
Developer: Kong Orange
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Price: £20.99 (also available on Xbox Game Pass)
Many Thanks to Renaissance PR for the review copy.