Felix the Reaper
Available on: Xbox, PlayStation, PC, Switch and Mac
Felix the Reaper was an interesting pick for my stream but it was Whimsy Wednesday after all. Felix, as you probably guessed, is a grim reaper. What you might not have guessed is that he also loves dancing. Felix the Reaper, at its core, is a puzzle game where you must move items around to make sure the right person dies. During these missions from the Ministry of Death he meets Betty the Maiden, a life giver, and promptly falls in love.
That is the crazy setup to the rest of the game and you shouldn’t expect that to change. Each mission and phase of the mission gives a little video that outlines your goal. You may have to move a ham close enough to a dog to distract it and then you move on to the next phase. To complete these challenges, you have to move in the shadows. You can move the light source between two angles and have to move items into different positions to create shadows. The idea behind it is simple and accessible but gets difficult fast.
The upside is that, unlike a lot of puzzle games, Felix the Reaper doesn’t have any convoluted puzzles. Everything makes sense and can be reasoned out without somehow being a superhero Sherlock Holmes. It’s one of the biggest knit picks I have about the whole genre, you have to have a slime ball combined with a stick and a plastic bottle to open a door. You end up going “how the hell does that even work?” At least that is how I always feel playing a lot of these games. I just sit there clicking on everything hoping it works.
If you get stuck in Felix it is normally because you aren’t paying enough attention to where you can walk or where a specific shadow falls. I had this problem a few times and when I figured it out, I felt like an idiot. I was streaming it too so I was asking for people to help me out and finally my wife came down and pointed it out. It was embarrassing but made for a funny moment. If you don’t have or want someone to see how dumb you are being you can actually ask for a hint. Under the options menu you can select the how to get to the next checkpoint button and it will give you a hint. Sometimes these will not help you, particularly when you have finished everything but the last item. It will just show you where you need to get to but no info on how to get there. Another embarrassing moment I had was the last mission going “yeah I know I have to get there but how?!” then realizing that I didn’t see a block that was passable. Even when you are “stuck” it’s not the game’s fault it’s always yours and that sometimes can make it worse. Everybody wants to be able to blame the game, not their brain.
Felix the Reaper is a treat to the ear. It features upbeat tunes that make you understand why Felix is constantly dancing while completing his grim business. One of the biggest shockers, to me, was that they got Sir Patrick Stewart to do the voice of Felix’s manager. He delivers the lines perfectly; they are at the same time stern and playful. That’s the best way I can describe it. Everything he’s saying is dark or stern but there is an undercurrent of playfulness or kindness. He clearly likes Felix but, Felix is also the outsider amongst his peers because of his non-stop dancing. So, he asks him to keep the dancing to a minimum but at the same time hints that he enjoys Felix’s individuality. Even with who Felix falls in love with. They can never be together, at least in the other reaper’s minds. Stewart’s character says this repeatedly to Felix but at the same time you can tell that he is hopeful that Felix finds a way. It makes a pretty stripped-down story into something enjoyable and succinct. Even the sound effects for the game are paradoxical; they are both grim and cute. It’s odd but I loved everything about the audio in Felix the Reaper.
The same goes for the graphics and animation. They're very well done, just like everything else they are at once cutesy and horrific. The animals are adorable but then have guts hanging out or ribs sticking out. This extends to many of the humans. They look goofy or normal but when you get a better look they are twisted and odd. Each of them is created and animated just right for the effect. There is no voice acting to the characters but the sound effects and range of facial expressions show you who they are and in many cases their motives. I don’t even know how to explain how quickly it goes from cute or normal to gruesome. It seems innocuous and then all of the sudden someone is taking an arrow to the face pinning them to a wall. It sets a quirky atmosphere and creates tension and, at times, makes you guess who’s actually dying in the specific scene.
The nice thing about Felix the Reaper is that it doesn’t outstay its welcome. I ended up taking about six hours to complete it. That was just completing the story. If you want to spend more time in the world and test your skills you can try and complete the challenges and achievements. Some of them are based on how many times you turn the sun's location, how long it takes to complete, or moving items the fewest number of times. I was terrible at these and I only got a couple of them on accident. Felix the Reaper really found a good length so that the average player wouldn’t become bored but if you are really into it, it offers an extended experience.
In conclusion, if you are looking for a fun puzzler that falls into the romantic dark comedy this is a great game. When I say comedy, I am talking more traditional like Dante’s Inferno (Divine Comedy). It has a fun soundtrack, good voice acting, bright and fun graphics, but it’s best offering is the gameplay. Gameplay is free from bugs, has a fun mechanic, and is fair. The biggest knock I have is that it’s overpriced at twenty-five USD. I was able to find it on Green Man Gaming for half that and at that price it’s perfect. To end this, if you pay the full $25 I think you could be disappointed but for $10-$15 I think it’s a must for anyone who likes puzzlers or quirky games.