STAFF REVIEW of Felix The Reaper (Xbox One)

Wednesday, December 18, 2019.
by Adam Dileva

Felix The Reaper Box art While I’m no savant when it comes to puzzle games, I do quite enjoy them, as I tend to think very logically and systematically and can generally get a good grasp on the solutions with some practice. Then there’s Felix The Reaper, developed by Kong Orange, a puzzle game that nearly broke me and has me on the verge of quitting. That’s not to say that it’s a bad game, but challenging is putting it quite lightly.

Felix The Reaper’s core mechanics revolve around navigating a gridded map with a 3D isometric camera angle as you manipulate the Sun and shadows to solve each bite sized puzzle. It’s setting is quite odd and unique though, as you’re a Grim Reaper, Felix, sent to make sure that when people are set to die, you’re there to assure the immanent death happens without any problems, even if that means setting up how it’s going to play out without their knowing.

Felix works for The Ministry of Death, loves dancing, and has fallen instantly in love with the busty Betty The Maiden, whom happens to work for The Ministry of Life. He goes to the human world to not only fulfill his job, but in the hopes that it’ll mean that he’ll be able to meet Betty and impress her with his sweet dance moves as well. Of course the premise is absurd and silly, but it suits the gameplay and overall tonality of the game. The catch though is that since Felix is undead, he’s unable to be in the sunlight, which is where the puzzle mechanics come in, given that you’re on Earth and all.

There’s no doubt about it, Felix The Reaper is a very challenging, and at times, frustrating, puzzle game. You need to make sure people die or that certain events happen, but can’t ever be in the sunlight, so you’ll need to strategize on where to move, where to place objects and when to change the direction of the sunlight to cause shadows to move elsewhere, all while dancing the day away doing your job.

Played on a gridded map, Felix can navigate anywhere there are shadows. Given that most levels are flat, you’ll need to be very strategic where you maneuver, as going into the sunlight simply isn’t possible for Felix. Eventually you’ll need to move objects, or even stack them to make their shadows outreach to longer places. Since you can’t go in the sunlight ever, you’ll need to figure out where you want to go ahead of time and setup nearly every movement beforehand. Sometimes this means hiding behind a box where the shadow will keep you safe, or placing a barrel on a box and then moving to another spot where you know there will be shade once you rotate the sun. It’s all about creating pathways of shadows, and doing so is much easier said than done.

The shadow mechanics is really interesting, and surprisingly, quite difficult to wrap your head around. You’re able to freely rotate the sun in one of two directions, simply going by trial and error, but you’re also able to preview what shadows appear before committing to the sun’s movement if you wish for better points. Trust me, eventually you’ll stop caring about high scores and points and will simply be grateful for level completion.

Your overall goal of each level is to have Felix essentially setup and ensure that your target’s death occurs without hitch. The main problem I found was that there’s very little in ways of a good tutorial. The game shows you the basic mechanics quickly but then leaves you to it on your own to figure out. Levels become progressively harder, of course, and it feels like you hit a brick wall quite early on. I simply had to push through with tons of trial and error when I got stuck, and became more frustrated as time went on.

Part of the problem though is that it seems as if you can make wrong movements, almost permanently getting yourself stuck and having to restart. This normally wouldn’t be a huge deal, but when you keep making the same mistakes over and over again, unable to progress, it’s frustrating to not be able to figure out what or why you’re doing something wrong. There is a hint system in place that you can utilize that’s supposed to let you see what step to do next, but it’s quite vague. For example, it’ll just show an arrow on a square, not determining if that’s where Felix should be, if you should place a barrel there or which direction the Sun should be. Some steps are obvious, but when you’re given a hint showing three different arrows at once in different places, it doesn’t help all that much.

There’s also an option to rewind to the last milestone, almost like a checkpoint along the process of solving the puzzle, but you never know when these occur until you use this ‘rewind’ feature. While it was nice to not have to completely redo the whole level from the beginning, the basically useless hint system will leave you either frustrated with hours of trial and error, or resulting in looking up a walkthrough if you become truly stuck.

To be fair, when you do finally fumble your way through a puzzle, the feeling of accomplishment is quite great, even when it’s a sloppy solution with dozens of trial and error mistakes. For those that are truly gluttons for punishment, there are hardcore versions of each level to unlock and even time trials as well. You’d need to have a serious commitment if you want to tackle these extra challenges, but they are there for those that want it.

Felix The Reaper is visually cute and whimsical, as Felix is a portly dude but always makes you smile with his constant dance moves, especially when you navigate from tile to tile. The shadow mechanic works well, even if it’s quite challenging, though sometimes it’s difficult to tell if certain corner tiles are navigable or not. Characters have a very cartoon-like appeal to them, but the true star is the great soundtrack that Felix listens to on his Walkman. With a selection over 10 different indie songs and artists, there’s some good tunes here if you need something to try and keep you relaxed and focused before becoming too frustrated with the puzzles themselves.

I really enjoy puzzle games, even those with some steep challenges, but for some reason, Felix The Reaper frustrated me more than usual with its steep difficulty, and moments of ‘fun’ were far and few in between. Levels should only take a matter of minutes, but when I’m repeatedly trying one for over an hour, it’s hard to not let the frustration set in. If you really want to challenge yourself then Felix The Reaper is a great choice for those that truly want to test themselves with some punishing difficulty. For the more casual puzzle fans, it’s hard to recommend as you’ll get stuck quite early on, something that even Felix’s charm and dance moves can’t overcome.

Overall: 7.0 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.5 / 10
Sound: 8.5 / 10


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