Archives by Day

Felix The Reaper

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Puzzle
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Developer: Kong Orange
Release Date: Oct. 17, 2019

About Andreas Salmen

I'm sure this is all just a misunderstanding.


As an Amazon Associate, we earn commission from qualifying purchases.

Switch Review - 'Felix the Reaper'

by Andreas Salmen on Oct. 16, 2019 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Felix The Reaper is a romantic comedy and 3D puzzle game in which players alter events to end the lives of humans as ordered by the Ministry of Death.

Death doesn't have to be a sad event. According to Felix the Reaper, it may be a charmingly colorful experience with music and dancing galore and perhaps even a happy ending — except for the inevitable dead people. Felix the Reaper is a puzzle game that puts you in the shoes of Felix, who works for the Ministry of Death and is charged with engineering the timely demise of various individuals. Felix is obsessed with music and dancing, which aren't the first two attributes associated with a Grim Reaper. Felix dances everywhere to the beat of the music coming through his headphones, and he's deeply in love with Betty the Maiden, who works for the Ministry of Life. It's not a match made in heaven, but maybe Felix can win her attention over time. It's a unique setting for a puzzle game that the developers describe as a romantic comedy about the life of death. It looks and feels oddly enjoyable to see a low-poly skeleton man dance across the screen while he's making a bloody mess, but it wouldn't be half as enjoyable if the gameplay didn't deliver.

Felix the Reaper is split into five stages, each consisting of up to five levels that are either regular or hard. Each stage starts with a contract to exterminate a certain human being, and we work our way up to it until the grand (and bloody) finale. Every environment is comprised of a grid we can navigate, and it's full of items, obstacles and scenery that are vital to completing our mission. The first area involves ensuring that a hunter kills a deer, which eventually causes him to celebrate by drinking a lot of booze, setting up the opportunity for an elaborate and fatal accident. We do so with simple object manipulation, such as rearranging key items in the environment to create the desired scenarios. For example, we could move a car so a groupie sees and interacts with a media star, or we could lure a dog to a delicious ham. These acts are not up to us but are scripted and defined events. The actual challenge of this puzzle game is not necessarily the setup but the way we move.

We already went over Felix's dance obsession, but that isn't reflected in direct gameplay but rather a "cosmetic" attribute to the movement. As death, Felix can only move in the shadows, and he cringes when light is present. That means we need to manipulate a sundial to change the direction of the sun so we can change the shadows on the map and move among them. It's a simple mechanic that is used in a few clever ways. Items such as stacks of wood or barrels may be moved to different locations to create shadows to unlock new paths. Soon enough, we're able to stack items to create longer shadows or additional objects that we can manipulate with switches and fast-travel tubes. It sounds like a simple enough idea, and while I wasn't aware of this concept before, it feels familiar, and it quickly ramps up the difficulty.

Felix the Reaper expects you to beat a given level, but there are additional rewards for good performances, like having less than a certain number of sun turns, fields walked on, time, and so forth. After the first stage, I wasn't able to achieve any of these challenges during my first attempt. That means it's necessary to replay the challenges is if you want to complete the game. All cases have a fixed solution with minor to no wiggle room, so there is a fast and direct way to solve each level, but you have to find it.

If you're not an achievement hunter and aren't into puzzles, Felix the Reaper has a pretty solid help system in place. As solutions for each map are fixed, the game has certain "required states" that we need to achieve to move forward. When doing so, we see a colorful and encouraging note on the screen, so we'll always know if we're on the right track. We can also revert to a previously cleared checkpoint in case we went overboard and would like to start anew. If that still doesn't help, the game can show us the next step in solving the puzzle at the cost of additional challenges. It's a fair and accessible system that works well. The tips aren't necessarily always clear as they just highlight objects and use moving arrows to indicate their desired positions, but due to overlapping objects that isn't always easy to tell apart.

Once you've beaten the basic version of a level, Felix the Reaper unlocks a tougher version of the level, which is a significant step up in difficulty and basically doubles the game's content to 40+ challenges. They share the same environment and goal on an altered map layout that packs more of a punch. It's a serious challenge that also omits the help system. You're completely on your own without the possibility of help in-game. At the same time, challenges still exist, and they are not tied to your performance but come in the form of three tokens that can be collected around the level. The tokens and challenges eventually unlock additional bonus levels, bringing the total number of levels in Felix the Reaper to about 50, which isn't bad for its $20 price tag.

The only gripe I have is the control scheme. We move Felix via a cursor controlled by the left stick, while the right is used to rotate and zoom the camera. It's almost impossible to rotate the camera that way without involuntarily zooming in or out. The triggers can be used to rotate, but I found myself going back to the right thumbstick again and again, slightly frustrated that the control scheme cannot be changed. It's also not always clear if and when Felix can turn the sundial to direct the sunlight. You can preview how the shadows would fall if the direction changed, but the two buttons we need to hold down are often unresponsive. It's a title that was clearly designed for PC and mouse play in mind, with the controller layout feeling like an afterthought. Even if it works, it's sometimes difficult to tell if an area is in the light or shadow. There's no immediate penalty for stepping into the light, but your last action is automatically undone. If you're hunting for an achievement, even brief sun exposure can ruin that run.

Another aspect I would have preferred is for the game to queue actions rather than perform them all at once. I would sometimes plan a path and click on my destination to move the sundial. Instead of performing the movement and then turning the dial, the game would immediately move the dial while Felix was still moving to the desired location. It's not a bad way to do things, but it feels like the game's controls would be more reliable with a queue.

With that being said, Felix the Reaper still has really good puzzles that are genuinely challenging, especially later on. Add to that the charming low-poly art style, dance animations and decent music tracks, and you have a distinct game experience that warrants a closer look. There isn't enough variety in the environments, so one or two more distinct scenarios would've made the game shine. It also runs and presents itself as sharp as it can on the Switch, with the only real downside being the longer load times, which can take away some of the momentum in jumping from level to level.

Felix the Reaper is a fun puzzler that nails some of the most important aspects: difficulty, level design, and style. While the environments may not be as varied and the controls not as well executed, the title works well and should be on the radar of anyone who's fond of solving puzzles as a dancing Grim Reaper.

Score: 7.8/10

More articles about Felix The Reaper
blog comments powered by Disqus