When you lie in bed at night and can’t go to sleep, your thoughts might just turn to the meaning of life and your mortality. I often think that, hopefully a long time in the future, when I pass over from the mortal world into the long sleep, death will be a hooded figure who solemnly points a boney finger towards some kind of afterlife. What I could never imagine is if a headphone wearing, besuited dance machine would be in charge of my final moments on Earth. Felix the Reaper is that man though and while he rides no white horse, he is certainly a funky death machine.
I’ve never played a game like Felix the Reaper before, and that’s because the whole experience reeks of originality and innovation; from the very moment you load the beautifully designed menus to the exquisitely designed cutscenes. The developers have made a romantic comedy about life and death, in which Felix is a worker – well, a reaper for the ministry of death – and he has fallen in love with Betty the Maiden, who works at the ministry of life. Awkward, or what?! So to win her heart he has learned how to pull off some funky moves and dance, and oh man what a dancer he has become. It is here where we join Felix working in the human world, hoping that his and Betty’s worlds collide, if only so he can finally ask Betty for a dance.
The actual gameplay found in Felix the Reaper is oh-so simple – at least to begin with, as it does eventually become pretty darn tricky. You’re presented with a moment in time where an event happens, like for example in the initial scene a man is hunting for deer, shooting arrows. But his servant gets in the way and is about to get skewed by mistake. The scene freezes and that’s where Felix comes into the action. Your job is to try and get the right person or thing to die in a decent manner. But how on earth do you do this?
Well, the whole thing runs as a simple puzzler at heart, but also at times an incredibly complex one. You see a map of the location in front of you, and by hovering in the air you can zoom in and all around it at your leisure. The map is split into square grids that populate the area and it is via this how Felix moves around. Traversing the map horizontally and vertically, Felix cannot at any point go into the sun. So the clever part of the gameplay is that to avoid the sun and stay in the shadows you must change the direction the sun takes, working at 90-degree angles that will open up multiple pathways.
You can also pick up objects and build sun-like barriers to make the path to goal easier. Now, in later levels, this is where things start to get complex, as you find yourself swapping perspectives, drawing crazy maps on bits of paper and staring at the screen motionless for an hour. Or perhaps that is just me. It’s rewarding when you work it out though, and thankfully the checkpoint system is a frequent one so you can always restore to prior moments with ease. There is even a bit of a guide in place that will allow you a clue to the next possible move if you get really stuck.
The nutcases who love a real challenge can also gain all sorts of rewards for going full-on hardcore, attempting to complete a level without getting caught in the sun; there are multiple extra challenges like that to aim for throughout your time with Felix. It’s all pretty cool too, and with a combination of unique gameplay elements and a wonderful concept to tackle, even though it may become a struggle towards the end levels, the constant dancing always keeps your interest in check.
Felix the Reaper hasn’t got a serious tone to it, even though it’s dealing with the ultimate grim ending that sits in store for us all. It has a very unique cartoon style that borders on the grotesque, yet the over the top characterisation works brilliantly well within the atmosphere of the game. Felix is a superb leader of some brilliant creations and other supporting cast character designs, and it is here where things come to life. In fact, the dance moves the developers have put together for Felix have been sourced by filming a host of real dancers, putting together a whole bunch of hip dance moves. It’s brilliant and it has the illusion of making you think you will never see the same dance move twice. The audio is exquisite as well, with some superbly composed new music and classical old tracks combining to cover a range of different moods and styles.
Felix the Reaper on Xbox One is a very unique and original game. It has bundles of charm and a great central premise that involves a warm central character who has more dance moves than a young John Travolta. The puzzle side of things does get a trifle hard later on, but it’s a great brain teaser that utilises a range of different perspectives and object management. I don’t think this will be the last time we hear of Felix the Reaper and I for one can’t wait for more dancing.