Felix the Reaper, developed by Kong Orange and published by Daedalic is a charming but challenging puzzler filled with character. Our review is based on the PS4 version, but the game’s also available for Xbox One, PC and Nintendo Switch.
Since the game came out last month, we’ve also played another game that – in retrospect – feels similar to Felix the Reaper in more ways than one. That game is Kine, Gwen Fry’s puzzler that we reviewed not too long ago. Besides both titles being puzzle games, which is the obvious part, they also both have musically inclined main characters, a 3D isometric view of the action and a difficulty level that is – put lightly – challenging.
Felix the Reaper sounds thematically dark, but it’s not. You play as Felix, an agent for the Ministry of Death, and it’s your job to help guide mortal souls in the direction of the afterlife – usually by putting the living in harm’s way. Felix is a lovable character though, who’s slightly on the chubby side and loves two things – moving along to the sounds of music and adoring Betty. The former means that Felix dances across the screen when he moves (or even when he’s standing still), but the latter’s a bit of a problem… Betty works for the “Life” side of the things.
Being an agent of death, Felix has to stick to the shadows if he plans to make good on his assignments – which are a bit like assigned hits in a Hitman game when you think about it. To help you along, a friendly colleague teaches you the ropes in the first portion of the game. That type of thing is usually a very typical tutorial and not exactly a highlight, but here it is – your colleague is voiced by none other than Sir Patrick Stewart, whose familiar voice lends even more character to the game.
Puzzles take place on an isometric 3D playing field, in which Felix must stay in cover from the sun as he moves towards his goal. The sun is pretty much like Kryptonite to Felix, so it’s game over when he gets exposed to it. Which places are guarded from it change throughout the level though, as the sun rotates in 90 degree increments to cast shadows in different directions, allowing Felix new paths to move on while also exposing squares that were previously considered safe.
Felix himself can also affect the interplay between the sun and the shade, as he moves objects around or stacks them for additional protection. As you progress, new methods of interacting with the sun are gradually introduced, so expect a few genre classics like buttons and switches to pop up on Felix’s quest (which has about fifty levels for you to complete).
As with Kine, there’s a lot of charm and character to the game, which oozes creativity in the audiovisual sense as well as in the puzzle design (although Felix the Reaper is a tad more traditional in the gameplay sense). Unfortunately another similarity is that both games ramp up the difficulty to the extreme, so beyond the friendly exterior these aren’t games for the casual puzzling crowd.
In the case of Felix the Reaper, there is a hint system involved that definitely helps and you can also pre-plan your moves with a preview feature, but the game has a more linear structure than Kine (with its side quests). When Felix gets stuck, it’s like hitting a wall – which can lead to frustration. Luckily this is a game that beneath the surface mostly adheres to traditional puzzle games, so at least my thought process was mostly about the solution I was looking for rather than, “How will my character move if I try this?” – as was the case in Kine.
In the end, because I like challenging puzzle games, I enjoyed both Felix the Reaper and Kine. They’re not perfect and can (and will) certainly stump you, but they’re incredibly charming and fun to play in between the moments of frustration.