Source: Review Copy
Price: £21.99 (Supporter edition £26.08, Supporter Pack £6.99)
Where To Get It: Steam
Not all cultures see Death as some grim figure. In some, he’s a laughing man who loves cigars, rum, and sweet cake. In others, they’re a pleasant guide for the departed. Some are beautiful women, some of whom can turn very ugly indeed (both in terms of appearance and temperament) if you aren’t meant to go to an afterlife.
And, in Felix the Reaper, Death is a Ministry Department, and one Death in particular is a fat, dancing skeleton with some serious moves, and the hots for one of his opposite numbers, Betty (Oh, Betty!), a similarly Rubenesque lady who works for the Ministry of Life. Star crossed lovers? A tragic tale in the making?
Well… Maybe. But this is a comedy puzzle game, so I wouldn’t lay money on it. But what kind of puzzle game is it?
Well, as a reaper, Felix struts his stuff, trying to arrange a series of events that will lead to the demise of his designated assignment (This includes arranging accidents for other living creatures.) Problem is, the sun is painful to him, so he has to stick to the shadows. Thankfully for him, the Ministry has equipped him with a sun-dial. As in, despite time being stopped, it literally moves the sun. What you have to do is work out how to get Felix from Alpha to Omega. And, like any good Ministry, you have targets. Although these mostly function in the scoring sense.
Aesthetically, it’s gorgeous. Well crafted landscapes, handily blocked into tiles, some charming character models, all well animated (especially, obviously, Felix, who flips, slides, grooves, and cha chas his way through his work)… There is also, of course, the Mentor, voiced by Sir Patrick Stewart, who plays the beleaguered, but friendly bureacrat well. Writing wise, there’s a lot of humour, a lot of it nonverbal. Here, the poor hunter who can’t win, because his friend either disturbs his hunt by angrily yelling at the lack of beer (without Felix’s intervention) or belching so loudly he scares the prey away (With.)
As to the puzzles? Well, they ramp up relatively quickly, but each one has a tight solution. The trick is to get there. Thankfully, levels can be replayed, if you’re a completionist, like I am, and there are also harder levels, for those who like a bigger challenge. Nice! The game is also quite helpful in limiting the directions you can change the light in, so not only do you have less red herrings to think about, everything can be done with the mouse. And, for those having trouble with the puzzles themselves, it has a helpful “Show next Step” button. Nice!
Now, it should be said, at this point, that it isn’t a complex game. It doesn’t layer mechanics, it’s pretty focused on just “How do I move objects and switch the light around to get where I need to?” If that’s a turnoff, I understand. Personally, I like the simplicity, and I’m sure others will too. The requirements for your completionist stickers (of Felix’s adorable skullface) get pretty strict at times, especially later on, but I have to admit, I’ve been having a lot of fun.
Maybe it’s Felix’s sweet moves, even when “idling.” Maybe it’s the charm and humour of the game’s writing. Maybe it’s the fact that its puzzle design is laser focused on a few elements, leaving the complexity down to the specifics of the individual puzzle. But with these elements coming together, I can’t not recommend this one.
The Mad Welshman appreciates the work of both Ministries of Life and Death. Without their efforts, existence wouldn’t be quite as fun. Although they could maybe do with being longer. That’s nitpicking though.