Dance ’til you’re dead
Felix the Reaper is probably the single most polished indie game I’ve played all year.
I’m not sure where to begin with this incredibly quirky puzzler absolutely drenched with personality — developed by Kong Orange and published by Daedalic Entertainment, Felix the Reaper is extremely ambitious, from design to gameplay, yet manages to deliver on every level. I’m thoroughly impressed!
Our story follows Felix, a newly hired reaper (yes, one of those) whose passion for dancin’ simply can’t be stopped. His heart only has room for one other love, and that spot is reserved for Betty and Betty alone. Ah, amore.
Of course, neither love nor dancing is conducive to the type of work reapers do, but no matter — Felix will get the job done in his own special way, moving his feet and boogieing to the beat with every kill.
Speaking of killing — that’s the whole point of Felix the Reaper. It’s a dirty job, but someone has to come for the living when it’s their time to go, and this version of Death is far too fabulous to keep waiting. Once the brief rolls in with a name and cause of death, it’s curtains for the victim — as long as Felix can do his duty while shaking that booty.
And just like that, Felix’s job begins; brief in hand, he’ll be transported directly to mere moments before tragedy occurs. When time stops, Felix starts, jumping and jiving across the board and avoiding sunlight to ensure the cause of death happens according to plan. By strategically placing barrels, animals, and even humans in the correct spots (and sometimes in the line of fire), Felix can kill the targeted person, fulfill the brief, and consider a day’s work well done.
Controls are simple — players use right click to direct Felix to the desired square on the map, hold left click and dragging will rotate the map, and the scroll button is used to zoom in and out. That’s all you need to know to become a fully-fledged reaper, ready to solve any puzzles in your path. Please note that Felix cannot move into direct sunlight, meaning you’ll have to stay in the shadows while you do your dirty work. If you can’t progress, click the giant “push” button on the screen to rotate the sun by 90 degrees and see if the shadows change enough to open up a new pathway; if it doesn’t work, no worries — the sun will revert right back, no harm done.
The briefs are composed of several smaller puzzles, which have goals such as “kill deer”, “fill beer”, “get megaphone”, etc, and by completing all of them, you’ll set in motion a series of events that will lead to the victim’s demise. The puzzles themselves start off easy enough, but after finishing off a few you’ll find them to be progressively more difficult. If you ever feel lost, click the “show next step” or “show level goal” in the menu button, and you’ll be back on track in no time.
Felix the Reaper’s sound design is S-U-P-E-R-B. The music is upbeat and funky, delivering a fresh, unique feel. The narrator made me do a double take at first — I really thought it was Patrick Stewart, so much so that I actually googled the voice acting credits to be sure! Overall thoroughly impressed with just how much the voice acting and soundtrack popped in Felix the Reaper, with a score as vibrant as its incredibly appealing visuals.
Speaking of visuals — I mean, just look at them! The shading alone is a triumph, but what I really appreciate about Felix the Reaper is just how grotesquely adorable the character design is. I find it absolutely charming that Betty — the apple of Felix’s eye — is perhaps the most off-putting character in the game, yet she’s heralded as this voluptuous beauty (according to Felix, at least).
But it doesn’t end there — not by a long shot — as every pixel in Felix the Reaper simply oozes with personality. Felix has a wide range of dance moves that, when left idle, are sure to delight even the most veteran of gamers. The level variety is gratifying — the second level, an 80s synthwave setting — is perhaps my favorite, as even just watching the pinkish clouds drift by a high tech city was mesmerizing. The use of color feels so perfectly utilized that I immediately got Catherine vibes — from the romantic yet bloody red to the alluring yet blinding pinks, Felix the Reaper is like candy for the eyes, stopping just short of giving me ocular diabetes.
The charm Felix the Reaper possesses doesn’t end with gameplay; in-between levels, players can read the individual briefs, learn more about the victims, and read rich histories about Death, dance, and beyond. It was particularly interesting to learn about the evolution of how various cultures viewed Death — for example, in some European countries, Death was predominately portrayed as a woman, but only after the 1000s. Interesting, right? I learned that simply by snooping around the case files, and there’s honestly enough to fill a small educational book on these matters. It’s absolutely fascinating.
Literally anywhere the dev team could fit personality, they did it — the loading screens feature adorable drawings of a love-struck Felix doing sweet things like writing Betty’s name over and over again or trying on a wedding dress (squeee!). The otherworldly bone horse cart has a colored aura drifting from it in what feels like a separate animation language. The victims in the brief look different before and after death and are fully animated. Every single detail has been pored over with love and attention and it definitely shows.
I only have one complaint — just one — and that’s that there’s no true pause button. I couldn’t stop playing — literally — because I couldn’t pause, and with the timer ticking away, judging how long it takes to complete a puzzle, a pause button would definitely be nice for those annoying bathroom breaks. I finally just left the game running in the middle of a level, only to come back and beat it with a really sad time of 20 minutes (everything prior only taking five and some change). Such an oversight that would have made all the difference, yet it’s still only the single knock I have against an otherwise flawless experience.
I honestly can’t recommend Felix the Reaper enough. Fans of Catherine looking for something similar but perhaps a bit more light-hearted will find absolute joy in this charming little puzzler. From the visuals to the soundtrack, the concept to the gameplay, Felix the Reaper makes some lofty promises but absolutely delivers upon all of them. If you’re a fan of puzzle games and enjoy a teased macabre setting, you’re going to fall head over heels for Felix the Reaper. If you’re itching to try it, be sure to grab the free demo and give it a go — dance like no one’s watching and play Felix the Reaper to your heart’s content!
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Available on: Mac, XBox One, PS4, Switch, and PC (reviewed); Publisher: Daedalic Interactive; Developer: Kong Orange; Players: 1; Released: October 17, 2019; MSRP: $24.99
Editor’s note: This review is based on a retail copy of Felix the Reaper purchased by the reviewer.