Perhaps the best words to describe Felix the Reaper are ‘weird’, ‘quirky’, ‘twisted’, and possessing a warped sense of humour. Players take control of the titular Felix, an employee of the Ministry of Death – a supernatural organisation in charge of arranging the untimely demise of various mortals. That’s right, you’re not in charge of shepherding the soul of the departed into the next world; you’re there to simply to make sure that said soul is in a state to depart.
For the most part, this takes the form of arranging the perfect accident. You know, the type where ‘if only the oil wasn’t spilled here, and there wasn’t a gap in the fence there, and they hadn’t eaten rancid cheese which gave them a belly ache which distracted them at just the right moment...’ (this isn’t one of the missions, but you get the gist). While most of the missions take this form, one does cast you in the role of becoming your victim’s personal ‘ghost’, arranging things ‘just so’ in order to terrify the poor person into losing their sanity (and life). It’s twisted, macabre, and darkly funny.
This strange sense of humour can be seen in the obituaries for Felix’s victims, the in-game essay on the concept and depiction of the Grim Reaper through the ages (right down to Terry Pratchett’s benign personification of Death, and Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant books), and the rather literal interpretation of ‘The Dance of Death’. You see, Felix’s entire move-set consists of dance moves, and he joyfully spins, flips, and gyrates across the landscape, all with animation that a friend who looked over my shoulder while I played described as ‘disturbingly good.’ Adding to the flavour of the game is the excellent narration of Felix’s overseer, voiced by none other than Sir Patrick Stewart.
In real terms, this is a puzzle game, with players controlling Felix to position particular objects (barrels, flaming logs, megaphone, cigar-smoking nuns, and so on) in just the right position to cause the desired outcome. Felix can only move in shadows, but he has a limited control over the angle of the sun, so this is done by changing the angle of the sun and arranging objects to create a path to the required destination.
Felix The Reaper does have the occasional misstep. While most of the puzzles are fairly intuitive and offer a chance to ‘unwind’, a few – particularly later in the game – are frustrating bordering on the tedious. It’s identity is also somewhat confused. The ‘romantic comedy’ aspect which the game is billed as is virtually nonexistent (it simply consists of Felix’s crush on the maiden Betty – an employee of the Ministry of Life), and some of the artwork is downright disturbing with one or two brief dips into more adult territory which were both unnecessary and jarring.
Even with these missteps, however, Felix the Reaper is still a well executed (pun intended) and enjoyable puzzle game, capable of eliciting a smile or chuckle as you figure out just what’s about to take place (for full enjoyment, read the obituaries after playing the levels). With its macabre theme and dark humour, it’s certainly not for everybody, but should appeal to those who enjoyed Tim Burton’s films, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Corpse Bride. ■