Felix the Cat review

Now here’s a collection that’s equal parts fascinating and puzzling. Hudson Soft’s 8-bit Felix the Cat platformers are rarely mentioned, with the NES version being a reasonably late arrival on the system. One of the last NES games to feature on the cover of Nintendo Power, no less. The Game Boy version is expensive nowadays too, despite launching when the handheld was in its prime. As such, these are two titles that many have unlikely heard of, let alone played, making them ideal for a re-release. The fact that Konami and Limited Run had to secure the license from DreamWorks also makes this a special case, with licensed retro re-releases being on the rarer side of things. Often it’s too much hassle, or the rights have been lost to time.

The confusing part? This collection is noticeably bare. It was always a given that just two games would feature, and it has many of the features we’ve come to expect – such as a rewind tool, save states, and a CRT/Dot Matrix filter – but there are no extras whatsoever. Considering the £19.99 price point, and in light of some of the extras we’ve seen in similar retro re-releases, it’s strange that more effort hasn’t been made. There isn’t even a scan of the manual, let alone something that would have been easy to implement such as Gimmick! Special Edition’s time trial mode. At the very least, there should be a text-based explanation detailing why these two games have been plucked from obscurity and given a digital dust off.

What we have here is the 1992 NES platformer – both the US and Japanese versions, with their negligible differences – plus the Game Boy version in all its monochrome glory. Being a late release for the NES (the SNES was a year old by this point) it’s clearly aimed at younger gamers, with a lax difficulty level. A touch more difficult than Kirby’s Adventure, but still far easier than most NES platformers. The plot sees Felix, armed with his magic bag, out to save his girlfriend Kitty from the clutches of a white-haired professor. Before the final confrontation, Felix must defeat his minions, including a green blob of goo, and a primitive robot. The plucky cat must also overcome an enemy roster mostly comprising of fish and birds. The tables have turned!   

The graphics are bright and breezy, with Felix himself as expressive as can be considering the NES’ graphical limitations, and the music is suitably jolly. Level design is pretty basic though, even by 1992 standards. The nine short stages merely scroll from left to right, with no vertical sections. Occasionally Felix can dive into ‘warp pipe’ style bonus rooms, and that’s about it for diversions. Felix does, however, have a trick up his sleeve that elevates the experience. The magic bag bestows a range of vehicles, most of which are stage dependent. Felix can leap into an overpowered tank and ride a bike with a horn to toot, while the flying stages see Felix upgrade his floating umbrella to a hot air balloon. There’s also an underwater stage where Felix can ride a turtle and later a submarine. Challenge lies in keeping hold of these vehicles until the boss, giving our hero extra hit points. Not that the bosses are difficult, mind, with some beaten simply by cornering them and spamming attacks – a spring loaded boxing glove by default.

Hudson Soft had made quite a few NES platformers before Felix the Cat’s release, and their expertise shows here. It’s colour, controls well, and the methods of transport help induce variety. It is altogether quite formulaic though – and Sunsoft’s late NES platformers pushed the aging console harder. The Game Boy version is slightly disappointing, meanwhile. It’s based on the NES version, including identical level layouts and boss battles, but has half the number of the stages and consequently takes half as long to beat. The presentation is also poorer, with no mid-stage cut-scenes, and certain objects are static instead of being animated. In short: it’s an inferior version of the NES original, with no unique qualities.

And that’s all, folks. An above average NES platformer, and its middling – although inoffensive – Game Boy counterpart. NES diehards and anyone who owned the original back in 1992 may enjoy this fleeting trip down memory lane, but those with a passing fancy would be best off waiting for it to drop in price. Curiosity won’t kill the cat, but it will leave a dent in your wallet.

Konami’s Felix the Cat is out now digitally on PS4 and Switch. Limited Run Games will be issuing a physical release later this year.

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