Review: Felix the Cat (NES)

In this review, we guzzle down jars of milk for the NES game Felix the Cat. We find out how well this adventure game plays.

This game was released in 1992 and is one of the few games to feature this well-known cartoon character.

The story seems to revolve around a professor who has kidnapped Felix’s girlfriend Kitty. He is holding her up for ransom so he can get his hands on Felix’s magic bag. Felix then proceeds to embark on an adventure in an effort to rescue Kitty.

When you start the game, you get 2 lives. If you run out of lives, you can use one of three continues. If you have to use a continue, then your score resets to zero. If you use all three continues, then the game goes back to the main menu screen.

Along the way, you will encounter numerous black cat icons. For every 5 icons collected, 3 jugs of milk will appear. Each jug of milk is worth 500 points. More importantly, milk also restores hearts if you manage to get a level upgrade. For every 10 icons you collect, instead of milk, you’ll get a heart that appears. Collect the heart and you get a level upgrade. Collect 100 cat icons and you obtain a free life.

For a vast majority of levels, you start off normally. The great part about this initial state is that you don’t have the pressure of making sure you have enough hearts to maintain that level. The downside is that you also get the weakest attack. In the normal levels, that would be the boxing glove. In the flying levels, that is the umbrella/boxing glove combo. In the swimming levels, this would be the canoe/boxing glove combo. In the underwater levels, this would be the swim goggles/boxing glove level. To make matters worse, you operate on a one-hit kill basis. you get hit at this level and you’ll die, losing a life. You’ll just resurface wherever you passed the previous level checkpoint (or the beginning if you haven’t passed by any).

In the normal level, the first upgrade is the star attack. Hitting the attack button (B) will cause stars to push out from your character in all directions. While the range is short, it is a little easier to direct these attacks at your enemy. On the swimming levels, you get the dolphin attack. In the underwater levels, you get the turtle bubble attack. In the flying level, you get the hot air balloon with the throwing of some kind of object at enemies. Uniquely, in the space level, you start out with the first upgrade and can’t upgrade any further (this would be the space ship). If you get hit on this level, you revert to normal and, since there are no floors on these levels, you’ll fall down and die instantly.

The third upgrade only appears on a few levels. In normal levels, you get the car. With this, you can fire out a car horn sound directly in front of you. This is particularly easy to aim at enemies (compared to other attacks). On the flying levels, you get the plane which fires out an object directly in front of you. In the underwater levels, you get the submarine that fires out a torpedo. The swimming level caps out at the dolphin upgrade.

The fourth upgrade only appears on normal level. Get this upgrade and you get the tank with the bouncing cannonball attack. While this attack is a bit tricky to aim, it is much more powerful and can take down enemies that require two hits with a single shot.

If you get an upgrade heart while already being at the top upgrade, you’ll, instead, get a free life. If you run out of heart energy, then you’ll be forced to downgrade to a previous level.

A big feature in the levels are the giant magic bags. If you find one, jump on top and press down. What’s inside are typically a whole bunch of cat icons. This makes filling up your heart energy a near certainty. You’ll also likely get enough for an upgrade.

Also helping you along are invisible 500 point boosts. these are triggered by touching a specific graphic in the background. What they are could be nearly anything, but they can be the professor clouds.

In addition to these are the invisible targets. Essentially, you attack a particular piece of background. If it sounds like it took damage, keep hitting it. Eventually, you’ll free a round “P” object (presuming this to be a power ball). This object refills your energy and gives you a free life to boot.

Standing in your way are a host of enemies. While the enemies do change from time to time depending on the level, they largely follow along the same type. You have the lowly enemies that merely wander back and forth. Another enemy will keep walking and walk off of platforms. While it sounds like they are self destructive with all the bottomless pits around, if the enemy falls into a bottomless pit, they’ll start jumping up and down randomly. In addition, there are enemies that jump up from watery area’s. They stay in the same location, but can impede your progress. Another kind of enemy is both useful and harmful – the flying enemies. Some of them, it’s possible to jump on them and ride them. While this may be neat, they can also damage you if they manage to bit you. Chances are, they are better off avoided or killed off altogether. some levels have unique enemies such as the lurking enemies on the swimming levels or the jellyfish that move towards you when you get near them.

In total, there are 9 worlds. Most worlds have have 3 levels, but some may have fewer levels. Regardless, almost all, if not, all worlds will have a boss at the end of them. They require a large amount of damage to defeat. Still, you often get hints as to what you’ll be up against in the level intro pictures.

To make things more interesting are the destructible blocks. Some are traps where they disintegrate a split second after you step on them. Most of them are denoted by an exclamation mark, but some are simply found on slopes. While they are nicely introduced towards the beginning, they make few appearances on the last half of the game.

The game has a pretty decent learning curve. The beginning worlds are quire straight forward. Meanwhile, the last few worlds are quite challenging. Eventually, precision of your attacks become key. Of course, by the time precision becomes a necessity, you have already played numerous levels to practice this skill.

While all the power-ups sound like this game is a cakewalk, your fortunes can quickly change – especially in the later levels. You could find yourself with only 2 heart pieces left before losing one of the more manageable states in the level. Sometimes, going below a certain upgrade can almost mean certain death just because the level is particularly challenging. Because of this, you are quite dependent on a steady stream of cat icons throughout the game. How much you are dependent on these depends on the level.

This game does manage to keep things interesting with the variety of levels in the game. While most revolve around roaming around on land, you also get the amphibious swimming level where you can dive briefly beneath the waves before popping back up. You can also just slide along the land portions on these levels. The swimming levels are probably one of the more unique kinds of levels in this game. Other levels like the underwater levels or even the space levels have certainly been done before.

One disappointing feature was the lackluster ending. All you get is two quick cut scenes before the game eventually boots you back to the intro screen. A little anti-climactic if you ask me.

While this game has a good difficulty curve and a nice amount of variety, it wasn’t particularly amazing by any means. There is that sense of lingering repetition to be found here that does bog down play a little. Still, there is plenty to enjoy in this game as you explore each level.

Graphically speaking, this game was pretty good. Other games such as Mega Man 3 trump it easily. Still, the different environments and the level of cartoony detail works in this games favor.

The audio was OK. The music was a bit hit and miss as some levels have very short scores while others have a nice amount of variety. The sound effects was the same way. The car horn was nicely realized, but other effects were quite repetitive (such as the damage sound also being the sound of hitting secret targets or destructible blocks). So, OK all around, but nothing too memorable.

Overall, this was a pretty decent game. It has a nice amount of variety to keep the game interesting. While this isn’t something I would play over and over again, I was reasonably entertained as I played it. Too bad the ending didn’t do much. The graphics were quite decent, though the audio was OK. So, I would say this game wasn’t bad in general.

Furthest point in game: Rescued Kitty.
High score: Well over 600,000 points.

General gameplay: 19/25
Replay value: 7/10
Graphics: 7/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 72%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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