iPad App Review: Fix-It Felix, Jr.
(Available in the iTunes App Store for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 4.3 or later. Price: Free)
After seeing the latest preview for Wreck-It Ralph, many of us have felt that Walt Disney Pictures’ upcoming fall release is to video game players, what Who Framed Roger Rabbit was to people who had grown up with animated characters.
Though the film is titled Wreck-It Ralph, Ralph himself is the bad guy of an 8-bit game called Fix-It Felix, Jr. In the game, Ralph scales the facade of Niceland Apartments, angrily pounding on the building with his massive fists. This causes brickwork to rain down, smashing the glass on several windows. It is then up to the game player (in the role of Fix-It Felix, Jr), to repair the damage Ralph has done.
Each time you finish a level, Ralph goes up 5 more floors, and Felix pursues him. However, along with dodging the bricks Ralph dislodges, you’ll also need to deal with ducks flying by. The higher up you go, the faster Ralph moves about knocking out bricks, and more ducks fly by to hinder your progress. Each level also has a time-clock that you have to abide by. Word is there are a total of 10 levels, but as of this posting, I’ve only gotten as far as Level 9 (whether the game ends as it does in the trailers for Wreck-It Ralph, I do not know).
Felix starts out with 3 lives, but over the course of the game, the tenants of Niceland Apartments will show their appreciation for Felix’s help, and assist him. This involves leaving a pie cooling on their windowsills. When Felix eats it, his hat will flash, and he’ll gain an extra life, and invulnerability for 5-7 seconds.
The game is set up in a locked vertical position, with directional buttons and an ‘action’ button at the bottom to control Felix. The controls can get a little cumbersome as the amount of obstacles start piling up in the later levels. my hand/eye coordination kept slipping on the directional controls, but then again, that could just be me in my ‘old age.’
The designers of Fix-It Felix, Jr have created a wonderful homage to the games of the 1980′s. The game app was developed by Frima Studios, and seems to combine traits of such arcade classics as Donkey Kong, and Rampage. Though it does not follow exactly what we’ve seen in the film’s previews (or the playable game on the film’s website), it put me in mind of some games that were ported over from arcade machines to home video game consoles (you seldom got everything exactly as you got in the arcade). Even so, I do wish I had one of those iCade cabinets in order to play the game properly with joystick and push-button controls.
Another version of Felix can be found on the official Wreck-It Ralph website. The game graphics and style look a little different than the iPad app variation. The controls are the same (directional controls and one ‘action’ button), but the game play is set for a horizontal screen, and Felix does not have to deal with ducks getting in the way of his repairs. This variation reminded me of the game graphics I used to see on my old Apple IIgs back in the day (anyone else’s family have one of those besides mine?).
One little detail I love is that this game is called Fix-It Felix, Jr, which means it’s a sequel. One has to wonder if this game series in this alternate world went the way of Donkey Kong (who found himself in several different iterations of games, including Donkey Kong Math). Of course, Mario started as an adversary to Donkey Kong before getting his own earth-shattering title. Could this be what was in store for the character of Wreck-It Ralph?
The film Wreck-It Ralph also intends to send us into the realm of many different games, from a Call of Duty/Halo space action quest and a candyland-inspired racing game. Imagery of these games in the film previews puts them moreso in the realm of PS3/XBOX graphics, so I doubt their well-rendered imagery will appear on the iPad. Even so, Fix-It Felix, Jr is an enjoyably retro way to spend a little time gaming away. Plus, it’s not everyday that the game you’re playing has such a distinct connection to the film its related to.