Fix It Felix Jr (2012 Flash game) review…

Fix It Felix Jr (2012 Flash game) review after the break…

Fix It Felix Jr (2012 Flash game) review…

For as long as there has been fiction, there has been “fictional” fiction. For instance, with the advent of movies, there have been fictional movies about fake movies (In the Mouth of Madness, for instance, or The Last Broadcast). Some movies have had plots dealing with fake books purported to be real (The Ninth Gate, for instance, centered around book purportedly written by the Devil). With the rise of computers, arcades and the Internet, the fictional world has moved on to more electronic story lines (TRON and The Bishop of Battle, anyone?).

Therefore, it should surprise absolutely no one that, at some point, the culture of the video arcade would be celebrated in movie form. Youngsters born into a world of video game consoles and the Internet may ponder curiously the very concept of the arcade – A business where people paid money to play a single video game from a single video game machine (otherwise called an “arcade machine”). It should be noted that arcades rose in the era where home video game consoles and computers were vastly more primitive – The first home video consoles could barely play the arcade game “Pong.” A single modern-day smartphone has more computing power then the combined computing power of 100 robustly-sized arcades of the past. Indeed, when home video game consoles finally began to rival the graphical capabilities of their arcade counterparts in the early to mid 1990s, it spelled doom for the majority of arcades much like video cassette recorders (VCRs) spelled doom for the movie drive-in theaters. Both drive-in theaters and arcades still exist but are now a niche industry and nowhere near the mainstream businesses that they once were.

“Wreck-It Ralph” is an upcoming Disney animated movie about a fictional video game character named “Wreck-It Ralph” who must always play the villain in the equally fictitious arcade game “Fix-It Felix Jr.” Just like Disney released a video game based upon the TRON movie, so too Disney has been wise enough to establish an actual playable video game based upon the fictitious history of “Fix-It Felix Jr.” Unlike TRON, though, “Fix-It Felix” may be played straight from your Internet browser – No actual arcade required. This review concerns the arcade game only and not the movie (which, as of this writing, has not yet been released).

“Fix-It Felix Jr.” is reminiscent of the arcade games of yonder past – Being a monetary-based game, there are a limited number of “lives” (a concept long since abandoned in the age of “Save” and “Load” home video games) and the graphics are quite antiquated. The story is abysmally simple – You are Fix-It Felix, repairing the windows broken by the rampaging Wreck-It Ralph. You must avoid flying ducks and Ralph’s thrown bricks while repairing windows. Bonuses include eating apple pies left on windowsills. Later stages involve having to maneuver around barriers to get to certain windows and the windows require more repairing.

There’s nothing wrong with the game mechanically – On the surface, it is a completely serviceable albeit overly simple facsimile of the arcade games of it’s time. Yet the game begins to fail with the sluggish movement of the character – I often found myself battling the controls to avoid the ducks and the barrels. Were the sluggish controls intentional?

The game is also awfully derivative of “Donkey Kong” and is a few drawn sprites away from being forced to give Nintendo royalty checks. Wreck-It Ralph bares a striking similarity to the Donkey Kong character, Fix-It Felix being similarly recognizable as a fill-in for Mario the Plumber from the Donkey Kong game. Donkey Kong threw barrels; Wreck-It Ralph throws bricks. Ducks fly at Felix independent of what Ralph does; Balls of flames creep up to Mario independent of what Donkey Kong did. Perhaps the one glaring omission between the two games is the lack of a “power-up”; Mario had his barrel-busting hammer but Felix does not appear to have any such game mechanic (Felix does have his apple pies but they do not appear to give Felix anything other then additional points, much like the cherries in that other video game classic, Pac-Man).

I don’t hate “Fix-It Felix Jr.” but there is just not much there to captivate the player after a few playthroughs. The gameplay appears to be like “Space Invaders” where you merely keep climbing the same tower until your death, with no progression to a different-looking tower. Did I just not play enough to see that? Also, the lack of a power-up forces Felix to always feel like he is perpetually on the defensive – He can’t counter the bird attack or the bricks. The apple pies makes your hat perform a palette cycle but I can’t remember it having any sort of power-up effect other then to deliver additional points (like shooting the flying saucer in “Space Invaders”). The additional of timed play makes the game a bit more suspenseful but it also leads to further frustration.

Disney may have bought themselves an escape clause by putting the words “*BETA CODE*” at the beginning of the game, as though you’re playing a previously unreleased beta of the “actual” game and time may tell if my suggestions are mirrored by others and are, as such, addressed in later “releases.” However, the inclusion of such language will fall on deaf ears – Younger players want to play a competent game now and not have to deal with the subtleties of homages that “Fix-It Felix Jr” clearly is. The chunky, clunky aspects of Fix-It Felix is lost on a generation where the Nintendo Gameboy is a relic, never mind the Atari VCS and actual arcade games.

The Discs of TRON, being a competent game, helped salvage the movie TRON’s reputation; Fix-It Felix should address it’s issues or drag down the perception that the movie will be a similar experience. After all, movies based on video games have not fared well and those were movies based on REAL video games. TRON needed over a decade before it began accumulating a cult status and part of that status was because of it’s ground-breaking (for it’s time) special effects; Wreck-It Ralph won’t have that option, being a conventional CGI animated movie.

Arcade games didn’t have the opportunity to fix their gameplay issues; Fix-It Felix does. Yes, the flash game is a minor aspect of the overall Wreck-It Ralph experience but it’s an experience that Disney marketers decided to let the public see first. Even though it’s a fictional game, why not make it the best fictional game possible?

P.S. If Disney truly wanted to go after the old-time arcade gamer demographic, why didn’t they release ROMs of Fix-It Felix Jr. for all of the early video game consoles, like the Atari 5200, the ColecoVision and Intellivision (maybe even Nintendo)? Yes, Flash programmer are a dime a dozen but imagine the geek credibility (along with all the free press) of having gone the extra mile to “port” the game over to the classic video game consoles of the arcade era? Just a thought.

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