Felis: Save all the Cats (Free) has been on our radar for a very long time. Even with the lengthy delay, I was certainly looking forward to its eventual release because, hey, it’s a platformer about saving cats. If you look simply at the story, thematics and gameplay, I’d almost say it was worth the wait, as well. Unfortunately, significant issues with the controls detract from what could have been a decent entry into the genre.
Visually, Felis reminds me of games such as Leo’s Adventure, which means that it looks lovely. Each locale has a hand-drawn look that goes very well with the general fantastical theme of the world. There’s also a decent amount of variety in terms of the game’s missions as well, which allow the art style to really shine. Of course, the kittens you save themselves are absolutely adorable, with meows that got even my own cats intrigued with the game. The great art style also translates to the games enemies, which, as you might imagine, are mostly variations on the cat’s worst enemy: the rat. Whether it’s regular rats, knight rats, grizzly bear rats or undead rats, Felis has plenty of rodents to take out as you search for the abducted kitties.
Finding, and more importantly saving, those cats make up the extent of the gameplay in Felis and the game actually has a few small tricks up its sleeve to make it interesting. For starters, saved kittens will typically follow you around Lemmings style, which would be great if not for all the pitfalls littered around each mission. So, a lot of the strategy involves saving kittens, making sure they don’t cause their own doom by instructing them to stay put, and clearing the path ahead of various enemies. See a pitfall ahead of you? Well, then you’ll need to tell each cat to not move, and manually carry each one over the hazard before putting them down and telling them to not move. Missions typically build upon saving and keeping the cats alive as you’ll encounter puzzles that need you to use the cats to access new locales (which typically then give you even more cats). Of course, the game keeps track of all the cats saved in each mission and players are rewarded for saving all the cats. It’s a basic gameplay system, but it works well within the game.
I also enjoyed the game’s combat, which again was pretty simple but implemented well. Different enemies require different strategies to dispatch (although you can brute force most of them if you wanted to). Melee and projectile attacks add to the mix and a basic inventory system lets you store items such as potions in case your health runs low. While the combat system doesn’t offer anything innovative, I would have been perfectly satisfied with what Felis offered if not for the lackluster controls.
Unfortunately, the great visuals and decent gameplay can’t overcome the sub-par previously alluded to controls. Players move the hero around on a persistent too-tiny D-Pad that simply doesn’t work well. When you combine that with the also unnecessarily small action buttons Felis is rife for frustrating deaths during the game’s platforming segments. The D-Pad issues are particularly frustrating because a lot of the platforming strategy involves putting your saved kitties into a holding pattern (which requires you to hold down on the D-Pad while you release the cat with an action button. If your finger is precisely on the ‘down’ position you can potentially kill your cats with an errant throw, potentially messing up an entire run.
The controls issues continue with some frustrating collision control. Early on you encounter things such as thorny bushes which will cause significant damage if you don’t jump over them. The problem is the hit detection doesn’t quite much up with the artwork of the bushes themselves. So, while you might think you need to start your jump before you encounter the bushes, you actually need to touch them in order to jump over the portion of the bushes that actually counts as damage. Can you learn to deal with this? Of course, but it’s a silly issue that shouldn’t be there to begin with.
The collision control isn’t a huge issue, but the general poor implementation of the controls simply makes Felis: Save all the Cats far less fun than it could be. It’s really a shame too, because the world is interesting, the cats are adorable, and everything else about the game would be pretty enjoyable. However, in its current state, Felis ends up being a flawed product that might be worth it for cat lovers (because really, we buy anything with cats), but may not be worth it for everyone else.