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Friday, June 15, 2012

Frivolous Fridays: Fix-It Felix Jr. (A.K.A. The Wreck-It Ralph Game)

Disney's got a fun-looking new movie coming out this fall: Wreck-It Ralph, about a video game villain from 1982 who decides to quit his day job and enter the modern videogaming workforce. It looks like it could be decent, and the fact that they've actually licensed existing video game characters leads me to believe they're hoping for a video-gaming equivalent of Toy Story. And I hope they can pull it off!

Naturally if you're going to do something like this, you'd want to create the "classic" video game that you're basing your movie on. And so they did- Fix-It Felix Jr. can be played here! 

It's a pretty simple affair: Wreck-It Ralph wrecks windows, and Fix-It Felix (Junior, presumably) fixes them while dodging falling debris and birds. Once you've fixed a full screen, Ralph retreats farther up the building and you pursue him onto a new board. As you progress, obstacles appear to restrict your movement, and Ralph can break new windows as he pounds the building to drop bricks on your head. Occasionally, people will poke their heads out of the windows and will sometimes leave pies on the windowsill. Each pie gets you bonus points and an extra life.

It's a pretty simple game. In fact it might be just a bit too simple for 1982- not by much, but there feels like there should be a bit more to it. Some of the issue is in presentation, which both takes it out of the retro time period they're going for and makes it feel cheap (quality-wise, not gameplay-wise) compared to arcade games of the period. Multiple styles of board would be a nice touch- Donkey Kong Jr, clearly the inspiration for the name, had two different boards. Donkey Kong had four. The music is a problem- the piano synth pieces that begin and end the game don't sound quite right for the period, while the main game's theme is too NES-like in its tone. More bass would've helped. Likewise the sprites seem too sophisticated and yet not sophisticated enough. The pixels are finer than I'd associate with `82, but the animation for a given action is maybe two frames and not at all smooth. Felix's movement in particular seems more like a Game and Watch game than an arcade game. The game could also benefit from some kind of congratulatory Stage Clear music as Ralph climbs to the next screen. And lastly, the game is too generous. Every pie you eat gives you an extra life if you've lost one, and every ten levels you get a bonus screen with two pies. There's no way a classic quarter-eater would be that nice to you.

And yet... they're onto something here. The game does have a little bit of the addictive spirit of its inspirations- I went to play it one last time before I began writing this, and wound up playing until I beat my high score(somewhere around 123,000 on Level 28). With polish, this could be what Disney wants it to be- and the words "Beta Code" on the title screen make me hope that it may be further refined before Wreck-It Ralph is released to theaters near the end of the year. It's a decent effort, but a little more attention to detail would benefit it greatly.

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