The Chase is on for February

For whatever reason, I wasn't allowed to talk about this game for months. I was almost scared they'd scrapped it for some bizarre legal reason (since The Chase is the name of several different movies). But luckily it looks like The Chase: Felix Meets Felicity is back on track for a 2009 release.

The game is a DS action platformer about a guy and girl trying to make it across town for their very first date. Each level is a part of the city that either Felix or Felicity has to navigate by dodging roving businessmen and speeding cars, or outrunning a freak rainstorm that sweeps through the city after you. The point of the game is to collect as many hearts, coins, and flowers as you can find throughout the level so you can wow your date at the end of the game with a pile of ice cream equal in quantity to the number of coins you've collected.

The style of The Chase is bright and cute — it kind of reminds me of 16-bit sprites and the arcade glory days of Nintendo. There's also a stylus-drawing gameplay mechanic kind of like Kirby: Canvas Curse; you can draw a line with the stylus that creates a platform (or slide) for Felicity or Felix to slide along. This tool helps you bridge gaps, reach high places, or escape a downpour from the rainstorm.

Players can either be Felix or Felicity — each has a distinct playing style that helps them navigate the 40 levels. I got to try out Felicity and her incredible high-jumping ability, which helped me get to the big ledges with the most flowers without having to use the stylus-drawing too much. I built up a lot of momentum with her running and jumping, which got me into trouble because I'd launch myself right into the side of a car (that, too, is a throwback to 16-bit games like Bubsy and Sonic the Hedgehog).

The only thing that bugged me in this early look was how chatty the tutorial was. All the in-game cut scenes are Felix and Felicity talking in gibberish over the phone with text-filled speech bubbles. So instead of going out and trying the moves being described to you one at a time (the way that most game tutorials work), you get a long, long lecture and then have to try and retain the info when you actually set out into the level. Oh well, at least the gameplay isn't that hard to master...

There's no denying that The Chase is aimed at chicks (just look at all the pink in the screens) but as the levels get more challenging, and the humour more self-referential, it becomes obvious that Atari wanted to make a game that would appeal to pretty much everyone instead of being some sexist throwaway game. They left that honour to My Horse and Me: Riding for Gold.

The Chase: Felix Meets Felicity is out for the Nintendo DS on February 2009 - maybe in time for Valentine's Day.


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