To get into the mood for the review, I’ll say this here rather than later. I am a big fan of the Sonic the Hedgehog series, and that is the biggest reason why I got this game to begin with. That does not mean that the game cannot stand on its own merits. It certainly does, but you cannot deny that the similar design is going to influence a sizeable chunk of the game’s sales.
The game was also originally funded through Kickstarter. If you, the reader, does not know anything about the site, what you should know is that most of the games pitched and funded on the site are either really obscure in ideas, a sort-of sequel to an existing series, or deliberately retro in design. So, there is another aspect that puts this game under the comparison glass.
But, one last thing I would like to note before getting into the review, is that I played a few of the Sonic the Hedgehog titles in between my play sessions of Freedom Planet. I confidently say that comparing this game to Sonic is like comparing Cave Story to, say, Mega Man or Metroid. Though it has similarities in the material, it is an entity all on its own. Though, I did find one Sonic game I feel like I can compare to Freedom Planet, but I feel people would take it the wrong way if I listed which game it is. So, for reasons sake, the game will remain anonymous.
The story of the game is this an evil alien by the name of Lord Brevon crash lands on the world of Avalice, and seeks out a gem called the Kingdom Stone to leave the planet and continue his reign of terror across the galaxy. While two of the protagonists, Lilac the Dragon and Carol the Wildcat, are out and about one day, they notice a plane being shot down by a battalion of helicopters and go to investigate. When they finally find the survivor of the wreckage, a shellduck named Toque, he informs them that someone is going to steel the Kingdom Stone, and your journey begins. There is also a third protagonist named Milla the Hound Dog that you can play as, but she is introduced later in the story.
There are two ways that you can play through the game’s story. The first option is to play the game in “Adventure” mode where the story unfolds through cutscenes that happen before, after, and sometimes during a level. The second option is to play through the game on “Classic” mode which is where you progress from level to level without the story interrupting anything. As for any other differences between the two options, in Adventure mode, you can only play as Lilac and Coral, but in Classic mode, you can play as either of the two and have the additional option to play as Milla.
Overall, the story is okay. The story does come off as a bit cheesy at times, and there are moments where it does overstay its welcome a little bit, but that’s basically it. If you choose to go through the game in Adventure mode, each story is about 6 hours long on your first playthrough. There is an achievement to beat the game in under 90 minutes, so the game can vary in how long it takes to beat it.
To answer the question of “Do the graphics of this game look good?” in this day and age is almost the equivalent of asking “Where am I going to find information on a subject?” Ever since 2006, graphics have hit their limit of becoming substantially and shockingly better. Though, with Freedom Planet, rather than use the smooth graphics today’s technology is capable of, the developers instead went with the game looking like it started developed as a Genesis game. In doing so, the game’s graphics reflect the stylized beauty that Genesis games had while still having fresh environments and character designs that feel new. There isn’t any need to comment further on how the game looks because I believe that the screenshots and gameplay videos provide all else that needs to be said.
As for the animations within the game, that’s more of a debatable issue. The animations shown during gameplay are very smooth and there is really no complaint in that department. There is no evidence of frames skipping and none of the animation slows down (except for when you beat a boss, but that’s more of a victory thing). Though, there are complaints with the cutscene animations. Within the cutscenes, the problem isn’t actually the character animations themselves, but how they have the characters moving their mouths and such. While it does seem similar and reminiscent of the dialog animations found in 90’s video games, specifically point-and-click, the animations feel more like those found in flash animations and retro styled machinima videos.
The game’s music is perhaps the one thing that is almost like the inspired material (The Sonic the Hedgehog series if you haven’t been keeping up). Given how memorable the tunes are for those games, the music for this game are about equally as memorable. All of the tunes are quite catchy and would probably be alongside one’s soundtrack to other games using chiptune music.
During the “Stage Clear” screens and the cutscenes, there is much dialog to be found within the game. Rather than taking the simpler approach of just having text boxes, the game is fully voiced. None of the voice actors sounded out of place for the characters and they get the job done. The only complaints with the voice acting is that there were moments where it was too loud, and, on occasion, it feels like things are either too cheesy or too emotional with how some things is delivered.
Freedom Planet is a 2D platformer, which, for the uninformed, is a game where you primarily go from Point A to Point B while running, jumping, and defeating any enemies that get in your way, all the while happening in a two dimensional plane. In addition to the platforming, there are also attacks that each character has which are broken down into regular attacks (which are executed by holding down the attack button), air attacks (which take up some of your charged energy and serve as a double jump), and special attacks (Which work when your charge gauge is full). Each character has their own set of unique attacks and movements to make each character stand out from each other, and sort of give the respective easy, medium, and hard difficulties.
Let it never be said that I hate a game being difficult. One of the reason’s I liked F.3.A.R. was its steep difficulty curve that tested your skill when playing alone, something I loved about ZombiU was how easily you could be killed despite how much of a powerhouse you are, and looking back on Cave Story, getting the true (the third) ending is an achievement in of itself. With Freedom Planet, the difficulty curve of the game ranges from moderate level to overwhelming hard (especially in the final levels of the game). This wouldn’t be as much of a problem if the game didn’t seize every chance it could to kill you within a moment’s notice. It is widely understand that the later levels of a game are supposed to be difficult, but don’t overwhelm the player with to too many enemies trying to kill you. Despite which character you play as, you are only able to get out of some of those places just by the skin of your teeth and sometimes a “Game Over”.
- How should the problems be fixed? What other problems are there?
Something the developers should consider adding is the inclusion of a story for Milla, or an unlockable final story. Usually when games give you different stories to play through, there is an unlockable story the fills the player in on all of the loose ends and/or adds one last awesome moment to an already completed story. Though the ending of the game does leave the possibilities for sequels, there are still a few moments in this game which should be explained.
Another aspect that should be fixed is how the cutscenes are animated. Rather than have the actually character models themselves talking and showing emotion, instead look into having the speech bubbles include the head of the character (Like in Cave Story and Popful Mail). They should not get rid of the character’s doing any sort of action in the cutscenes, such as the scene where Coral was trying to wake up Lilac. Just show the facial animations in a different sort of way, but leave the body animation the way they are.
The last main issue is to give the option to make the dialog either fully automated or progress completely at our own pace. There were numerous moments where one would miss a piece of dialog because it skipped to another midsentence, and be afraid to press anything in fear that they’d accidentally miss something else.
As for any other nitpicks, the only remaining one is that it would have been nice to incorporate the treehouse into the game somehow instead of leaving it as a prop for the cutscenes. For example, have it as an unlockable option when one of the stories is beaten, and you can use the place to look at online leaderboards, listen to the game’s music, perhaps watch some dev diary’s and game trailers, or even allow the characters to change clothes/costumes.
- Final verdict
If you read on the game’s Steam page, the developer notes that, ”Future content is planned! We’ll be continuously adding new features, and any future DLC we include will be free of charge.” With this in mind, perhaps some of the problems with the game will be fixed in the near future, but, as with any game on the market, a game should be reviewed as what it is in its current form rather than what it will be. And in its current form, Freedom Planet is a good game that I would recommend to anyone looking for something different to play. The gameplay is solid and puts a nice spin on things despite its difficulty, there is a story to enjoy if that is your sort of thing, and for the completionists and achievement hunters out there, there is enough unlockables and secrets here to keep you coming back for a while.
If you are interested in buying the game, you can find it available on the developer’s website at: freedomplanet.galaxytrail.com