|Posted by Mr.Video on October 24, 2016 at 8:55 PM|
I’ve recently been playing an indie platforming game under the name of Freedom Planet. So, I’ve decided to write up my thoughts on the game. You could call it a review, I suppose. Anyways, let’s take a look and see what the deal is with this game.
First off let’s just acknowledge the elephant in the room. Freedom Planet blatantly draws inspiration from Sonic the Hedgehog’s 2D outings. From the slopes and loopty-loops to it’s anthropomorphic heroes, it’s kind of hard not to think of the blue blur. Heck, to really hit things home, Freedom Planet originally started out as a Sonic fan game before the creator’s decided to make it something they could call their own. So yeah, expect a lot comparisons to Sonic the Hedgehog when reading this.
As a big Sonic fan, particularly of the original genesis trilogy of games, these similarities were enough to entice me. After playing through the game with it’s (at the time of writing) three playable characters, I can happily say that I’m more than satisfied with my purchase. Freedom Planet is a blast from start to finish.
While it sated my 2D Sonic itch while I wait for Sonic Mania, it also surprised me by bringing some new ideas to the table that helped distinguish it from Sega’s poster boy. Instead of collecting rings for your lifeline, Freedom Planet opts for a life-bar system. This change doesn’t really effect much outside of boss-battles, but we’ll get to that down the road.
Another change comes from how enemies work. First off, enemies can’t damage you just by colliding with you. They actually have to go out of their way and use an attack to hurt you. This works very well, as in Sonic games it’s pretty easy to run into an enemy you didn’t notice due to moving at blistering speeds. But in Freedom Planet, this allows you to keep your speed and give you ample time to react to these threats.
Second, they’re durable. They can’t be dealt with in a single blow, some enemies can sponge up quite a few hits before keeling over. This is a design choice I feel like is a step back. Sonic’s adversaries always went down with one hit, and his move-set allowed him to deal with them and stay on the move at the same time. In Freedom Planet, that isn’t the case. Instead of spin-dashes or jumps, your form of self-defense come from kicks and punches that don’t allow you to keep your momentum. Granted, you could just ignore the enemies and press on, but the problem with that is that enemies are surprisingly persistent. Enemies will actually chase you down, this is especially common with late-game enemies. To make things worse, if these enemies have projectile based attacks, you can actually be shot by them offscreen with no warning.
Another thing that distinguishes Freedom Planet is it’s aforementioned trio of playable characters: Lilac the Dragon, Carol the Wildcat and Milla the Basset Hound. Each one has their own set of abilities to tackle challenges with and change up how you’ll traverse levels. Lilac brings a double jump and the ability to rocket off in an instant burst of speed through the Dragon Boost. Carol on the other hand can wall-jump in a similar fashion to Megaman X and go full on Evel Knievel once she finds a motorcycle power-up, which gives her a nice boost in speed and allows her to scale walls. Last and most definitely least is… Milla. She has the ability to create reflective shields and produce dinky-little blocks she can throw at enemies. She’s essentially the game’s hard mode through limitations. Her move-set puts her at a distinct disadvantage in combat situations, which become painfully clear during most boss-fights. The only exception being bosses who use a lot of projectile attacks, then she absolutely destroys them. But more often than not, that isn’t the case. The one thing she consistently has going for her is her flutter-jump, which gives her great vertical distance, but given how Lilac and Carol have abilities that can cover that, I can’t say there’s any incentive to play as her aside from her exclusive level: Aqua Tunnel.
Now that we got the characters out of the way, how about the levels we’ll be playing through with them? Are they up to snuff? Well to answer that question, yes they are. All of the levels are pretty enjoyable to play through, and have their own set-pieces to interact with and shake gameplay up. One major thing I noticed about each of levels is that for the most part, endless pits aren’t present in them. This was a great design choice from Galaxy Trail, as this allows players to focus on hot-footing it through a level and keeps them from worrying about falling into any pits. In Sonic games, it can be annoying to run into a pit due to going fast, essentially punishing you for doing well in the game. So bravo to Galaxy Trail for fixing this issue without sacrificing difficulty.
Speaking of difficulty… Freedom Planet’s bosses. Those are pretty difficult. I’ve seen a lot of people praise the boss battles in the game, calling them a high-point. And while I do enjoy how over the top and fast paced they are, I can’t say I entirely agree with that notion. For me, boss-fights were the biggest source of frustration in the game. Often times the bosses never followed any sort of pattern, making it difficult to anticipate what move they’ll use next. Sometimes bosses use moves that are impossible to avoid unless you happen to be standing in the right place when they use it. But the biggest problem I have with bosses is stun-lock, where attacks will hit you multiple times, which usually leads to your life-bar being nearly depleted. This feels unfair and overly punishing. In my mind, a player should be able to learn and adapt to a challenge and be able to clear it in one go. But in Freedom Planet, it feels like you need to die numerous times before you can recognize how to handle the situation. I admit, I’ve changed my game mode to Easy just because of how frustrating the bosses were.
Finally, Freedom Planet also features a story with fully voiced cutscenes. So let’s cover that before we wrap things up. The CliffNotes version is that an intergalactic warlord crash lands on Planet Avalice. He begins to stir up trouble as he vies for the Kingdom Stone, Avalice’s primary source of energy and the perfect mcguffin to get his ship back in the air. Of course our heroines aren’t going to sit and let him take off with it all willy-nilly, so they set out to put an end to his schemes.
I’ll be blunt, Freedom Planet’s story is easily the weakest part of the game. That isn’t to say it’s outright bad… but it’s easy to see an unexperienced writer was at the helm of the story.
It’s main issue is that the plot is tonally bipolar. Cutscenes vary from Lilac and friends having a slumber party to a torture scene that wouldn’t be out of place in an MGS game. It’s just very jarring how the tone of each cutscene jumps from being light-hearted fun to grim and serious. Some parts are noticeably written in an awkward way. Drama feels unearned or I’m not sure what a character’s even talking about for a couple of lines.
That isn’t to say the story mode isn’t enjoyable, as some characters are actually pretty fun to watch. Especially Lord Brevon, who steals every scene he stars in. Even if his brand of villainy feels extremely out of place at times. I think the story is worth experiencing at least once, just don’t go in expecting a masterpiece. Of course, if the story isn’t for you, Classic mode might be more your speed. It just goes from level to level, just like the good ol’ days.
Well, this ended up being pretty longwinded… For those who decided to just skip down for the TLDR version, the verdict is that Freedom Planet is pretty rad. A few minor gripes here and there aside, Freedom Planet is a fantastic game that’s definitely worth your time if you enjoy platformers. Even more so for Sonic fans. It’s nothing revolutionary, but at the end of the day, it’s a really fun game. And that’s all it really needs to be. I’m looking forward to Freedom Planet 2 and wish Galaxy Trail all the best going forward!
…Oh yeah, I had a hard time trying to transition into this during that wall of text… But the music is phenomenal. It’s seriously one of my favorite game OSTs in recent memory and it didn’t take me long to buy it on Bandcamp after I finished my first play-through. All of the tracks are real winners.
Anyways, if you read ALL of that, you’re a super-star. Thanks for reading. ...You can follow me on twitter @MrVideo95. Or not.
As an aside, it's been almost two years since OS put Shad out of his misery with his emergency propane tank.