When I first saw Freedom Planet, my initial reaction was “This is just Sonic the Hedgehog…”, but as I started playing it I found that, although it took inspiration from games like Sonic and ironically initially started as a Sonic fan game, this indie title was, oddly enough, in a league of its own. Hey there guys and gals, Clarice here with my review of Freedom Planet!
Freedom Planet first arrived on Steam back in July 2014 and was developed and published by GalaxyTrail. Freedom Planet currently has mostly overwhelmingly positive reviews on Steam which lead to this game first being ported to the Wii U, and later on to the PlayStation 4 – With the Nintendo Switch being the indie-focused console that it is, it has now been ported over and this will be the platform I’m reviewing it on.
Starting off with the graphics and overall art style of the game, you can immediately see that this game has taken inspiration from eastern Asia, and fully embraces it to create a fusion of western and eastern culture – This game looks visually impressive with the amount of detail and love that went into the characters and environments, the character designs all stand out from one another and are really well animated, making this game run and feel flawless. Not only that but this game has fully voice acted lines that are surprisingly well acted and it sets the scene for the more emotional parts; this is probably one of my favourite indie titles that has amazing voice acting in.
So who are our protagonists? Similar to Sonic we have three playable characters; Lilac the Dragon, Carol the Wildcat and Milla the Basset Hound. Each protagonist has their own playstyle and abilities – During the development of Freedom Planet this game was intended to be a Sonic fan game, but after some humming and harring and a change of artist, Freedom Planet was morphed in to what it is today, which is why you can see some correlation between the characters of Sonic to the characters of Freedom Planet. Lilac originally was a hedgehog, but later changed to be a dragon, Milla has the ability to use her ears to take off and fly for a short amount of time, which is very similar to Tails and Carol can climb and sort-of glide similar to Knuckles; this being said however the similarities between the two games cuts when it comes to plot, environments and gameplay features.
After playing through all three campaigns, the story slightly changes depending on who you choose. This is so each character has equal amount of playtime and so that when playing with your chosen character the plot makes sense, that being said however, my biggest gripe with this game is the plot. It is very loosely put together and most of the time it does feel like you have to put 2 and 2 together and somehow make 4. It does feel very rushed and at times you just want to see more story exposition, see another cutscene or some extra dialogue that explains why such events occurred. I won’t spoil anything so no need to worry about spoilers, but I do wish that with certain points of the story we were granted more access into Lilac, Carol and Milla’s world. If you are looking for a good story driven game this isn’t the game you are after, what the game lacks in regarding story, it makes up for in pure entertainment and general fun from this game.
Another issue I had with this game is the length of each campaign, and to some extent each can feel too repetitive. The amount of time it will take you to finish all three character campaigns is a generous 6-8 hours, depending on how good and fast you play, however this does not include time trials and Classic Mode which allows you to play all stages in order without story (Similar to traditional Sonic games); I’m simply just talking about the Adventure Mode in this review, though. The gameplay is fun and enjoyable but I feel there could have been more, but saying that however this is GalaxyTrail’s first major game and it has already set a very high standard for this team.
When it comes to the difficulty however, I found that to start it felt relatively challenging but got people ready for what the other levels have in stock. As the game progresses the levels do get a lot more difficult, and at times I was raging simply down to cheap shots and the character that I am playing as having more difficulty added due to the skills and abilities not being compatible with the boss. I found that with every character, each one of them had different bosses that they were well adjusted for, and bosses that would absolutely destroy you. This in essence is good gameplay design as it gives more variety as to how to play and defeat a boss, but at times I found that a certain character makes it incredibly hard to defeat the same boss I defeated so easily with another. For me personally my worst character to play as was Milla, this is due to her having much less health than the others as well as her abilities and distinct play style. Although she has range, her main source of attack is a shield that works both offensively and defensively, and can create these gelatinous cubes that can be formed into a shield blast. Sounds like she would be OP right? Well the problems I had with Milla were the amount of time it took to create these cubes, meaning that you have to work fast and strategically; this can prove tough in certain fights against certain bosses and fast paced enemies.
Saying that however, due to how powerful her shield blast is, some enemies and bosses die with no problems. As I have stated previously that each character has their own spin on things, and with Carol and Lilac, both have a bar at the top left of the screen that depletes when using their special skill. Carol for instance can use a motorbike to blast through levels and has an attack similar to Chun-Li with nonstop kicking actions (Until the bar depletes completely that is), whereas Lilac can dash in the air allowing her to bounce off of walls, this is balanced by only being able to do this once her bar is completely filled, and has a more varied arsenal of attacks when it comes to directional movement. There are added gameplay features such as shields that grant immunity to fire, a bubble to breathe underwater and an overall shield alongside invincibility; when first playing however I found that I had no idea what each shield does so there was a lot of trial and error involved.
+ Excellent, emotive voice acting
+ Varied cast of characters and boss fights
– Some later levels and bosses aren’t considerate of alternative characters, leading to harsh difficulty spikes and aggravation
– Some levels can feel repetitive, especially with repeated runs with other characters
All things considered, this game took me by surprise and I thoroughly enjoyed it, although very similar to Sonic it was very different and I am glad I got to experience this game and I will be preordering Freedom Planet 2 when it eventually comes out. I happily award this game a solid 8.0 / 10; it would be a 9 if there was a bit more story and much longer campaigns, but hopefully GalaxyTrails take note of the constructive criticism and make Freedom Planet 2 an even better experience.