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Faster Than Sonic? - Freedom Planet Review
Although you might not be able to tell from the name, Freedom Planet is as inspired by Sonic the Hedgehog as games get. Originally developed for PC as a SOnic fan game, Freedom Planet has since evolved into a full fledged adventure of it's own with unique characters, plot, and level design. Although the concept of a high-speed 16-bit platformer might already be quite familiar, don't let that dissaude you. Freedom Planet is truly a unique—and surprisingly refreshing— expirience.
Platforms: Wii U [Reviewed], PC
Release: October 1, 2015
Press Copy provided by GalaxyTrail
Freedom Planet launches you into the world of Lilac, a speedy, adventurous, and often sassy purple dragon. She soon meets up with friends Carol and Milla, all of which serve as unique playable characters. The story is presented in full-fledged and rather lengthy cutscenes that are played before the beginning of each level of gameplay. It's Lilac and Co.'s job to save their planet from the alien overlord Brevon, who has stolen the giant gem that powers the trio's world. Each scene is full of surprises, plot-twists, and drama that expand on the story. For those who aren't interested in the workings of the Freedom Planet universe, each cutscene is skippable and there is also a mode available from start that allows you to skip scenes altogether.
Although the sheer effort put into the backstory is comendable, it often comes across as feeling a little off. Although the plot is usually interesting enough, the voice acting if often off-putting (sort of Tails-esque) and level of maturity presented seems inconsistent at times. Sometimes the dialogue feels as though it's meant to be taken seriously, while other times it does not. Sometimes the evolving plot is quite engaging, while other times it seems dull and repetitive. Nevertheless, the cutscenes seemed to add to the expirience overall; they're worth watching at least once.
The fast-paced gameplay is where Freedom Planet really shines. Like Sonic and many other action-platformers of the past you'll find yourself speeding through a world from left to right defeating baddies and solving puzzles along the way. The variety of gameplay is excellently done. Sometimes you'll have to slowly overcome a tricky platforming section and other times you'll be able to speed through levels. A lot of how the game is played also depends on player preference. There's plenty of collectibles to nab up that require carefully exploring the vast levels and there's a number of paths that will let you stride out and ignore enemies entirely.
The three playable characters (Lilac, Carol, and Milla) all have unique speeds, attacks, and special moves that make playing levels with each character a different expirience. There's also a few levels that change or can only be played with certain characters. A maze-like level design that will surely leave paths explored on the first playthrough add to the replability. There are 14 total levels and each one is filled to the brim and later levels take upwards of 30 minutes to complete. The difficulty really heats up later in the game, but lots of checkpoints and unlimited continue uses (which partially nullify a purpose for collectibles) mean that it never feels unfair. There's also 4 dificulty options with 2 easier modes and on really challenging mode.
A single aspect upgrades Freedom Planet from a good to great: boss battles. There's a boss battle at the end of each level and most levels have a mini-boss that would easily pass for a boss in other games. Boss battles are huge, unique, and really fun. Battles range from fighting an armor-clad snake, a variety of robot forces, and a dragon that's just a little bit bigger than Lilac (see 1000x the size). Most battles have many phases and each phase requires a mastery of the bosses' patterns and tells to be succesful. They get very challenging as well, later bosses getting 30+ attempts out of me. If nothing else, play this game for the sick boss battles.
The graphic style is familiar to the fourth generation era. Although the art appears pixelated and slightly dated on modern screens, it is quite fitting for this type of gameplay. The story might not have been executed as well as it could have, but cutscenes are genuine and skippable if desired. The gameplay is always solid and boss battles are tremendously fun. The game also supports a variety of controller options and features off-tv play. Although $15 is on the higher end of modern indies, the game promises 6-8 hours on the first playthrough and a lot to keep you coming back. Although not without it's flaws, Freedom Planet is truly more than a sonic clone.
- Solid action-platorming
- 3 unique playable characters
- Large levels that are very replayable
- Some of the best boss battles in 2D gaming
- Optimized for Wii U with off-tv play and controller options
- Dialogue is sometimes executed poorly or drones on
Excellent games have our official recommendation and our examples of what every game should strive to be. These games feature exciting gameplay, engaging stories (when applicable), intuitive controls and movement, polished and fitting presentations, and good value. Above all else, these games are truly fun to play.
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