Published on November 10th, 2015 | by Lee Davies
Review: Freedom Planet (Wii U)
Format reviewed: Wii U eShop
Other formats available: Steam
Developer: Galaxy Trail Games
Publisher: Galaxy Trail Games
Website: Official Website
Freedom Planet is a combat-based platform adventure that pits Lilac, a dragon girl, and her friends against an alien attack force. There’s trouble around every turn, from insects to giant robots to sheer explosive destruction, but you’ll have a variety of special fighting abilities to blast your way through each stage.
Fight and race a path through the world of Avalice with 3 characters to choose from, each sporting unique abilities, to approach this cartoony platformer gameplay in different ways. Lilac, the purple Dragon girl, can use Dragon powers to whip enemies with her hair, spin like a cyclone, or fly through the air at high speed like a comet. Carol, a green cat, can bust through foes with a flurry of punches and kicks or summon motorcycles that let you ride up walls and ceilings. And finally, Milla, a white and brown dog, summons blocks to throw at enemies or can even use psychic shields to reflect attacks. Each character’s move-set changes the way you’ll play each level throughout the main Adventure Mode, with certain areas only easily reachable with one ally or another, but specifically tailored levels for each of the 3 protagonists can be played in the Time Trials Mode.
If you’ve seen anything about this game over the last year, it has featured heavily within Nintendo’s Nindie Game’s promotions, then the resemblance to a certain spiky, fast moving, small, blue, mammalian, hedge dweller is undeniable. Even on the official website’s FAQ’s it is stated that Sonic is a heavy inspiration, and his influence is seen everywhere, even in the 3 buttons it takes to jump (and double jump), attack, and Special Attack. Upon using a Special Attack, a depleted stamina bar does recharge quickly, but not quickly enough to avoid some untimely deaths. The 3 buttons can be used in combination with the Analogue Stick to provide an intuitive attack system, with uppercuts, downward air lunges, and jumps all linking together fluidly, and it feels well balanced and responsive, if somewhat a little floaty for precision platforming. What gets in the way of all this frivolity and enemy stomping is the insistence of the inputted Anologue Up to resort to a look up move. So, if you push Up a little too early in one of your ass-kicking flurries your on-screen ally will just stand there motionlessly looking to the heavens for divine inspiration. Annoying beyond all words in the fast-paced racing sections.
The art is nostalgically beautiful and colourful, with large sprite-based friendly and enemy characters, and crisply detailed backgrounds. Some enemies do have a tendency to be coloured in a similar palette to their surroundings, difficult to spot and ending up a frustration that could easily have been foreseen with more careful enemy placement. This is seldom, but just often enough to comment upon. Animation is slightly jerky in places, but because of it it retains a 1990s feel throughout, which flows through into the poptastically upbeat and cheesy late 80s-early 90s music that pervades every level.
With 4 difficulty levels to choose from, Casual, Easy, Medium and Hard, completionists will have even more challenge for their money. There are lots of collectibles within every level to locate that let you unlock art and music galleries, and even an achievement collection that rewards you with badges for each successfully completed event.
Starting the game lets you choose between Adventure or Classic Mode. Both modes play through exactly the same levels in exactly the same order, however Adventure Mode adds fully voice-acted cut-scenes between the levels to immerse you in the plot of saving your planet from Lord Devan and his evil robotic minions. The cut-scenes are rather humorous, and whilst incredibly lengthy, are well executed, cute, and well-acted. There are times when one character’s voice becomes substantially quieter than all others, thank heavens for the subtitles in RPG-style textboxes, so those audio-leveling glitches can be forgotten. Classic Mode forgoes all the story and just throws you onto the next stage straight after completion of the previous one.
Freedom Planet, for the most part, lets you play how you want to play. Take your time, kill all the non-spawning enemies, gather all the collectibles, or race through it in the shortest possible time using the Special Attack speed boost to fly past and through unsuspecting enemy robots, scorching a trail around loop the loops and generally other hedgehogian activities. When travelling at speed, however, the game suffers from the same problems as its nostalgic cousin, that of enemy and terrain placement. You are moving so fast that its impossible to tell what’s coming next, 100 miles an hour, bam, hello wall, dead stop, bam, hello spike floor … and that’s where Freedom Planet differs in a very pleasant way. Take a hit and you don’t spill the contents of your rewards bag all over the floor, instead you’ll just lose half a leaf from your 7 leaf energy bar. Life replenishing leaves are plentiful on the easier levels, less so on the harder variants.
The stages, 10 of them in total, are split into distinct areas, but each area is far too large for its own good. Stage 1, and its 3 areas, on first playthrough, took over 25 minutes to complete. If you are interrupted and have to save your game, restarting that very same game will place you back at the beginning of the last Stage you saved on. Luckily, the game is very lenient when the same happens upon death, placing you at the start of a boss or of an area, and not sending you back 20 minutes to replay the same stage again.
Some levels are more exploration-based, where the game forces you to find a keycard in order to open a door to progress, or push blocks onto switches, and some are more race orientated with giant boulders, lava, underwater oxygen depletion, and the like, threatening to squash you, fry you, or starve you as you run/swim before them.
Bosses are plentiful and appear in the middle of levels and at the end of each. Some are enemy characters, and others are screen filling robotic monsters piloted by those exact same enemies. However, most boss encounters are overcome easily with a bit of movement and spin attacking. There is a distinct lack of variety in the way that bosses assail you.
For the most part Freedom Planet runs smoothly, but some odd glitches were encountered during my 6 hour playthrough. The most stand-out was every time my character left invincibility, the game froze for a second and made an incredibly bad transition back to the in-game music. In a boulder chasing section I decided to just jump backwards over the chasing boulder, where the game went mental, jerking all over the place until I resumed my characters correct position of being pursued. Sound glitches were abundant during the game’s cut-scenes. Glitches were not game hampering, but were unnecessarily too often. And, the initial load upon pressing that game icon, on my GamePad, I was met with the loading art screen and the usual jingle to go along with it. The game then stays on this screen for a further 25 seconds, just silent, without any indication of what is happening, no loading bar, nothing. It’s just enough time to make you wonder if the console or game has frozen and if a reset is next. At least an annoyingly long initial load isn’t replicated in any other way during the rest of the game’s load screens.
Off-TV play is simply a mirrored version of what appears on the TV in its entirety. The style of gameplay on offer in Freedom Planet, and the heavily pixilated animation feels at home within your hands on the GamePad. However, this leads to the GamePad screen being totally unused whilst playing on the TV, with the double render of the TV screen still being output to the controller with no way to switch it off. No touch screen interactivity is present throughout the whole of this game’s play, not even in menu selection. Miiverse integration is just what you would expect it to be, post screen shots and text to show what a nostalgic time you’re having.
Gamers with nostalgic leanings toward blue hedgehogs will love this game, even through the myriad little non-game breaking glitches. Others will invest their time in a well constructed action adventure platformer that harks back to the 16 bit days a little too much.
Summary: So similar to classic Sonic games that you'll already know if you want to play this or not. Those that do will not be disappointed at what Freedom Planet achieves, speed, platforming and a nice combat system when things slow down. Just don't expect anything groundbreaking.