Dev/Pub Galaxy Trail
After spending 3 million hours grinding up levels and crap items in Destiny, did you stop and think to yourself, “Why do I even play games at all? I haven’t been enjoying myself for days – this feels like a chore.”
When some little oik gives you a hard time about your K/D ratio on the latest dreadful military shooter, do you experience ennui of soul, ponder your life choices and consider jacking it all in to go and referee roller-derby matches?
Where are the thrills of yesteryear? Everything that was once new and shiny now seems old and decrepit; your gaming enthusiasm is sapped and needs a boost.
That’s presumably why people flock in their droves to pick up the latest franchise title, despite diminishing returns. Like a crack addict searching for a hit that will match the first one, they’re all addicted and desperate.
Not you though, dear reader. You’re above that kind of thing. You are, to paraphrase Uncle Monty, a sponge looking to suck up new experiences.
So with that said, let’s review something that looks like 16-bit throwback Sonic rip-off! Wooo-hoooo!
Aw, look, I’m only 3/4ths kidding. Freedom Planet does bear the trappings of a Megadrive or SNES classic title on the surface but is in fact one of the best slices of arcade platforming that I’ve played for a long time. To be clear, this isn’t a precision platformer in the style of MeatBoy, rather an exploration and adventure title (with a story!) Much more akin to the Hedgehog and Wonderboy games of this world.
Bold and striking in its graphical style, Freedom Planet is beautiful to look at and wonderfully smooth to play. You begin the game as Lilac, a purple dragon teenage girl who spends her time adventuring with best friend Carol – a green, motorcycle driving cat. They soon become embroiled in an adventure to save their world of Avalon from an interplanetary villain and the stupidity of the adult leaders who just won’t listen, damnit.
During your quest, you’ll meet up with a friendly alien masquerading as a duck and a lost dog-girl who needs friendship, as well as an assortment of other animal themed NPCs. The writing is pitched just-so; in order to avoid what could have been unbearably saccharine characterisation. Sure, it’s cutesy, but Freedom Planet still manages to tell a competent story and actually make you want to take down Lord Brevon for reasons besides, ‘well, he’s on the right-hand side of the level, and that’s the way I’m going.’
According to the Wikipedia article, Freedom Planet began life as a Sonic the Hedgehog fan game and – in the nicest possible way – it shows. The common tropes are there, spin attacks, smashing robots to reveal creatures inside, tons of pick-ups etc. Most notably however, the game manages to capture the sense of speed that Sonic had at its best. You can careen through levels at a breakneck pace, avoiding many of the obstacles but also missing out on the goodies. When Lilac catches loops and really builds up speed, I was reminded of Chemical Plant Zone from Sonic 2, which was so fast it seemed almost impossible at the time. It’s a testament to the quality of the programming in both cases that I’m struggling to find decent examples since.
Freedom Planet is a challenge without being impossibly difficult – if you just want to see all the levels and have some effortless fun, there’s an easy setting which is very forgiving – and is suitable for gamers of all abilities. However, really exploring all the games nooks and crannies is going to take a while. There are 3 playable characters eventually open to you, each of who has a distinctive play-style. Beating the game with all 3 is going to take some considerable time, since they can’t all take the same route – especially when it comes to battling the bosses at the end of each stage. I was surprised to what degree I was required to change up my tactics when tackling them with the different characters. It certainly stops the game becoming too repetitive. Having said that however, I found that I definitely had the best experience playing the game as Lilac and found the other two to be still fun but less so. This is probably due to the speed with which I had to get through the game for review however. Leave it a couple of weeks between playthroughs and you’ll probably have a better experience.
It’s heartening to see a game that has gone through Kickstarter and Steam Greenlight end up as such a resounding success. Now on Steam, it hasn’t come out in Early Access with excuses all cued up and promises of future content that may never materialise. Freedom Planet is an extremely well designed, developed and executed game that is -above all else – fantastically good fun to play.
I was always convinced we were supposed to be having fun. Thanks, Galaxy Trail, for making a game so good and so accessible as to remind us all.
Freedom Planet is out now for PC (£10.99 on Steam)