- Developer: GalaxyTrail
- Publisher: GalaxyTrail
- Platform: PlayStation 4, Steam, Wii U
- Release Date: 21 July 2014 (Steam), 1 October 2015 (Wii U), 21 March 2017 (PS4)
- MSRP: $14.99
Retro crazes have exploded in recent years. Video games are certainly no exception to such trends. There have been countless games that use retro aesthetics to capitalize on nostalgia. Pixel art and sprites have dominated the indie scene. These games often give nods to the mascot platformers of the 16-bit era. Stephen DiDuro’s Freedom Planet falls into this category. The most obvious inspiration for Freedom Planet is Sonic the Hedgehog. It isn’t shocking that Freedom Planet originally began as a Sonic fangame. This game also seems to take inspiration from Metroid and Megaman X. As someone who grew up playing classic 2D platformers, I had to give it a try. Now let’s get into whether it could satiate my hunger for new 2D platformers.
Freedom Planet stars the dragon Lilac and her friends as they try to save the world form an evil alien overlord. It begins with Lilac and her best friend Carol the cat helping Torque the duck as he crash lands on the planet. He warns them that Lord Brevon is after the Kingdom Stone, a magical Macguffin with mystical powers. The three kingdoms have some sort of truce over the Stone but tensions are high. Political intrigue and betrayal abounds. The Stone is crane gamed away right in front of our heroes and eventually Brevon steals it from the stealers. Now our heroes must get it back while navigating through political upheaval between the three kingdoms and Brevon’s forces.
Brevon is a major asshole. His ship crashed on the planet and he’s extremely bored. What else would an evil warlord do to cure his boredom than murdering a king in front of his son, then brainwash said son into doing his bidding. I Think someone needs a hobby. Brevon looks like a combination of the grasshoppers from A Bug’s Life and Zinyak from Saints Row IV.
The stone changes hands several times and our heroes end up getting accused of trying to steal the stone and get thrown in prison. This is stupid. They gave a warning that someone was trying to steal it, yet they would steal it for themselves. Why would they come to that conclusion? Anyway, it ends with our heroes succeeding and now we wait for the sequel.
The story was easily the game’s weak point. Unfortunately, it takes cues from the 3D Sonic games in this regard. Freedom Planet takes itself way too seriously for a platformer. The characters are all cute. Why does the story have to be super serious? I found myself rolling my eyes at the cutscenes. The mediocre voice acting didn’t help either. The cutscenes are skippable but what’s the point in playing story mode? There seems to be lore missing from the game. Character backstories are referenced but little context is provided. The player isn’t given much reason to care about the characters.
Freedom Planet is a 2D platformer with beat’em up style combat and emphasis on speed. The player is given the choice of playing Adventure or Classic mode. Adventure mode has fully acted cutscenes while Classic does not. Classic also gives you an additional character to use.
The level structure is like Megaman X. Almost every stage has at least one mini boss along with a stage boss. The level design takes its cues from classic Sonic games. It uses momentum rather than holding down a button to run. Calling it a Sonic clone wouldn’t be fully accurate, as there is more emphasis on combat. Lilac has the usual ground and air attacks along with special abilities. The main special is the Dragon Boost, which gives her temporary invulnerability as she flings herself in the direction the player chooses, destroying everything in her wake. I find it incredibly satisfying to blow through enemies. This will be your main weapon against bosses. The levels are perfectly designed for Lilac’s abilities.
The controls are tight and enemy placement is fair. Don’t worry too much about taking damage as most enemies will do a small amount of damage and health can easily be found throughout the level. There are checkpoints at certain sections of the level. When you die, you’re bought back to the last checkpoint. You have lives, but they serve no purpose as there aren’t any game overs.
Freedom Planet is not without flaws. My biggest gripe with the game was the bosses. I hated fighting them. About 90% of my deaths were to the bosses. Each boss battle is filled with cheap shots and attacks that take too much health. It sucks the fun right out of the game. You must be able to recognize attack patterns. I am all for this, but it will take many deaths to figure it out. I found myself tossing the controller in frustration and saying, “fuck this game” many times. Not to mention fighting bosses repeatedly. Simply put, there were too many bosses. Less would have been better. I don’t find dying repeatedly to bullshit enjoyable. Ultimately, the gameplay was fun but hampered by cheap boss fights.
Freedom Planet is a beautiful game. It uses a 16-bit style reminiscent of the Sega Genesis or Super Nintendo. Its very pleasing to look at. Everything has so much color and detail. The setting is mostly based on medieval China with futuristic aspects. Backgrounds have a lot going on. Natural levels have gorgeous landscapes and city levels have so much life. So much love and care went into crafting the world. The character sprites are also incredible. Characters are so expressive, with blinking eyes, wagging tails, and facial expression changes. Just a stunning game to look at.
The soundtrack was composed by DiDuro himself, along with Shane Ellis and Leila Wilson. The music fit the atmosphere of the levels well. It had styles that ranged from J-pop, electronic, and hard rock. I would say the music did its job, but no track really grabbed my attention. I guess that’s the point of background music, to be in the background. Except when its louder than the characters speaking, which brings me to my next point.
The audio quality of the dialogue was inconsistent. Some actors sound just fine while others sound like they were recorded in a bathroom. This is probably since the game’s staff were from all around the world. Some had access to better recording equipment than others. The voice acting was sub-par. Its not ear bleedingly bad and better than most Kickstarter games (looking at you Mighty No. 9).
Freedom Planet is a throwback to 2D platformers of the 80s and 90s. The gameplay is incredibly fun, save for the bosses. The game is visually pleasing to the eye. I can wholeheartedly recommend this game to those in need of a retro 2d platformer fix. There is so much to love about this game, but the story and boss fights bog down the enjoyment factor. I certainly will get Freedom Planet 2 when it comes out.