Haven Review: Freedom Planet

2015-07-29_00001Freedom Planet (developed by GalaxyTrail, LLC.) is a 2-D action “platformer”, and handles along the same lines as the old Sonic the Hedgehog series. You follow the adventures of three anthropomorphic girls: Lilac, Carol, and Milla, as they try to bring down an Alien Overlord bent on stealing your planet’s resources. They are helped by another alien named Torque, who looks like a duck sometimes. There is also a subplot about rival nation-states. The story is fairly simplistic; not a lot of interesting things going on. While this type of game is not known for story focus, Freedom Planet seems to revel in it. I spent almost as much time watching cut scenes as I did in actual game play. Fortunately there is a “Classic Mode” that let’s you skip the cut scenes entirely…a great feature!

2014-07-22_00006Although the design of the game is a little strange to me, I see where it’s headed… to create that retro Sonic-styled game. But Freedom Planet feels like it’s retro just for the sake of being retro. Sure it brings back memories, but it doesn’t really fix any of the frustrations of the genre. Games have improved in the past 20 years, and there is a way to create a retro-feeling game without the bad retro mechanics.mahrg3

My biggest frustration is the way the game saves. There is no manual save system; only an auto-save after each level is completed. However there is no indication as to when it’s saving; it happens at random moments during cut-scenes. A more appropriate place would be at the “Stage Complete” screens. During my play-through, I would finish a level and quit out of the game before or at the start of the next cut scene. Most of the time this was fine, and the game saved correctly. I was then able to pick up where I left off. Several times however, I noticed the game had not actually saved and I would have to repeat the level outright. We are in an age of gaming where this absolutely should not happen. We’re in a time where the “save state” exists and should be implemented. Let me save in the middle of a level. Don’t make me play your game longer than I want to; it lessens my enjoyment. At the very least, let me know when the game is saving. Give me some sort of indication.

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The concept behind this game is solid enough. There really aren’t many current titles that fit this retro niche. The old ones can be found, but as for something new with the same mechanics, the field is definitely lacking. Freedom Planet does a good job of capturing that nostalgia, while at the same time feeling different. The level design is true to form, and the physical momentum used to carry you through the levels is spot on. I fell off ledges (and sometimes the map) mostly due to my incompetence with this style of game. The characters are fun to play, as each has a different tactic. Think of Lilac as Sonic, Milla as Tails, and Carol as Knuckles. Plus, having a cast of all female playable characters is a really nice touch.

img8AThe game’s graphics definitely go hand in hand with it’s precept. The goal of creating the look and feel of an old mascot platformer is achieved here. The enemies and bosses could have been more interesting in their design, but the levels and backgrounds are great. They each feel unique, and are memorable. When I thought things were apt to become repetitive, they wound up not being so; a nice little surprise.

Too bad the audio didn’t have the same hold on me as the graphics. I’m not saying the songs were bad, they were just not very catchy. There were only a few times where I commented on how I liked the song being played. The voice acting ranged from amateur to fairly competent. Brevon, the villain, far surpassed everyone else. However, at the end of the day I wished there was no voice acting and that I could just read the dialogue.

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The game’s controls are fairly tight. I started out using the keyboard, but things got a lot more intuitive when I switched over to a controller. My biggest problem is that if you hold up on the joystick and try to jump, the character just stands there, unmoving. The movement direction overrides the jump command, which is pretty annoying. I’m sure not many people will have a problem with this, but it was something that I ran across a number of times…especially in areas where it was important to jump!

469955-freedom-planetThis game is hard. Well, it was hard for me. I’m terrible at these kinds of games and it really showed. Luckily there is a wide range of difficulty levels in which to find your preferred experience. I unashamedly settled on Easy, after losing horribly on Normal. For the most part, the difficulty was determined by my own lack of skills. However there were things about the game that made it a bit unfair. Several times for example, bosses had a different set of rules at their disposal that the player simply couldn’t access. I’m not talking about move sets. I mean that the bosses could interact with the world in ways the player couldn’t. One boss in particular (as seen in the following screenshot) was able to move out of the battle arena, attacking from behind an impenetrable wall! When this happened, there was nothing the player could do except wait for him to move back into range. It happened more times than to be a fluke. The boss follows the player. So if you stand in a certain spot, behind the wall he goes. It really limits what you’re able to do and were you’re able to go.

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In terms of re-playability the game fares alright. There are those three characters for you to try out, and with whom to run through the story. Add to that the aforementioned difficulty levels, and you have quite the permutations to experience. The stages are big enough that you could take alternate routes through them, and there a number of collectibles in each stage to give a reason for exploration. The game’s achievements, however lean toward a more competitive, speed-running way of play. The Sonic series made this famous, but it’s not really my style. I’m sure there are some crazy speed-running strategies out there!

Freedom Planet is fairly simple to get the hang of. There are definitely moments where the puzzles or platforming challenges are a bit tricky to figure out, but those moments are few and far between. This means the game is suitable to a wide range of skill levels. The story is cute, wholesome and easy for all ages to follow.

Personally, I didn’t enjoy it. I’m sure Sonic fans could easily overlook this game’s problems and get a lot out of it. For me, that wasn’t the case. I felt there were way more frustrating parts than enjoyable ones. During Freedom Planet‘s “on point” moments, the game-play is fun…really quite good. Too bad those moments were so scarce.FreedomPlanetGradingScale

Disclaimer: We received this game because we wanted to review it, and as such all views in this article our are own. No money has been exchanged for this review.

-Jordan Kamm-