Freedom Planet Nintendo Switch Review by SwitchWatch
Developer: Galaxy Trail
Release Date: August 30th 2018
Price as of Article: £12.99 GBP $14.99
Game code provided by Marvelous for review
Think back to a time before Sonic Mania. It wasn’t that long ago and yet many of you will have already forgotten the pain of being a Sonic fan prior to the Christian Whitehead lead mascot renaissance. While 3D Sonic titles of varying quality from decent to mediocre to terrible came and went, the lack of a true Sonic classic hurt fans hard. And indeed, it was the fans who stepped up to fill the void. There’d been a handful of Sonic inspired titles before the release of Sonic Mania, but the one that seemed to gain the most traction and buzz was Freedom Planet. Originally an attempt at a fan game, this game by Galaxy Trail morphed into its own game and given its own identity. Despite looks, characters and plot being different, Freedom Planet was the Sonic game fans were looking for.
The plot of Freedom Planet revolves around the Kingdom Stone. A stone so powerful that it provides almost endless energy to the citizens of its world. Naturally there’s a bit of a debate as to who can get their mitts on it, but that’s nothing compared to the career world invading villain, that wants to take it for his own to power his armies and conquer the known universe. Lord Brevan is his name and it’s up to you and your ragtag group of friends to stop him one way or another. Of the three main characters Lilac is the main protagonist, a courageous dragon girl who can dash here and there with her dragon powers. Alongside her is Carol the wildcat, the typical side character who comes across as a little more stubborn and lazy, but has always got her friend’s back. Finally there’s Milla, an innocent dog girl who’s in search of her lost parents. Together with their duck-turtle friend Torque, they try to stop Lord Brevan and his dastardly plans.
Now, compared to what you may expect from a Sonic-like game, the story is really quite prominent. There are lengthy cutscenes at the beginning and end of each stage that help flesh out a surprisingly commendable storyline as different kingdoms compete and ally during Lord Brevan’s interference. There are odd tonal shifts which will often make you feel weird, but I surprisingly enjoyed what Freedom Planet had to tell as its story.
For those concerned about the lengthy cutscenes (and trust me, they can go on a long time) Galaxy Trail has been consumer friendly enough to include a Classic mode right from the off, in case you just want to play the stages and ignore the story all together.
The gameplay is very similar to Sonic games, but it also has a personality of its own. You can feel Sonic was its main inspiration but there are others in there too, with the combat and especially the epic boss battles which I feel ascend above what Sonic had to offer.
Levels are obviously quite huge with multiple pathways as you head from left to right, blitzing through enemies, obstacles and small puzzle elements. They really are bigger than what you may be used to as levels can often go on for 20 minutes or so. With all the secret areas and different paths to take, there’s no way you can see everything in your first play through. Just like a good Sonic game you’ll want to go through the game multiple times to find the quickest route to speed up your times.
It’s not all about speed though. There’s a fairly big focus on combating enemies. Not all of them, but there’re many points where you’ll want to take it slow and fight the enemies that are in your way. Each of the characters have their own unique moves; Lilac can do a double jump which includes a tail spin of sorts, damaging enemies. She has a normal attack as well as some other moves like an uppercut and ground stomp, should the situation permit. Her biggest asset is her dash attack which can zip her straight ahead or in diagonals. This is a cool ability and is also very powerful, dealing heavy damage multiple times to enemies. You can’t use it all the time though as there is a cooldown meter which is also shared with her double jump attack.
Carol’s campaign follows pretty much the same route as Lilac’s but she is a much slower and more methodical character. Her double jump is more of a pounce than something to give her height, but on the other hand she can wall jump. She can’t dash like Lilac, but at set points within each level you’ll come across gas cans, which means she can use her trademark motorbike to plough through the environments for a short time. While her campaign is the same, the fact that she plays very differently makes it feel almost completely different.
Finally there’s Milla who is even further removed from the standard gameplay. Not only does she play differently but she has her own stages too. She’s more fragile than her allies and is more of a defensive fighter, as she can form blocks to throw as well as using a shield-like attack.
So that’s three very different characters that really change the way the game plays. I know that the developers had planned to release even more characters, but instead decided to concentrate on the sequel. Either way I think it’s a nice solid variety.
While the platforming, level design and mechanics are really fun and intuitive, for me it’s the boss battles that separates Freedom Planet from those around it. Each stage has a mid-stage boss and an epic end of level boss. They can be brutal to the unprepared as they don’t let up for one second. Bosses are huge and often spread over large parts of the stage. On your first play through I’m sure you will get stuck against a good few of them, and you will need to try multiple times in order to conquer them. This is my second time playing the game and I still had a little trouble with some of them.
Complaints are few and far between, mostly too minor to even mention. There is one big complaint though that does hamper my enjoyment a fair bit. Not enough to write the game off or anything, but just enough to peg it down to a level below its true potential. It’s the last couple of stages that really let things go off the rails in terms of enemies. I’m all for challenge, but Freedom Planet goes overboard in just how many enemies it throws at you at once during the climax of the game. I see they did this to show you the power of Lord Brevan but honestly, it takes a lot of the fun away from the game as you just do your best to by pass them all, using invincibility frames just to cheese them. Had the latter stages been more poised and balanced like the other 80% of the stages, I feel like Freedom Planet could have achieved near perfect execution in what it set out to do. Like I said, it doesn’t ruin the game in any way, it just stops it reaching its potential.
I honestly like Freedom Planet more than any other Sonic game. Sure, you can tell it lacks the budget of its inspiration, and yet I find it endlessly more replayable thanks to its character, humour and the more combat based approach to dealing with enemies. I like Sonic Mania but I think I like Freedom Planet just a little bit more. Yes, it does lack a little bit of polish in certain aspects of level design compared to the former, but I know I would choose to play Freedom Planet any day.
It’s visually a lovely game, especially in the level art work. There’s a really nice mix of different themes from each level, whether it be the classic grassland opening level to the astounding looking Chinese city inspired level midway through the game, each one has its own look and personality and their uniqueness means you’ll never get them mixed up or confused with each other.
If I was to be overly harsh in regards to the visuals, it has to be in the direction of the character art. They are okay, but look as though they’ve been ripped straight from someone’s hobbyist deviant art page. While the pixel work is great, their design just doesn’t scream professional to me.
Performance-wise the game is pretty much perfect as far as I can tell.
The soundtrack, for me, is very good too. There’re plenty of asian style themes to it, just like in the visuals, but not always and it mixes it up nicely with high energy tunes you’d be happy to hear in any Sonic game. I really like it and, although some of the tracks tend to blend together a little during gameplay, some of them really stand out like the Dragon Valley pieces and the wonderful Fortune Night music will be in your head for a very long time. This is also the kind of game soundtrack you’d be happy to listen to at any time even when you’re not playing the game. Indeed I have the songs to this game on my phone that I listen to regularly.
As for value, well Freedom Planet is priced at $14.99 in the US and £12.99 in the UK. I think that’s great value for the money, personally. It’s a great game with a lot of love gone into it and with three largely differing campaigns in regards to play style, that’s about 10 hours worth right there, plus finding all of the hidden tokens for you completionists out there to unlock the soundtracks and concept art, will add another few hours on top of that. It works out cheaper than Sonic Mania by $5 and I think it offers about the same amount of content too, so I think Freedom Planet is good value for your hard earned cash.
Fun mix between speed and combat
Boss battles are great
Final couple of stages have too many enemies that stop the flow