The Ninjabot

Freedom Planet Review: The Pinnacle of Character Platformers

Posted on August 3, 2014 at 7:02 pm by Victor Chaves

Freedom Planet

Freedom Planet is a fast-paced character platformer by GalaxyTrail, made in a style similar to 16-bit era character platformers that appeared when Sonic the Hedgehog came onto the scene. What must be addressed first before reviewing Freedom Planet is that I absolutely adore the first four Sonic games, so much so that Sonic 3 & Knuckles is still my favorite game of all time. I love Sonic 3 & Knuckles so much that every year since I was 8 years old, I would beat and complete the game 100% without fail. With that said, after playing Freedom Planet, I can say without hesitation that it is the greatest character platformer I have played since Sonic 3 & Knuckles.

Although Freedom Planet is heavily influenced by the early days of the blue blur, the game itself does a great job of setting itself apart from other Sonic-inspired games. By adding it’s own ideas and features to the genre—such as the addition of cutscenes with full-on voice acting, expanded controls outside of just jumping, varied and difficult bosses, and fleshed out combat—Freedom Planet shows us how the character platformer genre can be as interesting today as it was when TV’s had knobs and UHF meant something.

Freedom Planet

Perfectly Distilled Platforming

What I find compelling about early Sonic games flies in the face of common critique. Where most fans will extol that “Sonic games were always great when Sonic went fast,” I say that the platforming itself was what made Sonic games so satisfying. Navigating through an environment full of hazards while feeling out the physics when jumping around was and still is extremely satisfying. Freedom Planet understands that sentiment, making the action of jumping and exploring the environment—not blasting through it—into an utter joy. It’s solving the issue with having to defeat a tough enemy, or trying to get to a barely-out-of-reach platform that makes 2-D platformers as a genre so appealing. With plenty of interesting obstacles and level-specific environment hazards to surmount, moving and jumping in Freedom Planet is going to teach you how platforming should feel.

Freedom Planet

An unexpected addition to such an inspired game is the combat. Where Sonic only had a jump, each character in Freedom Planet has several different ways to attack. By simply pressing the attack button or using their special moves, the character can tackle any enemy in in their own unique way. Each character has a very different set of moves that drastically affect gameplay. This is fantastic as the enemies and bosses require different tactics which, in turn, lead to interesting methods of dispatch

An example would be if you’re playing as Lilac, her twirling double-jump attack is great for dealing a rapid succession of attacks, but taking on the second level Mantis boss with this tactic will result in diced-Lilac. A better method would be to use Lilac’s special ability to fling herself (a la Ristar or Rocket Knight Adventures) to do damage, but quickly stay out of range of the Mantis’s attacks. This doesn’t work for every boss, which is great as each boss becomes a challenge in learning their patterns and knowing which attacks will work best. Megaman anyone?

In addition to Lilac’s airborne multi-hit twirl attack, Carol can do a Chun-Li multi-kick and wall-jump a la MegaMan X, and Millie can flap her ears to fly a bit and use a shield to protect herself and shoot projectiles. There are other moves as well, but my favorite out of all these is a Carol-only powerup where if she finds some gasoline, she hops on a motorcycle! What makes this amazing is how ridiculous Carol’s move-set becomes, she becomes capable of double-jumping, boosting on the ground, and riding up walls—sheer vertical walls. It’s so wacky that I can’t help but love it.

Freedom Planet

Teen Titan-esque Characters, But Too Much Story

What caught me off-guard was how much story Freedom Planet has. After each stage, there was a fully-voiced cutscene that establish characters and show action sequences. I can’t really say that the story was anything interesting, but the characters themselves seemed exceptionally fun. The game revolves around the three heroes, Lilac, Carol, and Milla (Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles, but all Female), as they attempt to stop an alien race from stealing the Kingdom Stone from the three kingdoms that inhabit the planet. The three heroes are helped along the way by Torque, a turtle…duck…thing that wants to stop the invaders. The three main characters themselves—Lilac, Carol, and Millie—are just fun to be around. Freedom Planet loves to give nice little extra animations and roles for characters to fill, such as Lilac dancing, Millie blushing, and sometimes having the other characters join in on fighting bosses. It’s a bunch of these little details that add up and make each character more interesting.

For a game with simple controls and a simple goal of running to the right, the plot is too overbearing and takes away from the total experience. I won’t say that it should be taken completely away, because the three main characters are fun to watch and interact with, but pulling back the story a bit or maybe trying to be more visual in narrative rather than talking about it would help. In Sonic 3, I didn’t need to be told that Knuckles was the bad guy, it was obvious by the fact that he stole Sonic’s Chaos Emeralds in the first twenty seconds of the game.
Freedom Planet

Stunning Visuals

Artistically, this game is worthy of tears. The visuals in each level are varied and colorful, even changing a bit when entering a new area of a level. Although the animations on each enemy and character are fantastic, the bosses themselves are just superb. Each of the bosses are truly as eye-catching and fantastic to observe as the last. If there is one issue I have, it’s that the characters look a bit too anthropomorphic. As for the music, even though I like it, it doesn’t have particularly interesting melodies or rhythms. I may be trying to connect to the past too much with loud melodies, heavy bass riffs, and strong rhythms that Freedom Planet simply doesn’t have. Listening to the game’s soundtrack, I admit that the music is enjoyable, but the songs don’t stand out enough. If I can’t associate the sound of the music with a particular level, then I feel like something is lacking where the songs are concerned.

freedom planet

Final Thoughts

There’s no doubt that Freedom Planet was influenced by Sonic; the physics, controls, and the colors all feel very 90’s. While playing this, flashes of other games that defined the Genesis and Super Nintendo era sat in the back of my mind: MegaMan, Rocket Knight Adventures, Ristar, Dynamite Heady, Gunstar Heroes, and even Vectorman appeared whenever playing Freedom Planet. Even with all this inspiration, Freedom Planet still manifests itself well enough that it never crosses into being a copycat. If you don’t grab this gem of a game, you’ll be depriving yourself the experience of a genre that hasn’t been this well-represented since Sonic 3 & Knuckles.

Presentation: 9

Gameplay: 10

Replay: 10

LEGACY SCORE: 9.3

Geek Legacy’s review scores are on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest possible score.

This review is based on a steam download of the game I received from GalaxyTrail for backing their Kickstarter Campaign.

Freedom Planet is available on Steam here.

Follow Victor on Twitter @fake_brasilian to see him realize that cowboys are all that Americans ever wanted to be.

    • If the story is an issue for people, there are modes of gameplay that skip cuts scenes and the like (we cover this in our own review). Might help for those who enjoy the game but aren’t a fan of plotlines such as yourself. Amazingly fun game either way, though!

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