By Tyler Lubben / October 25th, 2013
I’m a guy who loves a good platformer. Having grown up on classics like Super Mario Bros, Mega Man and Sonic the Hedgehog, I have a special affection for this particular genre. As such, I was excited to be given the opportunity to try out Freedom Planet, a Kickstarter-funded title from Galaxy Trail. Touting memorable characters and fast-paced gameplay, it seemed like a great opportunity to try out this promising new game. Let’s take a look at this preview build and see if it delivers on those promises.
Immediately, the similarities to early Sonic titles are undeniable. From the cutesy anthropomorphic characters to the huge multi-pathed stages to the emphasis on running through said stages, the game could easily be accused of ripping off everyone’s favorite blue hedgehog. However, while certain components may borrow from those games, Freedom Planet sets itself apart in some pretty important ways, actually improving on some of those games’ shortfalls. First off, the game features three distinctly unique playable characters (with more promised after its release). Lilac is the star of the game, followed by her friends, Carol and Milla. Each of them has a different play style, making traversing each level in this demo a new experience depending on whom you’re controlling.
Lilac is a bit of a middle-of-the-road character, with decent running speed and jumping skills. She has a double-jump, as well as a multi-directional charging attack that will allow her to bash through breakable walls and enemies alike.
Carol may not hit as hard as Lilac, but she makes up for it with fast attacks; something like a DPS-type character. Additionally, Carol can slide down and jump up walls Mega Man X-style, making obstacles that might turn away Lilac easily traversable. Littered throughout each level are gas cans that, when picked up, allow Carol to mount a motorcycle which gives her even greater mobility, a double-jump and the ability to ride straight up walls.
Milla is possibly the most unconventional character. The slowest and weakest of the three, magic is her weapon against the hordes of foes she comes across. Her main attack is the ability to materialize a block above her head, throwing it at enemies for decent damage. She can also create a shield that will allow her to deflect most incoming projectiles, which will release a burst of damaging energy when she lets it go. These two attacks can be combined, as well– if Milla is carrying a block, and then creates a shield, the block with be reshaped into a larger shield than usual. When releasing this shield, the blast of energy will reach farther and deal more damage than the standard one. She is also able to fly up into the air for a short time by flapping her ears.
While Freedom Planet may encourage running through stages a la Sonic, the speed at which the three characters move is significantly slower. While the game may not feature the same blast processing speeds of its spiritual predecessor, this does mean that players will have more time to react to the traps and enemies that block their paths. Additionally, even if players do get hurt by something, it is a far less punishing experience, as Freedom Planet uses a health bar. With the exception of spikes or other hazards, most enemies don’t hurt players through direct contact. Instead, they have actual attacks that will need to be avoided. This way, players will actually have a little time to react to enemies they encounter, rather than taking a hit just for running into a foe they only saw for a split second.
The demo also features a few water areas, showcasing the game’s swimming mechanics. While there is a breath meter that players have to contend with, it is usually easy to escape by simply swimming up and jumping out of the water. These underwater sections also have small bubble chambers that allow players to replenish their breath meters before moving on. These features seem to signify that any underwater worlds that Freedom Planet’s full game may contain could be much less frustrating than similar games of the past were.
Even so, the game is not without its flaws. Key among these is how difficult it can be to control your character while jumping. Air controls are not as tight as I would like, giving characters a bit of a floaty quality when airborne. This can make jumping from platform to platform difficult when you constantly have to try to correct yourself after overshooting your aim. Fortunately, the game doesn’t seem to believe in bottomless pits, so the worst I experienced was a little frustration at having to climb back up to retry missed jumps. Also, the music, while well-written and catchy, doesn’t loop very well. Rather than seamlessly transitioning from the end of track to the beginning again, there are several seconds of silence before the tune starts up again.
These flaws aren’t major, however, and there’s still plenty of time to fix them before the game’s projected release next Spring. As it is, the game isn’t perfect, but I see a lot of potential here. With a few tweaks, I think this could be a great game, and I’m certainly looking forward to see the final product in the coming months. If you want to try Freedom Planet for yourself, you can download the demo for PC or Mac.
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