Freedom Planet Review – Speedy Like a Hedgehog

Making its way to Nintendo Switch after initial release on PC and releases on the popular PS4 and not so popular Wii U, Freedom Planet is a platformer that was originally conceived with the intentions of being a Sonic fan game. However somewhere along the way the developer decided they’d much rather create their own world (and sell it to make some cash I assume). With its roots identified the  real question has to be… Is Freedom Planet following in the footsteps of classic Sonic and other great titles or does it journey down the dark road of hedgehogs with guns and motorcycles?

Starting Off

As soon as you choose to start off Freedom Planet there is one feature that will immediately catch your eye and that is the option for “classic mode” and “story mode.” The stages are the same, but Freedom Planet‘s story mode actually offers a number of cutscenes between levels that flesh out the characters and develop the world. In fact they are all fully voiced over which certainly was a surprise.

The story aspect of Freedom Planet is best described as a mixed bag. It is nice to see a modern convention brought into a game that clearly wants to pay homage to retro titles and it does an excellent job of making the characters stand out, but towards the end the story becomes a bit too Sonic Adventure instead of Sonic Colours. The difference? Sonic Adventure tends to get a bit melodramatic and incorporates themes and ideas that seems out of place. Freedom Planet is guilty of this. War, torture, and genocide are hard to take serious when you are playing as a purple dragon. With that being said whilst the overall plot might be too hard to swallow the characters are charming. The jokes and interactions between them are enjoyable and certainly help this cast of humanoid creatures stand out from the sea of colourful platforming mascots.

The Gameplay

The story may help set these critters apart from their competition by giving them a voice, but what about the gameplay? If thats poor then they don’t stand a chance. I am glad to say that Freedom Planet clearly follows in the footsteps of the better Sonic titles despite the fact that one character can ride a motorcycle in her levels. It features nine levels (kind of). There are four parts to the last stage and the other eight could be split in to two parts, but they haven’t. There is a good amount of content for a platformer and that content is good. Double bonus!

Its inspiration from Sonic games is clear. The main character, Lilac, has the ability to perform a speed boost and the general pacing of the levels is similar to old Sonic titles. If you know the level well enough you can speed through, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a good amount of platforming to be had. Set pieces and gimmicks help make each level feel fresh as one might require you to find key cards to progress and the other have you being fired off of a giant bow and arrow. Levels are layered and have different routes so even once you’ve played through the game there will be more routes to find and a healthy amount of hidden cards in each level that unlock art, music and other goodies.

Big Bosses

Each stage is capped off with a big boss fight. Unlock Sonic Lilac and her friends can’t jump on enemies to do damage, but instead have a selection of attacks to choose from. Lilac does a spin in the air, has some kicks and her speed boost damages foes. Each fight offers a fair amount of challenge and requires you to stay on your toes. These fights are by no means as difficult as Mega Man games, but I found myself really having to dig my heels in and learn patterns to get by and many a time only being one hit away from losing all my health. It isn’t just at the end of a level a boss appears though, each level seems to have a midway fight as well which I found odd. It doesn’t make the game worse, but I don’t see why each stage wasn’t split into two acts.

Lilac, Milla, and Carol

Again another inspiration from Sonic would be it’s selection of characters. The base speed and jump ability of each is the same, but all three of them function differently. In fact this trio of heroes operates far differently from their Sega counterparts. Carol and Milla do far more than just glide and fly. Carol the Bobcat has a flurry of kicks to make use of, can wall jump and if you find petrol she will start riding her motorcycle. Milla can fly for a brief time, form a green cube and throw it and even has access to a shield. The differences really set each character apart. I found this especially true with Milla as her approach to enemies is totally different to the rest.

Presentation

The visuals in Freedom Planet look like they’ve been lifted from any classic Sega Mega Drive title. In fact I feel like they really had a bit of inspiration from a game called Ristar. The game looks great on the Nintendo Switch when played in handheld mode. The actual design of each stage is great the majority of the worlds do vary, but the designs in a couple did seem a little too similar. The music is catchy and brilliant. I found some tunes getting stuck in my head quickly and overall the package should satisfy anyone that grew up playing platformers in the 90’s


System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.

Disclaimer: A review code for Freedom Planet was provided by XSEED.

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