NOTE: This is a slightly shortened version of my review without screenshots. For the full review, please visit Real Gamer Reviews
First thing's first - It is flat-out impossible to review this game without mentioning the obvious influence. As many of you probably already know, Freedom Planet began as a Sonic the Hedgehog fan game by developer GalaxyTrail. Freedom Planet is a tribute to Sonic the Hedgehog in every sense of the word, ranging from the title (Planet Freedom was the name of the planet in Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie) to the graphical style (16-bit Genesis style to a T), antoropomorphic characters, catchy-as-all-hell music and level design. This game plays much like reskinned Sonic the Hedgehog. If that sounds appealing to you, then I highly recommend this game. On the other hand, If sonic didn’t do anything for you then Freedom Planet certainly isn’t bringing anything new to the table.
I’ll be honest – the story is meh. Evil alien warlord has come to your planet and stolen this huge crystal that powers up everything and has made two of the kingdoms on the planet turn on each other. It’s your job to stop him. There’s not a whole lot to say, but let’s be honest, Sonic the Hedgehog never really had a story at all so we can’t really fault them too much for trying.
One warning though - the dialogue in this game is garbage. I have to commend the voice actors for doing a relatively decent job at delivering lines which are really God damn awful. Luckily, this is all skippable stuff.
In case it wasn’t obvious by now, the game plays very much like Sonic the Hedgehog. At the beginning of the game, you get a choice between Adventure and Classic mode, with the difference being that Adventure mode has the cutscenes embedded between levels, whilst Classic doesn’t. After this, you have the option to choose between two main characters – Lilac, a dragon, or Carol, a cat. Each character has their own distinct abilities and attacks, which primarily influence which areas in a level you can reach and how you approach each boss fight. Speaking of abilities and attacks – this is one thing that Freedom Planet did do to stray from the Sonic formula. Whilst Sonic primarily limited to jumping onto and spinning into enemies, the characters in Freedom Planet can attack with several different moves, allowing for a more varied approach to tackling enemies and, in particular, bosses.
In terms of level design, a lot of familiar favourites from old Sonic games can be found, including those bouncy spring things and the classic loop-the-loops. Like the Sonic games, each level is fairly open-ended. Whilst the primary goal is, more often than not, to go from left to right, there are multiple pathways through which you’re able to accomplish this goal, and the game rewards those with an exploratory itch by placing collectibles all over the levels for you to find.
One major difference between this and the Sonic games is that Freedom Planet sheds the classic Sonic ring-based health system for a more traditional one.
The game took me approximately 6 hours on my first run-through with Lilac. The game has a considerable amount of replay value, as playing as each of the two main characters offers a very different experience in terms of traversing the levels and more importantly, boss fights. Furthermore, the game has time trials for anyone that fancies themselves a speedrunner.
In terms of difficulty, I would say this game is just about what you’d expect from the original 2D Sonic the Hedgehog games. That is the say, the game is definitely beatable, particularly for children of the 90’s that grew up on games like this, but less-experienced and younger players are likely to struggle in the later boss fights, with the last boss being a particularly offensive kind of A-hole.
The game looks… Sonic-y. I’m sorry, but it’s hard to describe it as anything else other than 16-bit Genesis graphics … with “blast processing”, of course. If you can picture Sonic the Hedgehog with an oriental flavour then you’ll probably have a pretty good idea of what it looks like. It’s worth noting (although it probably carries no weight whatsoever to people reading this) that my girlfriend, a non-gamer who was under the impression that both games were released in the early 90s, thought Sonic 3 looked significantly better than Freedom Planet when I showed both to her one after the other.
One complaint that I had in particular was the fact that the character-size-to-screen ratio was too big. The issue is that for a game as fast-paced as this, it’s very hard to see very far into your surroundings, so you always get hit by things you weren’t prepared for. Like, I get that the original Sonic games were like this too, but that was due to the technical limitations at the time. This kind of design is a relic of the past, and it should’ve been left there.
Another complaint is that there are certain sections of the game where it’s particularly difficult to distinguish the things in the foreground from those in the background. There are numerous times where a platform or crate looks like something you can interact with, only for you to fall right through it. This isn’t terribly gamebreaking for the most part, but it definitely feels sloppy.
The sound in the game is tolerable for the most part, except for the sound of going on springs, which makes this wretched and piercing cymbal sound. I have no idea why the flying ♥♥♥♥ they decided to replace the awesome ‘Boing” noise from Sonic with this horrible earache, but I really wish they hadn’t.
As previously stated, the voice acting is fairly decent but the dialogue itself is cringeworthy.
One thing I did absolutely love about the game was the awesome soundtrack. Whilst the individual pieces don’t necessarily stick out as much as the best tracks from the old Sonics, the soundtrack succeeds in the consistency of quality – there isn’t a single track that was played in the game that I didn’t enjoy, or think didn’t belong.
Overall, I think Freedom Planet did a great job in doing what it was made to do – be a Sonic the Hedgehog game with original characters. With that said, it really is nothing special either, nor did it bring anything new to the table. It’s unfortunate to have played this after playing Shovel Knight, as maybe I’m a bit spoiled. Shovel Knight did everything correctly – they took existing games from the late 80’s/early 90’s and made a modernised version of it that retained all the magic of the earlier games, whilst shedding the frustrating, broken and outdated aspects of them (such as the password save system of Mega man). Freedom Planet, on the other hand, chose to keep everything the same, and thus feels very dated. In other words, this game looks like it was released in 1992, and if it had been, no one would have found anything about the game to be particularly unusual.
Which also raises another question – Who exactly is this game designed for? The dialogue and storyline are blatantly childish and, for lack of a better word, “girly”. The problem then is that this style of game is almost certainly not going to appeal to a young gamer, due primarily to the difficulty and the completely outdated graphical style
With all that said, the bottom line is this: the game is fun, will last you a good amount of time, will probably tickle some nostalgic bones and has a great soundtrack. As a result, I’d recommend it to anyone that has already played Shovel Knight and needs another throwback to the good old days of 2D platforming. If you haven’t played Shovel Knight yet though, I’d recommend getting that one first.