Developed by: Galaxy Trail
Published by: Galaxy Trail
Reviewed on: Wii U (also available on PC)
There has been no shortage of retro inspired, 2D platforming games in recent memory. Freedom Planet is one of the better examples, an indie game that’s both a tribute to the classic 90s Sega aesthetic and its own take on the genre. Originally conceived as a fan made Sonic the Hedgehog game, the game’s developer, Galaxy Trail, decided to create their own original game.
The plot centers on the efforts of Lilac, a feisty purple dragon that could easily belong in the Sonic universe, and her allies to stop the conniving Lord Brevon from conquering their world. His schemes involve manipulating the royal family and to steal the Kingdom Stone, which provides power for the surrounding three kingdoms. While it has the presentation of a children’s game, Freedom Planet is not as a family friendly as it seems; there’s a handful of dark moments, including a beheading within the first few minutes and even a torture scene midway through the game.
Visually, Freedom Planet feels like a long lost Sega Saturn game with colorful characters, huge sprites, and expansive stages. The sprite designs are especially evocative of Sonic games from the 90s. The youthful character designs are colorful and charming. Fans of the Archie Sonic Comics and the vintage Saturday morning Sonic cartoon will appreciate the look and concept. The art style is a mash up featuring Sonic inspired palettes with an East Asian aesthetic. The pixel art holds up pretty well regardless if you choose to play the game on an HD TV or through the Wii U game pad.
Like the games it was inspired by, Freedom Planet is filled with catchy tunes. The game also features a surprising amount of voice acting, which is thankfully very solid. Some of the character performances are over the top, but it’s fortunate none of the main characters are grating.
Freedom Planet almost feels like a game made by the legendary Treasure development team, who created classics such as Gunstar Heroes and Dynamite Heady. The action is fast, fluid, and satisfying. The boss battles are challenging with some even resembling the iconic bosses from the aforementioned Treasure games. Like the games from that era, the game throws players into the game without any kind of tutorial. Thankfully the controls are easy to figure out after a bit of experimentation. Its roots as a Sonic game are evident with the loop de loops, springs, corkscrew run ways, and power ups, but other elements like the combat system, health system, and puzzles make Freedom Planet far from being just a clone.
The combat options are what separates Freedom Planet from traditional Sonic games. There are three playable characters that each have distinct play styles. Lilac has the ability to dash, perform spin attacks, and perform up close melee attacks. Her best friend, Karol, attacks with rapid fire punches and kicks and also has the ability to ride a motorcycle as well as scale walls to get to areas that Lilac cannot reach. The final playable character is Millia, who can generate psychic shields to absorb attacks, create explosive Phantom Blocks, and float upwards for a short time. Lilac is the most fun character to play as her dash maneuvers make her the fastest, most Sonic like, of the three. Galaxy Trail also promised there’ll be additional playable characters via DLC patches.
The stages are a bit long, taking anywhere from 10-20 minutes to complete. Each stage has multiple pathways and encourages exploration. There’s a decent variety of enemy types that encourages you to try out the various combat maneuvers. The boss battles can get brutally difficult, but thankfully it’s easy to earn extra lives in the game. The Adventure Mode features cutscenes are a bit dialog heavy for a platforming game. For purists, the Classic Mode allows players to play the stages in order without any cutscenes. There’s also a Attack Mode for speed run players.
If you’re looking for a colorful, fast paced platforming adventure game, Freedom Planet hits all the right notes. It’s the Sonic inspired game that no one asked for, but the one that old school Sega fans should definitely play.