Freedom Planet was a different beast back when it launched for the PC in 2014. It was a totally not sonic clone that took the best elements from Sonic the Hedgehog series which is understandable if you take a look at the development history for it. This project originated as a sonic fangame by indie developer Stephen DiDuro, however, it was then later decided that this will be a new IP. The result was that a lot of the art style faced changes that ended up creating brand new characters in the current state of the game.
Freedom Planet still maintains a lot of its core DNA with the Sonic series, but there are enough variations in its gameplay that this ends up being a fun platformer on its own. The most important change here is the choice of a better combat system and with 3 playable characters, there is plenty of replay value offered in the game. The two main gameplay modes accessible here are Adventure mode that will make you go through each level with a narrative offered to give some purpose for your character’s journey, or the Classic mode, which simply includes the main story levels without any of the extra clutter or story elements. Adventure mode is unfortunately rather dull and the best way to experience the game is through the Classic mode if you want to simply enjoy the gameplay.
The level design is also mostly solid but it doesn’t quite hit the highs of the sonic series although there are some original ideas that work well once combined with the unique abilities offered by each character. You will start with the choice of 2 playable characters and unlock one later down the line making it a total 3 characters with their own strength and weakness. What I liked was how different they were in their traversal and combat options. You will be able to control the three protagonists: Lilac, Carol, and Milla.
Lilac can use the ability to hover for a while and spin into a ball to dash for a quick boost, sounds similar? Carol is different with a gameplay focus on melee skills. It is possible to climb walls by clinging to them with Carol. You can also use ride a motorbike with Carol letting you easily run past most obstacles. As for Milla, she is more on the defensive side of things. As a 2D platformer, the gameplay loop is simple: Just go to the end of the level and fight the boss to advance to the next stage. Bonus content is hidden in the form of cards which you will have to find by looking at every corner of the level and discovering secrets, although the incentive to replay a level mostly boils down to using a different character in it.
The main campaign will last for 10 levels and if you go through the Adventure mode, there will be plenty of cutscenes before each level begins so you can get the sense of going through an epic journey. The story is nothing special though due to the forced humor and terrible villain which is the result of mediocre writing. I have to give the developers some credit for at least implementing it for the main campaign but the possibility to skip cutscenes means there is still a way to avoid it without the Classic mode. The cool thing is that the story will play from the perspective of the character that you control, so you can see slightly different events for your controlled character.
The thing is, even if I am not a fan of the story, I feel like the game is best experienced the first time through the Adventure mode to get an idea of the story. You can then repeat it with different characters in Classic mode and don’t miss out on anything. It doesn’t really take that long in the Classic mode to finish the game since you can also essentially speed run through the levels, like a typical Sonic game. Boss fights also occur at the end of each level and they will get challenging quickly but most are well designed so you have to exploit the weakness of the boss to defeat them.
Freedom Planet is an old-school game with 16-bit visuals. Even the main menu screen design has inspiration from classic games so it would have never felt of place on something like the Sega Mega Drive. The visuals look rather dated if you play on the big screen, since the pixellated look doesn’t work that well with the upscaling offered by the TV, but the portable mode is amazing making it all the more worthwhile. It is the ideal way to experience Freedom Planet which has lost some of its appeals after the comeback of Sonic with the new Sonic Mania.
Freedom Planet Review (Switch)
Game Reviewed on: Switch
Game description: Freedom Planet is a 2D platform video game developed and published by GalaxyTrail, a studio set up by designer Stephen DiDuro.
Final Score - 7.5/107.5/10
This is an indie game that understands well how to properly take inspiration from the classic Sonic games, and as a result, it manages to stand out among the many clones. The impact of Freedom Planet is far less now, but it has the potential to carve out its own identity in the future.