New mascot platformers aren’t the heavy hitting haymakers that they used to be, but that doesn’t mean that the occasional gem doesn’t still pop up. Set on the world of Avalice where all the animals are anthropomorphised and full of sarcasm, Freedom Planet is a game that makes no bones about its old-school influences, and it’s now making its way from PC, Wii U and PS4 over to the Switch.
This is a combat platformer that has you getting through each level at high speed, solving puzzles and taking out weird monsters as you go. Scattered along each path are countless pick-ups and power-ups that will keep you alive and help you take out the invading nasties. Each level culminates in a boss fight where you’ll have to dodge attacks, then counter-attack at the right time in order to take them out. In the event this has you reminiscing about the golden age of Sonic, that’s kind of the point.
In fact the entire game feels like the largest wink and a nod towards the series so that it is nearly impossible to make it through without being bombarded with the similarities. It does at least try to carve its own path when it comes to the character design. There are three playable characters in total :Lilac the Dragon, Carol the Wildcat, and Milla the Basset hound.
Each of them play in a slightly different manner, Lilac is the most focused on speed, her special ability allowing her to fire herself in different directions in order to make awkward long jumps or simply to speed things up a bit. Carol feels a lot better when it comes to combat, as she can unleash kick combos and also summon a bike – that classic combination of skills. Milla is only playable in the Classic mode, which basically strips the story out of the game and allows you to just play through the levels. Her abilities are slightly more magical; she can summon cubes and shields and use her ears to fly through the air.
The inclusion of puzzles in some of the levels also helps it to stand apart from its muse. Instead of blindly flying through the levels without single moment to pause – as you would when you gotta go fast – you will find yourself stopping at barriers that can only be removed by completing puzzles. These tend to be relatively simple affairs that often boil down to you finding the right thing to hit and then hitting it, but even with their simplicity, it is a nice change of pace and adds a bit more character to this homage.
There is one small hiccough when it comes to the levels themselves though. Due to their sprawling size and the puzzles they tend to take a long time to complete. This isn’t normally something worth complaining about, but on the Switch and given the style of game it is, it just feels like each level is a couple of minutes too long. The length just stops the wonderful flow that a game like Sonic Mania has, so rather than blitzing through different areas, you end up with these 8-10 minute marathons that can feel as though they outstay their welcome.
Visually Freedom Planet absolutely masters the old Sega look. Not only does each level and enemy look the part, but everything you interact with looks as though it could have been stripped out of the original trilogy of Sonic games. The advantage of modern day technology is not wasted though, as the constant stream of effects both in the foreground and backgroundc really make everything pop out. The music is just as good, with every track being perfect for the level it is in and helping to tie the whole experience together.
While Freedom Planet doesn’t hit the same dizzying heights as Sonic Mania, it is still an incredibly enjoyable platformer that just about manages to carve out its own identity. The great visual style really helps to build the world it is set in and the three playable characters help to give some replay value as you explore their abilities. By the end of the game Freedom Planet establishes its own way of doing things that puts it apart from its inspirations, it’s just a shame that it doesn’t do more to differentiate itself straight away.
Version tested: Nintendo Switch
Also available for PS4, Wii U & PC