Review: Freedom Planet (**** stars) Part 2 – Negatives

With that said, GalaxyTrail apes their inspiration a little too closely to hit a level of perfection. As the game goes on…and on…and on (seriously, the last stage never ends), they begin to throw Sonic-like obstacle courses and puzzle solving into the mix, killing that sense of speed that enthralled you so many hours earlier. It gets incredibly frustrating to go through these giant mazes finding key cards and figuring out the exactly angle at which I’m supposed to bounce off the wall, or else I’ll drown. The four final stages have tons and tons of these slow-paced sections, culminating in a vertical stage straight out of Mega Man X which just isn’t very fun. I’m not sure whether GalaxyTrail placed these levels into the game for variety’s sake or what, but they come off as amateur Sonic gimmicks that have no place in a fast-paced, melee-combat focused platformer. The game forces you to learn new skills that were never reinforced for the majority of the game, and you must learn how to play slowly, and patiently. This was always a problem with the older Sonic games, and it’s no less present here.

The boss fights, additionally, start reasonably and turn into massively unforgiving bouts of trial and error where you don’t quite know how much life the boss has left (only one phase of one boss in the 14 levels has a life bar!), but they’ll take out massive chunks of your health bar for missing in the tiniest way. It’s strange in a combat-focused platformer to lack a life meter for those bosses, although your personal health bar does start fading pretty darn fast! Add to the lack of invincibility frames when you take hits (get hit by a beam once, get hit by it a dozen more times! Yay!), and things can get frustrating relatively quickly. I’m not sure why there’s such a spike in boss difficulty at the tail end of the game that isn’t even commensurate to the previous challenges, but it’s there. Freedom Planet’s pretty generous with continues, but bosses will still require patience and consistency to overcome.

Freedom Planet boss

Mostly this boss. This one. This one is a bizarre difficulty spike.

On one level, I want to call this a design flaw of a sort, in that the developers give you a huge life meter to compensate for the bosses having unfair attacks. Over time, though, you recognize that the bosses perform their attacks with consistently, allowing you to eventually learn the patterns outright. While that makes them no less frustrating, and no less a deviation from what Freedom Planet did so well mere minutes before, they’re a far sight better than anything the 2D Sonic games ever presented for boss fights. At least the game never throws you back to the beginning of the (really, too long) game. While you miss that sense of consistency, I imagine this concession exists for the modern audience rather than developer intention. Of course, I could be completely wrong, in which case rescind this entire paragraph!

With that said, I can’t help but recommend Freedom Planet. It’s a bright, colorful platformer with tons of charm and visual panache that, for the most part, plays incredibly well and even better than its inspirations for the vast majority of its stages.So, if you’re like me and you always wanted Sonic the Hedgehog developed by Treasure, or somebody to simply fix Sonic in general, then Freedom Planet should be an instant buy. In fact, I’d say if you want those things, add another star to the rating above, since you will enjoy this game unequivocally. Seriously. Just go buy it, and thank me later.

Freedom Planet presents one of those rare times when I think an “independent” developer actually did a far superior job to the company that inspired them. Sonic the Hedgehog bumbles along, year after year, with innovations and changes of direction in all the wrong places. Sonic Team certainly shows tons of creativity (or plagiarism, depending), but they often don’t know where to focus that creative mind to a playable game. By comparison. Freedom Planet knows what it wants to do, and demonstrates its core goals – the creation of a dream Sonic game – undeterred by series baggage or anything that could hinder good game design. Sure, GalaxyTrail technically made a Sonic clone, but Freedom Planet transcends its inspiration in so many ways that it’s not even funny! Sonic Team dropped the ball, and thought they had “perfected” it (hence the moving around to all sorts of ideas), but Paul provides a better perspective:

12 Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on [h]so that I may lay hold of that [i]for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as are [j]perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; 16 however, let us keep [k]living by that same standard to which we have attained.

Philippians 3

Remember that this comes directly after Paul states that everything except Christ is “nothing”, and that he hopes in the future to attain it. But Paul clearly doesn’t want to rest on its laurels, because that moment is still in the future. He, like us, needed to press on in his faith and in his work, careful not to become complacent just because he was “saved by grace”. I think this applies to any sort of work, any kind of creative venture, and most any task: grace can foster complacency, but you can’t really live that way!

I like to think of Freedom Planet in this way: a Sonic game, not made by Sonic people, refusing to rest on that series’ laurels.

About Zachery Oliver

Zachery Oliver, MTS, is the lead writer for Theology Gaming, a blog focused on the integration of games and theological issues. He can be reached at viewtifulzfo at gmail dot com or on Theology Gaming’s Facebook Page.