Saving the world bit by bit.
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and with regards to the Nintendo Switch eShop, that’s a concept players are becoming more and more accustomed to every week. Yes, you don’t have to look far for indie titles that strongly evoke or pay homage to dormant, long laid to rest franchises. Freedom Planet very much used this to its advantage upon initial release back in July of 2014, its close resemblance to 16-bit Sonic the Hedgehog being its main selling point. Despite this, four years later in a world where Sonic Mania exists, the game retains just enough new spins Switch newcomers might appreciate.
At first glance, there’s no denying Freedom Planet owes a strong debt to the blue blur. From the charming cast of characters, the colourful landscapes you’re forced to dash through; it’s all here by the bucket load. Scratch a little further beneath the surface, however, and it’s not hard to see how Freedom Planet provides some unique ideas of its own. Playing as Lilac the dragon or her wildcat friend Carol, you’re main mode of attack is a melee rather than a bounce. This means that in addition to zooming around levels, you’ll constantly be taking the fight to enemies rather than simply avoiding them.
Unlike its spiritual predecessor, Freedom Planet also chooses to place less emphasis on ‘going fast’ as it were, instead giving you both the time and ability to explore stages and any hidden areas within them at your own pace. Whereas most Sonic games constantly want to give you a sense of fast momentum, Freedom Planet’s decreased speed means that levels can take anywhere up to 20 minutes to complete. Most feature a mid-boss as well as an end boss, and some are quite challenging compared to the poor fight Robotnik traditionally gave us.
It’s also a nice touch to have these eclectic cast of characters be fully voiced throughout – an improvement not previously possible on the era of hardware the game seeks to emulate. What they say is a bit on the nose and isn’t always well-written, but the predictable story of ‘good vs evil’ is made all the better for it. There’s a real Saturday morning kid’s TV show vibe with Freedom Planet.
On the Switch screen, Freedom Planet looks and sounds great. However, other than the obvious ability to play it on the go, there’s nothing new here entice those who have already experienced it on Wii U. We’re so used to seeing a few extra bells and whistles with ports like this, and while not essential, it would’ve helped a little considering the recent return to form for 2D Sonic The Hedgehog games.
Overall, Freedom Planet surprises in the little ways it sets itself apart from its source inspiration, stepping up the challenge slightly compared to what is typically expected, but never enough that it becomes infuriating. Multiple playable characters and a story-less mode means it’s an easy game to replay, and the longer, secret-laden levels helps keep you invested than if you were tempted to blaze through them fast. Check it out if you haven’t already!