Today marks the Nintendo Switch release of Freedom Planet, a game that has been available on other platforms for some time but like many side-scrolling, 16-Bit entries, seems entirely at home on the Nintendo Switch.
On first seeing Freedom planet one would be forgiven for surmising it as a simple Sonic the Hedgehog clone but it is much more than that. Interestingly, the game began life as a Sonic fan game headed by Stephen DiDuro but it is clear that while the end result is a game that has been heavily inspired by the blue blur, this isn’t a cheap re-skin of our favourite speedy mammal.
Freedom Planet is a side-scrolling platform adventure game in which colourful characters fight bad guys whilst hitting as many loop de loops as possible. The speed of the game is very clearly reminiscent of Sonic’s trademark gameplay at least in terms of the original Sega Megadrive / Genesis entries and of course the excellent return to form that is Sonic Mania. However key differences really help to set Freedom Planet aside. First off, when hit, your character doesn’t throw a barrage of shiny rings across the ground, you instead have a health bar and pick up health along the way so whilst you can sustain more than one hit, your health is considerably more finite than in Sonic where a single ring can prevent death and be continuously collected after being dropped. This caused me to play the game with an additional layer of strategy, boss battles had to be taken with care and I did on occasion have to try different strategies. The strategies come as a result of being able to have different attack patterns. Rather than a single jump to the noggin, bosses can require strategic elements such as needing limbs severed to reveal their weak spots and your attacks can be directional depending on which way you push the thumbstick.
Freedom Planet features two major modes, Adventure and Classic. You’ll see the same levels and gameplay with both but Adventure plays out interconnecting cutscenes all of which are fully voiced. There is over an hour’s worth of these cutscenes and you’ll either really dig the cheesy dialogue or you’ll hate it. I fell into the second category and promptly changed to Classic mode. I can deal with cheesy dialogue in games, and I seem to have even more patience for ones that have this 16-Bit style as it was commonplace at the time and almost adds to the genuineness, but the voices in this game really grated on me.
Replayability is key with this sort of game and Freedom Planet achieves this in spades. Each level has multiple paths you can take and you are never punished for choosing one or another but instead often spy collectables that require you taking a different route earlier in the level which is a great way to encourage you to try it again. As if the excellent level design wasn’t enough there are a total of three characters to play the game as and all have their own unique move sets. The change isn’t as drastic as with Shovel Knight where each character has their own set of levels designed for them, this is the same game just played with a different character which makes more of a difference that you may think.
Although Freedom Planet is already available on PS4 and PC the Switch’s portability really make this version stand out. I personally played the majority of the game in portable mode as it felt more natural and gave a sort of Sega GameGear vibe, but the gameplay was perfectly smooth in docked mode too.
Don’t be too quick to dismiss Freedom Planet, it may look like yet another entry in the myriad of 16-Bit side-scrolling games available today but although heavily inspired by an older game it has a certain uniqueness to it that makes it stand out from the crowd.