They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but what if the imitation surpases the original? You would be forgiven for thinking Freedom Planet is a simple Sonic clone but it has a personality all of its own. When we first started playing this in the Retro Faith offices we instantly started comparing to the Blue Blur. That quickly stopped after it became apparent that we were playing a special game.
Freedom Planet was developed by Galaxy Trail and released for Steam in 2014. It has since become available for you to purchase on PS4 and Switch. At its heart the 2D pixel art title is an action platformer utilising speed, colour and collect-a-thon features. If you have ever played a ’90’s platformer you will understand the mechanics from the start as you begin jumping and attacking enemies. However, there is a little more under the skin for you to discover.
You are thrusted into a world going through political unrest with treachery and intrigue at every turn. This is not your usual get the bad guy type platformer or save the princess affair. The basis of the plot is a strange race of aliens has invaded and looking to steal a powerful stone. You control a band of feisty teenagers looking to uncover the rouse and save the day. They battle their own demons along the way for added spice.
Each of the playable team has their own moveset that allow you to explore the landscape in different ways. They each play their own role in the story and you will want to make sure you play through the game with all of them. One character that is integral to the story is Torque who you befriend early on. He has crash landed on the planet looking for help in stopping the invaders. Torgue reveals that their real intentions are to steal a powerful stone that must be protected at all costs.
The three playable characters are all anthropomorphic animals with their own powers and personalities. Lilac is the most Sonic-like and jumps around at speed bashing enemies with ease. Imagine Hyper Sonic on steroids and you get the idea. Carol plays more like Knuckles complete with gliding and wall climbing. The wall climbing is achieved by finding petrol cans that unlock her wall-hugging motorbike. Millia uses her floppy ears to fly just like Tails and even has the cute factor.
You can’t help but feel this whole game is Sonic 3 & Knuckles meets Rocket Knight and Ristar. Galaxy Trail have paid great tribute to some of our most loved ’90’s platforming heroes. From rocket boosting to speed dashing these characters would fit right into a 16-bit platformer extravaganza. Even the art style mixes up so many influences that your eyes are assaulted with pixel goodness to die for.
You may start getting a sense the characters and story have depth that we don’t normally see in platformers. It is not groundbreaking but Galaxy Trail have gone to a lot of effort in creating a living world. You want to see what happens next, you want to do more for the people. It is rare for this type of game to be as engaging as this, you feel part of it. The characters in Freedom Planet grow their relationships with the usual twists expected from a modern AAA story driven game.
The sub-plots keep evolving as you get further but they are never feel forced. They have been cleverly developed to keep pace with the ever changing world. We were reminded of the relationship between Sonic and Knuckles as they grow their friendship for initially being enemies. One of the best parts of the story is Carol’s reluctance to keep fighting but being egged on by Lilac who is determined to win.
It is not just the characters that take their influence from games of yesteryear. The visuals in Freedom Planet would also feel at home on your SNES. You will enjoy the lush pixels and smooth animation as you blast around themed stages. From forests to Orient styled villages this game has distinct areas that keep the gameplay fresh. Multiple routes are explored depending on your character choice and secrets reveal themselves as a reward.
The soundtrack is clearly influenced by Sonic but still expressing its own style. The thunes are worthy of listening to on their own and we found most reviewers said the same during our research. Even the voice acting during cutscenes is decent for an indie title. You will never feel that grind of hammy acting. The main characters voices do grind slightly at times but never enough to spoil the game.
Every game that you will play will take inspiration from another. Some are even direct clones or just plain rip-offs. Freedom Planet, however, does it all in the correct way. Celebrating its influences and moulding their features for a modern audience. If only more games would pay so much homage to their ancestors, the gaming world would be a better place. If you have not played Freedom Planet you are missing out.