In the decade that the world seemed to stop loving Sonic the Hedgehog, I’d like to think that – in some alternate universe – Freedom Planet was the best Sonic game Sega actually made but no one ever played. The instantly lovable stepchild of Sega’s 8-bit legacy and GalaxyTrail‘s tribute to retro platformers, Freedom Planet effortlessly channels the best of its roots in a charming dash down memory lane.
You first step into the oversized shoes as Sash Lilac, a perky dragon girl who might as well be Spyro’s kid sister. As it so happens, nasty Lord Brevon’s been doing nasty things and a mysterious creature from the sky asks you for your help to save Avalice. You can’t say no, so it’s off to the races down hill on your way to cream bad bots in the face at the speed of a purple comet.
If there’s smoke there’s fire, as they say, and frankly, Freedom Planet smells of Sonic in nearly every way possible. The more the demo progressed, the more apparent its inspiration became. The graphics, the gameplay, the character designs – all of them wreak of nostalgia from the collectible leaves/rings down to the Green Hills layout of the initial level. Yet it’s how well it seemingly does them that counts. Everything from the raucous, offbeat atmosphere to the upbeat chip tunes pumping through the air, GalaxyTrail’s done their homework and Freedom Planet celebrates what’s so beloved about the genre in general.
What Freedom Planet does best as a platformer it does better at as a combat-based platformer. As part of its unique twist on Sonic, the game mixes and matches powers typical of the genre. Like Sonic, Sash can travel at lightning speeds, but like Knuckles, she can also whip out her hair like a tornado to smack enemies than just bounce off of them. In addition to holding her own in a footrace, Sash can charger up and launch herself like a torpedo across the air as an unorthodox means to reach other platforms. The combat system lends a fun diversity to her multi-note skill set and I can easily imagine the grin on her face the whole time.
The level design, complete with bug-themed bosses and cartoony robots, is a labyrinth of stuff to find and explore. Getting sidetracked with shortcuts and hidden rooms is all part of the retrograde fun. It surely extends the run time of the ten-minute demo by at least a few more minutes and goes to show the dedication behind every nook and cranny.
If a rip-off is what GalaxyTrail’s creation is reduced to, then it’s a rip-off done right in every endearing way atypical of the term. It carries the heart and soul of its fore-bearer with pride, if not to remind us just why platformers have endured as long as he has. At its heart, Freedom Planet‘s a joyous passing of the torch from hipster hedgehog to dragon girl as a spiritual successor unafraid of tinkering with its inspiration.
Freedom Planet is available on Windows for PC and Steam. It’s also slated for Wii U sometime later. For more on all things Nindie and more things E3, stay tuned to BagoGames.