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Freedom Fall Review: All Princesses Need Pet Sharks
Freedom Fall is one of the most frustrating games I’ve played in a while. It’s good in a way that platformers are usually not, and fails in other areas that you would expect it to focus on – that is, I’m not sure whether to praise or criticize it. I suppose I could say: after playing it, the main word that I would associate with the game is charming.
You are a prisoner, trapped at the top of what is an unnecessarily tall and sadistic tower. While you might imagine this a lonely experience, it’s made somewhat more interesting by the accompaniment of doodles and scribbles on the tower walls by a princess that can only be described as psychopathic. Overall this concept is what sets it apart from other games, as humor, instructions, and actually-not-too-shabby storytelling are all told through the medium of a twisted little girl and her seemingly limitless cans of paint. An immature and selfish girl, she acts on her whim, sometimes helping you and sometimes tricking you into impaling yourself on a jagged spike simply for her own amusement. The fluctuating feelings of hatred, fear, sympathy, humor and curiosity you feel towards the princess is really the biggest attraction of the game.
However, the game doesn’t quite live up to previous creative standards in terms of gameplay. Platformers are a dime-a-dozen and indie developers have to slave away to try to keep them modern and interesting with new mechanics and fancy bells. In this case, Freedom Fall is about as stale as it gets; it’s the standard fare, mostly consisting of spikes and currents that blow in the opposite direction than you’re trying to reach. It feels as though they’ve placed most of their eggs in the ‘down-scrolling’ basket in terms of uniqueness, but all this really achieves is a false sense of difficulty. Most of the deaths in the game are just the result of jumping down into an unknown abyss, dying, and then jumping back down again (this time knowing which side of the wall the spike is sticking out of). There are three power-ups in the game with rather subtle effects – in fact, you can complete the whole game without taking any of them. Playing levels without using the power-ups actually proved to add a much needed touch of difficulty to the game as you could no longer simply double-jump to avoid anything in midair, but it also makes the glaring lack of variety more apparent.
The game isn’t expensive ($9.99/£6.99), and while this is often an appealing attribute for a game to have, it is wholly required for Freedom Fall. Completing the storyline took a mere hour and a half, including half of the collectible achievements in the game. You could probably add another hour, or two at most, onto that if you want to get 3 out of 3 on each level, but you need to be a bit of a completionist to achieve this due to the uninspiring gameplay.
From a more practical standpoint, all of the controls are smooth and it translates well into using a controller. There do seem to be a number of known bugs at the moment however, such as occasionally having to restart the game due to instantly dying each time you resurrect and some achievement problems. Furthermore the artwork is very slick and cute, particularly the character models and some of the backgrounds. The music isn’t quite as nice as it generally feels a little bit too grating for the atmosphere of the game.
Like most games, whether Freedom Fall is your thing depends on your preferences. If you don’t mind (really, really) short games that are good experiences, or are the kind of person to run levels over and over again until perfection, you won’t find it so bad. Additionally, even though platformers traditionally focus on great gameplay, the storytelling in Freedom Fall really does work well, as long as you’re not expecting some kind of light-hearted Super Meat Boy.