Freedom Planet began life as a Sonic the Hedgehog fangame, and it’s not hard to believe given the core concept: a fast-paced 2D sidescroller starring animals. Looking past the surface, there’s more to this pixelated platformer than meets the eye, and it manages to hearken back to Sega’s classic series while sporting its own identity.
There are two modes: classic, which is a basic runthrough of every level, and adventure, which hosts the main story. The plot involves three anthropomorphic protagonists assisting a ducklike creature to find a mystical stone and quell a war between nations. It's an interesting story, though not necessarily worth sitting through lengthy cutscenes to experience.
Nevertheless, I appreciated the full voice acting and enchanting world. For that matter, the vibrant Sega Genesis-like pixel art looks dazzling, for both the expressive characters and gorgeous backgrounds. I was impressed that the performance never let up, even with tons of enemies on the screen. Likewise, the electronic and catchy soundtrack captivated my ears, and I longed to continue listening after each play session.
You blaze through colorful levels as one of three characters: the water dragon Lilac, the wildcat Carol, and the basset hound Milla. Although the Sonic comparisons are easy to make, developer GalaxyTrail’s game focuses on consistent momentum over raw speed. Freedom Planet’s trio runs at a brisk stride, but they aren't so overwhelmingly fast that you can't tell where you're going. There is enough breathing room, even when you're rushing down slopes, rolling around loop-de-loops, and bouncing off springs. Dynamic elements such as moving aircrafts, Ferris wheels, and dandelion seeds are sprinkled throughout the large multipath levels and all lend a constant swiftness. In some cases, the game actively slowed me down with light puzzles and platform challenges. Despite the abrupt change in speed, I appreciated the tight level design. Freedom Planet keeps its focus on solid platforming and combat, just on a faster pace than most sidescrollers.
Even if you do bump into something and halt to a stop, the girls’ movesets each have means to regain that momentum instantly or reach higher ground. Lilac can charge up a sonic burst of speed to fly in any direction. As long as she has energy in her gauge, she continues to blast off, bouncing off any walls. Meanwhile, Carol can glide like Knuckles, and her skill to jump dash up walls allows her to quickly scale any height provided the proper footing. She even has a motorcycle that can somehow drive up walls and spin around effortlessly, which helps her gain immediate traction. Then there’s Milla, with the ability to temporarily hover upwards, turning her into a mash-up between Tails and Yoshi. I felt empowered to keep up my pace, no matter who I was playing as.
The combat is surprisingly well-handled for such a fast-paced game. For one, each character has a moveset built for fighting. Lilac’s midair helicopter kicks, Carol’s fast fisticuffs, and Milla’s chargeable magic spells allow them to strike hard while moving. Their attacks are so intense that the game becomes a beat-em-up at times. Although the stopping to fight encroaches on the gameplay, the fluid fighting compensates for it. The versatile movesets also help against bosses, which are genuinely difficult to face, even after you figure out their patterns and weak spots. On a related note, since you can pass through enemies while running, they’re less likely to disrupt your pace. Additionally, instead of immediately losing most of your health when you get hit, Freedom Planet uses a more traditional life bar, eliminating the likelihood of sudden deaths.
With only about a dozen levels, Freedom Planet is not a long game. But to its credit, the levels are fairly meaty, many lasting over ten minutes on a first-time playthrough. Plus, there are hidden collectibles to find and achievements to unlock, most of which unveil images and music in the gallery. Some of them require specific abilities, so you’ll have to play with everyone for completion. I didn’t mind doing that since beating the game with each character essentially tripled the playtime. Not only do they control distinctly from each other, they also go through slightly different levels during their campaigns. That being said, if I had it my way, all three of them would experience completely different stages and journeys.
The game is well-suited for speedrunning, and a Time Attack is there for hardcore players. There’s also a target attack minigame, similar to the Break the Targets challenges in Super Smash Bros., but I didn’t find it to be a fulfilling diversion. Although there isn’t anything special about the Nintendo Switch version, aside from including content from other current versions of the game, the portable hybrid is a perfect home for the digestible levels.
Freedom Planet’s solid level design, clever movesets, and well-executed combat mechanics all come together to achieve a balanced flow, placing a focus on platforming and combat over raw speed. Most importantly, the game keeps a consistent pace, so the faster automatic segments are exhilarating and the slower sections don’t feel like a massive downgrade. Freedom Planet may resemble Sonic, but it’s a loving tribute that puts its own spin on the classic Sega franchise.
I am a lifelong gamer, having grown up with Nintendo since I was young. My passion for gaming led to one of the greatest moments of my life, my video game themed wedding!