It’s possible that some of you may have already heard about this game as it is currently available on Desura, as well as being released on iOS, Android & Ouya earlier in the month. Additionally, the title is currently waiting for the Greenlight on Steam, so if you perhaps find yourself feeling a little compelled about the game after reading this review, I would like to urge you to be awesome and visit this LINK to show your support! However, promotion is not the purpose of this article, and it’s about time we took a closer look at the game itself. To those who may not know anything about it yet, Freedom Fall is a unique story-driven “down-scrolling” platformer that promises to explore it’s narrative in an entirely original way, as well as to deliver fantastic retro gameplay with a modern twist.
Freedom Fall tells the story of a (relatively) peaceful kingdom that sits high upon the clouds, and is ruled over by a rather unstable king. You see, the king is a just little paranoid, and for reasons unknown to us, he had his first wife beheaded and sent his beloved daughter away to the prison tower to straighten her out. Time has passed, and the king has since devoted his fortune to develop an elixir of immortality, fearing one day that he may in fact lose his own head. However, just as quickly as this would-be potion is ready, it disappears, and our unwilling hero, Marsh, is caught within the palace! Accused of the theft, he is dragged away to the tower, but upon their arrival, the king learns that the princess has performed some extensive, albeit brutal, remodeling to the tower during her incarceration. Impressed with these “upgrades”, the king declares that anyone escaping the tower shall be free.
It’s a fairly simple premise, and it will be the only direct piece of narrative that the game ever establishes. However, what makes the storytelling especially unique is the way the developers tie all of the writing into the down-scrolling structure of the level design. It’s a clever idea as each component that builds upon the core narrative is actually expressed to the player through writing on the tower walls, but what defines this concept is that every message has been written by the vindictive princess herself. It’s never truly clear whether you can trust what she has written, and each of her messages work to establish a lot of character development within a rather short period of time. Ultimately, the story is driven by the princess, but interestingly as you come to develop an understanding about what happened before his capture, you will actually get to determine whether Marsh is innocent or not in the end.
As mentioned earlier, Freedom Fall is being referred to as what the developers call a “Down-Scrolling” Platformer. Essentially, the only way for the player to progress is by falling, and to my knowledge there aren’t any other games that have utilised this particular approach in the past. If you’ve ever played the game Super Meat Boy, it actually feels similar to that in some ways, but with a consistent focus on moving downward. However, it also takes some inspiration from other classics such as the Metroid series. Players will frequently collect parts throughout the game that are then used to build equipment, and it’s actually the way that this equipment changes your traversal within the environment as well as allowing you to reach previously unreachable areas that reminded me of those games.
The objective of the game is simply to reach the bottom of each stage, but scattered throughout the tower are parts to collect, different pathways to explore, and in some cases a boss to challenge your skill. To be honest, it’s not a long game, clocking in at approximately two hours in length for a single playthrough. However, players are invited to replay any of the levels after they’ve been beaten, and there are also several achievements to obtain for each stage, such as a time challenges and collecting parts. It’s actually quite fun to go back afterwards and knock off a few challenges with your new equipment and to access those areas you may have missed, but I still don’t think this is a game that will keep you playing for days on end. Ultimately, it’s short and sweet, but still very well made and built upon relatively solid gameplay mechanics. I didn’t encounter any major bugs or glitches during my playthrough, and the way the character moved within the environment felt natural and like I was always in control.
In particular, there is one core aspect of this game that deserves acknowledgement, and that is the art design. Lisa Rye is simply a fantastic artist and the love and detail that has gone into every single character and backdrop clearly shows. The developers could have gotten away with a much more static character model, and yet Marsh is surprisingly well animated and a lot more detailed than one would expect from this type of game. His appearance is full of life, and the movement looks fantastic. I also think the writing on the wall, which was written by Lisa as well, looks fantastic and holds it’s own unique charm that is both dark and humorous. The only aspect of the game’s presentation that I felt was a little out of place was the soundtrack. It’s satisfactory and still fits the experience overall, but I personally felt the art style invited the opportunity for something more unique and unusual. Braid is an example that comes to mind, and I think a similar approach could have really defined the creativity of this title.
Ultimately, Freedom Fall is a fun little adventure, and it shows off some really interesting ideas when it comes to exploring new ways to deliver a platforming experience. The artwork and visual design are right up there with other well known indie titles such as Bastion, and the way the narrative plays out is unique, with the majority of the games storytelling being delivered through writing on the walls. I don’t personally think the soundtrack has the potential to define it’s creativity, but the vision behind this game shows the potential of a studio that is not yet well known. This is a game that we could recommend to pretty much anyone, and it’s available on the PC & MAC via Desura, iOS & Android and the Ouya. It’s definitely not going to put you out of pocket and considering the Ouya’s underwhelming library in particular, it is an absolute must play on that system. Honestly, we would love to see this game get the greenlight on Steam, and for the rest of the world to see the potential that lies within Stirfire Studios.