Anyone who has played games for longer than 10 minutes will know one of the most common tropes you’ll come across, particularly in the NES/SNES days, is rescuing the princess. In modern times gamers also get to save their girlfriends, sisters, mothers, wives, daughters, etc. Call them what you will but it is essentially the same thing. Wouldn’t it be nice if we got to play as a girl and rescue a boy just once?
Well Freedom Fall decided that reversing the roles wasn’t dramatic enough and decided to make the princess a serial killer hell-bent on your death. Intrigued? I know I was!
Serial killing princess?
The premise of Freedom Fall is to twist the classic fairy tale trope of rescuing a princess by creating a reverse Rapunzel story. Rather than a princess at the top of a tower needing to be rescued, a convict named Marsh is at the top of a prison and must escape the numerous death traps set up by a mentally unstable princess as he descends to his freedom.
It plays like classic side scrolling game as you run, jump, and swim through a variety of locations and are revived at nearby check points every time you die. Some levels change it up and you’ll have to outrun an enemy to survive. As you descend towards the bottom of every stage you’ll collect bolts and cogs to buy steam punk style upgrades to increase you manoeuvrability allowing you to glide, double jump, float and even throw bombs to clear obstacles in your path as the levels become harder and more complex.
The most engaging part of the game however is the narrative and it’s delivery to the player. As you descend through each stage, the backgrounds have notes and pictures painted on them by the princess. She uses them to taunt the player, explain why the tower is a giant death trap and to talk about herself and her family.
All the notes are very dark and humorous with some notes pointing out patches of blood left by former prisoners, drawings of piranhas in water (because they couldn’t afford to pump the necessary water into the tower to keep real fish alive) and others just giving you a sense that the princess is an extremely unstable little girl. All these notes are written and drawn in childish hand writing with poor spelling which oddly enough, makes your antagonist quite charming.
She is reminiscent of Glad0s from Portal who also taunted player throughout her games but was also oddly charming. However the princess retains her own unique personality so while there are some parallels between Freedom Falls Princess and Portals Glad0s, they are very different characters.
A fantastic game!
As mentioned above, the narrative is easily the best part of Freedom Fall with its dark humour and entertainingly murderous antagonist. This is closely matched by its wonderful art work. Both Marsh and the Princess are very vibrantly coloured against the bleak dungeon backgrounds and their unique cartoonish design help adds to the dark charm and humour the game creates.
The backgrounds are surprisingly colourful and varied for a dungeon ranging from blue brick and lightning filled skies to orange and brown bricks lit only by torches. There is also a large variety of death traps (the princess adds spikes to EVERYTHING… even fire!) that keep the levels from ever feeling old or boring. The levels are well-designed with branching paths (often labelled the easy or hard way thanks to the Princess) so even after finishing the game, you will want to play through the stages again.
Freedom Fall also controls excellently with Marsh manoeuvring very well, particularly when avoiding the numerous airborne hazards. The player has total control so the game never feels unfairly difficult and you will always be willing to try a level again and again, even after your twentieth death. There is the occasional issue with grabbing onto ledges but these are few and far between and never “break” the game.
With one or two flaws…
The biggest problem with Freedom Fall was that it was too short considering how addictive I found the game. Persistent players like me may find that they burn through the game in less than three hours. When finished, I was disappointed because I wanted to know more about the princess and her family as well as the world of Freedom Fall in general. A few more levels with more challenge would have been an excellent addition to an already great game.
At the end of every level players are given statistics which include your time, number of deaths, cogs collected and an overall score. However I don’t think these affect anything so it would have been nice if there were unlockable skins or artwork giving players more incentive to replay all the stages and perfect their games.
The final minor complaints for Freedom Fall are the music and the power ups. The music in the game, while never bad or out-of-place at all, was slightly forgettable especially considering the great narrative and unique character designs. I also would have really liked a short tutorial for each of the power ups, particularly the final one which I never figured out if I was using correctly or not.
The Final Verdict: 8.5/10
Freedom Fall is a highly enjoyable 2D-platformer with very responsive controls, varied level designs, and a highly entertaining narrative that is darkly humorous and charming to experience. It is only let down by it short play time and lack of unlockables, however two distinct ending are available which help alleviate issues of replayability.
If you enjoy Limbo or Super Meat Boy, I would highly recommend buying Freedom Fall for its fun trial and death gameplay. Fans of Portals dark, entertaining narrative and the ever antagonistic presence of Glad0s should also consider purchasing the game to experience the Princesses childish antagonism.
Freedom fall is available for Windows and Mac through Desura and will launch on iOS this weekend at PAX Australia. It is also on Steam Greenlight. I already voted for it and so should you!
[…] director, artist, writer and level designer of Freedom Fall which I recently got the chance to review. We had a great in-depth discussion about her experiences designing Freedom Fall and working with […]