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Freedom Planet 2 (NS)

Freedom Planet 2 (NS) - Review

by Evan Norris , posted on 04 April 2024 / 2,364 Views

When it comes to indie games worthy of a sequel, it would be hard to find one more deserving than Freedom Planet. A humble platformer inspired by the 2D installments of Sonic the Hedgehog, it quickly became a cult classic upon launch in 2014, thanks to its lovable characters, interesting mythology, speedy gameplay, and exciting, adventurous stages. In 2022, on PC, fans finally received the follow-up they had been anticipating for eight long years: Freedom Planet 2. It would take another two years for the title to hit consoles, however.

Set three years after the events of the first game, Freedom Planet 2 follows the heroic foursome of Lilac, Carol, Milla, and Neera, anthropomorphic animals from the planet Avalice. When dangerous robots infiltrate the kingdoms of Avalice, and enemies (both old and new) start wreaking havoc, the heroines leap into the fray in an attempt to safeguard their homes. Little do they know that a more sinister force operates behind the scenes, pulling all the strings.

If Freedom Planet 2 could be defined in a single word, it would be "refined". Everything about it, from its mechanics & level designs to its graphics & voice acting, has been improved upon. That includes the narrative. There's more storytelling and world building than ever before, as the audience gets a deeper look into the provinces, peoples, and prejudices of Avalice. The story is still a tad melodramatic and clichéd (as was the case in the first game) and everything wraps up too conveniently, but overall it's bigger and bolder.

This narrative is strengthened by the inclusion of something brand new to the Freedom Planet series: "hub" levels, essentially small towns where you can buy items and chat with NPCs. While hubs provide interesting character interactions, a splash of local color, and a bunch of funny gags, they feel somewhat superfluous. The game is at its least engaging in these hub levels, simply because shopping and talking distracts from what Freedom Planet 2 does best: thrilling high-speed action through brilliantly-composed levels. 

These extracurricular activities are, gratefully, a small slice of the pie. The much larger piece involves 24 side-scrolling stages, which arrive with many different flavors, backdrops, and layouts. Without a hint of hyperbole, the levels in Freedom Planet 2 are among the best in any 2D platformer, ever. They're routinely surprising, exciting, and dumbfounding in their inventiveness — not to mention diverse. 

Levels take place in jungles, around sky islands, over sandy beaches, under the water, across urban settings, and in sci-fi locales. They feature ramps, vertical loops, trebuchets, bounce pads, boats, rockets, suspended spheres of water, and weird, outside-the-box things like giant mountable baseballs. Some allow you to travel back and forth between the foreground and the background, while others put you in the pilot seat of a colossal mech or airship. Not every individual stage is perfect, of course. A couple toward the end of the game that demand you search for hidden keys fall on the tedious side. But, in general, they're spectacular.

Almost as spectacular are the game's controls and movement mechanics. As one of four playable characters, you'll speed your way through each level, building up momentum, crashing into robotic enemies, and bouncing left, right, up, down, and diagonally. Responsive controls pair with acrobatic move-sets to create some splendid moment-to-moment gameplay. There's an invigorating, compelling feeling of barely-controlled speed throughout.

The game's sense of motion and speed is stellar, but that's only half the equation. The other is combat, which has been enhanced and prioritized in this sequel. Where the first game was principally a platformer with a dose of combat, Freedom Planet 2 treats platforming and fighting as equals, more or less. Each character has a range of offensive options and, for the first time, a guard system. This allows characters to phase through enemies or projectiles, either in the heat of combat or while rushing through a level (without stopping or slowing down). It bestows upon the game a new strategic dimension. The give-and-take of high-speed platforming and tactical fighting doesn't always work — at certain moments combat is a bit random and inelegant — but developer GalaxyTrail deserves credit for trying something so ambitious.

While it's possible to find some minor faults with the combat in Freedom Planet 2, it's virtually impossible to complain about the game's replay value, which is exemplary. While you can finish your first play-through in roughly 10 hours, you could, in theory, spend two dozen hours with the game, as you replay the campaign with four different characters, each with a distinct play style, specific special moves, and even some unique narrative beats. Lilac the Dragon is a speedster with great locomotion options; Carol the Wildcat is a brawler adept at melee attacks; Milla the Hound is geared toward methodical exploration above all else; and Neera the Frost Knight is a slower-moving, heavy-hitting fighter. These characters are so different from each other, in fact, that Freedom Planet 2 often feels like four games in one, even if the levels are the same.

If you don't want to run through the adventure a total of four times, you could simply stick with your old save file and repeat completed levels to find all the hidden items and beat each par time. Or you could just immerse yourself in Boss Rush mode or, once it's unlocked, Classic mode. A streamlined version of the campaign trimmed of any ancillary content, Classic mode contains only the game's stages. It's ideal for fans of old-school Sonic games who are interested in action, and nothing more.

No matter how you while away the hours, you'll be treated to some exceptional pixel art. Freedom Planet 2 is a gorgeous platformer, thanks to striking, multi-layered backgrounds; exquisitely-shaded and detailed models; and the clever, prudent use of 3D effects among the standard 2D assets. It's a real treat for the eyes. You'll also enjoy some delightful tunes, courtesy of Leilani Wilson's funky, genre-hopping soundtrack. The track from the opening level, "Dragon Valley", is especially impressive.

As for voice-acting, it's markedly improved from the days of Freedom Planet. In fact, it's solid across the board. 

It took a long time for Freedom Planet 2 to get here — especially on consoles — but the wait was worth it. The sequel improves upon the original, which was already one of the top indie games in recent memory, by expanding upon its mythology, retaining and enhancing its fast-moving gameplay, introducing extraordinary new level designs, providing plenty of replay value, and wrapping everything in a stunning pixel art package. The story is somewhat melodramatic and hub levels add little of value, but these are relatively small flaws in one of the smartest, most entertaining platformers on the market. 

VGChartz Verdict


This review is based on a digital copy of Freedom Planet 2 for the NS, provided by the publisher.

Read more about our Review Methodology here

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SuperNintend0rk (on 06 April 2024)

It's great to see a classic 2D platformer score so high. Hopefully Sega has already started working on Sonic Mania 2!

  • +5
Jaicee (on 06 April 2024)

Great review! I got Freedom Planet 2 through Steam the other year and it ranks in my top 20 of all time for a reason.

  • +5