by Amber Hall
reviewed on PC
In Freaky Awesome you are dropped into a pool of radioactive waste which transform you into a handful of different mutant abominations. Each new transformation provides slightly different ways to play, mostly consisting of different attack types. Mutations can be found as you play and cost a significant amount of resources to unlock. From there, the game is a Binding of Isaac-like dungeon crawler that pits you against other horrifyingly mutated creatures in each new room. There are new transformations to get, items to find, bosses to fight, and upgrades to buy. Upgrades are bought using DNA points in the game’s menu and they’re permanent, meaning that you will have better odds in every new run. The store can also be permanently upgraded by donating a few coins to it in game, making the store stock with a better pool of items. All this along with Freaky Awesome’s odd but enjoyable soundtrack really nails the ‘freaky’ aspect in Freaky Awesome, so what about the ‘awesome’ part?
Rogue-lites are a pretty saturated genre in the indie scene at the moment, and so doing something unique with a game under that genre is important to stand out of the crowd. I would say that the game stands out for its transformation/mutation mechanic. In order to heal, you must pick up green ooze dropped from defeated enemies. This fills up two meters; the health meter and the mutation meter. By healing, you will eventually be forced to mutate into their choice of two given creatures. This mechanic adds a whole layer of strategy and ensures that you take extra caution when being attacked so that they don’t transform into a less ideal mutation.
However, not all mutations are created equally and new mutation unlocks are few and far between. You start out with just two transformation types, but one seems more useful than the other. One has you turn into a small, chicken-like creature that rolls to dodge attacks but has to get in close to hit enemies. The other is almost dog-like with a medium-ranged attack that shoots your head across the room and the ability to lay eggs that spawn worms that attack enemies for you. I found myself always wanting to transform into the larger of the two initial mutations because it felt like the more effective transformation. Even after unlocking a couple more transformations (which takes an incredibly long time), I felt as if most were only hindrances rather than a fun way to switch up my play style. With more balancing, I think the mutation mechanic could prove to be an interesting way to keep the game fresh as you move through each floor.
The Freakishly Grindy
The game also has a skill tree, something that took me some time to find as it’s just part of the game’s menu screen and there is no indicator that it’s a mechanic at all until you have poked around. I grinded in the game for a long time before finding the skill trees and realized that there was a way to make some real progress using upgrades. Each upgrade has a DNA cost and DNA can be found as you play. DNA is usually dropped by bosses, but it can also be bought in the store or found through other methods. However, some of the bosses seem harder than others, and some bad RNG can leave you with no DNA after facing off with a boss that seems impossible at the beginning of the game. This means that actually getting the upgrades to make progressing through to more difficult floors is difficult at best and slows down the pace of the game. As a result, much of the game feels grindy when trying to gain new skills or unlock potentially hindering mutations.
Item drops are usually sparse and doors that require keys or damage to open usually don’t lead to anything special. This, in turn, makes traversing each floor slow and laborious as you fight the same enemies with the same attacks over and over again in the hopes of maybe finding something to give you the upper hand on the difficult boss that awaits. When I explore in a video game I want to be rewarded for my exploration, especially in a rogue-lite dungeon crawler. Instead, exploring is tedious and many playthroughs end before they ever really begin.
Freaky Awesome gets updated regularly, and so I’m hopeful that the developers will take feedback into consideration. That being said, my suggestion for a better player experience would be to keep the mutation system but balance them so that there are equal advantages and disadvantages in them all. This could be done to great effect when dealing with a set of enemies that complement each mutation’s abilities in different ways. My second recommendation is to guarantee more item drops, perhaps one chest item per floor. This would encourage exploration while giving you a fighting chance against some of the really difficult bosses. I think Freaky Awesome has potential to be a fun and unique dungeon crawling rogue-lite experience, but as of now, it doesn’t quite hit the mark.
Great pixel art, funky soundtrack, interesting mechanics.
A little too RNG heavy, unbalanced, slow paced.