by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
The writing is on the wall
I have to admit, from the moment I started playing Freedom Fall, I was intrigued. My avatar, a character known as Marsh, was locked in a prison at the top of a tower. There is no backstory indicating why he is there, just that there is an opening that allows him to escape and descend from his captivity. The scribblings on the wall as he works his way down initially give the player instructions on how to control Marsh as he works his way towards freedom. It is only after the introductory phase of this primarily vertical platformer that the narrative told via way of graffiti on the castle walls gradually unfolds. It is a wonderfully presented fairytale-style story, one that kept me wanting to continue further so that I could find out more about Marsh and his captors. Without giving the story away too much, it all relates to a special potion which has gone missing. And of course, as you would expect considering you start the game in the tower cell, Marsh has been blamed for it. As you journey further down the tower, you will encounter a princess and find that it is her that has set you free. As you progress to the lower confines of the tower, you slowly find out why. All is not what it seems, though.
The castle is a death trap
Getting down to the bottom and the exit is not a simple task. You are confronted with a range of death-traps that you must overcome if you are to reach your goal. Obstacles start out quite easily with stationary floor and wall spikes, but as you gain access to the lower levels, new impediments are placed in your path. Rotating wheels full of spikes, swinging swords, heavy maces on chains are just a few of many deadly contraptions. Marsh will also have to face cauldrons of fire, fire-breathing statues, electric bolts and water hazards.
You can build three devices at various worktables that can be found along your travels that will help you to survive in this harsh environment. Unfortunately, the devices require you to collect the machine parts scattered throughout the levels. One device, a Parachute, enables Marsh to float down more serenely and catch updrafts from the fire cauldrons. Wings help allow him to gain access to higher areas and a Hoverboard lets Marsh do just what the name suggests – hover. Once constructed, each can be used at any given time. You can also construct bombs that can be used to destroy sections of the tower that block your path and they can also be put to good use in the game's boss battles. The devices and bombs cost a certain amount of collected machine parts, so you must think carefully about which of the devices to build.
On many occasions, you are faced with making a decision on which path he should take on your descent. Many sections have two avenues to make your way down. Early on, there is an easy way down and a hard way, but later on these two are reworded to the hard way and the harder way. Deciding to take the more difficult route normally results in a greater haul of machine parts.
Freedom Fall is also wonderfully presented in its visual style. Both Marsh and the princess are colourfully designed, looking like a cartoon version of a Final Fantasy character complete with fiery looking hair. The characters and the locations feel a touch retro, which suits the platform style of game. Animations are smooth and the dangers presented are all clear and easily distinguishable. Backgrounds are delightful as well.
The controls are quite simple, whether using the keyboard or a gamepad. Although I died on numerous occasions, I always felt that it was my fault rather than some frustrating design decision from the developers. Marsh moves fluidly around the dangerous environments, whether he is running, jumping, floating through the air or swimming with the sharks. Freedom Fall is a tad on the easy side, but completing it still feels a rewarding experience.
What makes completion even better, is that there are actually two endings. Once you’ve completed the game, you can go back and do it all again by changing your decision to the ethical question posed towards the latter half of the game. For completionists, there are three special cogs that can be collected for completing the three goals on each level. Completing the level in a certain time grants one cog, collecting the required number of machine parts grants another and the third is gained from the number of deaths incurred in the level, or rather lack thereof.
The humorous ramblings in the wall make the game feel that much more loveable. Marsh is often taunted by the scrawled remarks, telling him that he’ll never make it out or that the last prisoner to make it that far was eaten by sharks. The Saturday morning cartoon visual style further enhances the playful nature of Freedom Fall. Unless you want to complete both endings and complete your collection of cogs, the game is a little on the short side. But with such a wonderfully presented story and artwork, there is no reason why you wouldn’t run through Freedom Fall again.
Wonderful artwork, great presentation of the story, smooth controls
A touch on the easy side. A tad short (although the dual endings double the length)