Freedom Planet 2 (Lilac's Playthrough)
A quick note; this review covers Lilac's Playthrough, although this game is good enough for me to try to beat the others as well, I've so far only done the first level for them; I picked Lilac because her control scheme is highly responsive and I am not used to the other control schemes like I am with Lilac's; what little I played of the other characters, I can say that they control better than I remember from the first game but Lilac's always going to be my main for this series.
When I first played Freedom Planet back in 2019, I was genuinely suprised at just how good it was, prior to that I thought it would probably be an ok game that borrowed a lot from 2D Sonic but, while it did borrow quite a lot from that series, it also made a ton of improvements to the core gameplay that transformed it into a game that was vastly superior to the game that inspired it.
One other thing to point out is that I am not personally a fan of 2D Sonic, I feel that the time it takes to reach max speed and adjust the movement direction is ridiculously long and to top it off, the fact that the enemies have damage coating around them basically makes running at top speed a massive hazard, which kind of defeats the point; those issues were not replicated in Freedom Planet, the controls are much tighter than the game that inspired it and the character only takes damage when there is a visible hazard on screen, such as when the enemy is firing a projectile or has spikes around it's body; here it is so much less frustrating.
But this is not a review of the original... this is a review of it's sequel and I must say, it manages to blow the already fantastic original game out of the water; it improves on it in so many ways that it truly takes full advantage of being a sequel.
The controls are made even better than before and feel super responsive, some sensible changes were made to the gameplay such as the fact that Lilac's cyclone move no longer absorbs energy which allows the player to use cyclone, which you're going to be using a lot, without using up the energy needed to use dragon boost, furthermore the game even lets you cancel dragon boost which leaves behind a burst of energy that can quickly knock away the enemies health, also there is now a guard button that allows you to parry attacks, I have not used this move much as I didn't have need of it but it is great that parrying is now an option.
To top it off the game even supports framerates above 60, something the original did not as that was made in Clickteam Fusion rather than Unity, which this game was made in, it feels great to play at 144FPS and it really makes the game feel even more responsive and gives the natural motion blur like effect of such a high frame rate; with that said, it plays great at 60FPS as well so you are not missing out on too much if you don't have the high refresh rate display.
The level design is top notch, like in the 2D sonic games, there are multiple ways the level can be approached and it also hides a fair few secrets; I know there is much more to find hidden in the levels, the platforming is really fun here as well, which is why the controls being so good is essential, there is something new and unique in every level and the art direction for said levels is sublime, as I've said before, the value of making a game's setting memorable should not be underestimated; although the game is inspired by Sonic, I'm actually getting more Mega Man vibes from the aesthetic as well as the soundtrack and speaking of.
The soundtrack absolutely slaps, there were some really good tracks in the original but here there are even more, some of my favourites include Sky Bridge, Zao Land, Tiger Falls and of course, lest we forget Shade Armoury with it's absolute metallic banger of a track; there are other favourites as well; it's also worth knowing that every boss now has their own theme, admitedly non of them are quite as epic as the boss theme from the first game but they are all well worth listening to in their own right.
The game also features full voice acting for it's cutscenes, a rarity for indie games, it's really good as well, the actors clearly give it their all here and it really brings the characters to life; alongside a wide array of sprites that were built for specific scenes.
Quick note on the visuals, they are absolutely fantastic, I know that pixel art is really common for indie games but the pixel art here is some of the best, the animations are really good and the amount of detail that went into each and every tile and sprite is immaculate; it literally looks like a AAA 2D PS1 game, which doesn't sound great if you think about it's 3D output but the truth is that the PS1 was an absolute powerhouse at 2D graphics, just look at Mega Man 8 for example.
The character designs are great as well, obviously the main characters have a strong visual design but it's clear that a lot of effort and care was put into the other character's designs, whether they're playable or otherwise
Now onto the story, this is where the game shows a few hiccups; first off, the good, I actually really like the new adventure map and hub areas, I know it has been controversial for some people who just want to get to the levels but I actually like how it lets me immerse myself in the game's world a lot more, it's not exactly open world (it's actually not unlike Smash Ultimate's adventure mode) but it's no longer just finish the level and watch a cutscene, I can now talk to the many residents of the various cities, many of whom have their own unique design, it's a neat touch that makes the game world feel lived in; also there is an optional arcade game in the battlesphere that is actually pretty fun.
The story itself is alright, it's clear that this area was not the highest priority but it does the job well enough, I did like how the characters and the villans had some connection with one another and I also really like how it actually does have some dark moments at times, albeit in a PG sort of way; I also really like that the game has a stage that has the trappings of a penultimate stage but is really just the second to last stage of the first half of the game; it actually had me worried that it would be over at that point.
Where the problem for me kicks in is in a few irritating characters; the most sinful of them all... Ahh... yes Ahh is the guy's name, and oh boy he lives up to it, he often starts screaming for no reason and his voice is highly irritating; your mileage may vary but this guy seems like he wants to go up against B.E.N from Treasure Planet in an annoying character battle royale, he won't win against B.E.N though as at the very least Ahh is actually a villan so it makes a lot more sense why he would cause trouble for the protagonist.
In terms of the games sense of humour, sometimes it is fine, I don't recall it ever making me laugh but I didn't mind most of the jokes, though some of them were pretty annoying, case in point Ahh.
Despite the occasional annoying part, this game has so much to like about it, it is one of those rare games that I never get bored playing and make me think the next morning; I'm gonna go back to playing this, responsibilities be damned, I was actually worried when it started showing signs of a penultimate stage at the halfway point because I did not want it to end; luckily it didn't at that point, giving me a whole new region to explore and a whole bunch of new levels that are really good; I was thinking that the odd annoying character was enough of a reason to dock a point but in all honesty, there is just so much good about this game that I won't dock a point, as a result the game (at the very least when playing as Lilac) is worthy of a.