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Freedom Planet 2 review – sonic heroines

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Freedom Planet 2 review – sonic heroines

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Freedom Planet 2 – doing what Sega don’t (Picture: GalaxyTrail)

The next best thing to Sonic The Hedgehog stars a variety of animal mascots that desperately want to pretend they’re in a Mega Drive game.

The Sonic cycle of hope and disappointment has become slightly unhinged in recent years, following the surprise revelation that Sonic Frontiers is genuinely good and Sonic Superstars relatively so as well. Neither are the cast iron classics that the franchise needs to fully disassociate itself from the last 30 years of sub-par video games, but things are at least moving in the right direction.

And yet we may never see another 2D game in the style of Sonic Mania, with Sega making it clear that they think pixel art will no longer be viable in the future, since younger gamers have no nostalgia for it. That seems like flawed reasoning though, not least because of the hundreds of indie games a year that are keeping the artform alive. And no less so than in Freedom Planet 2.

Freedom Planet 2 looks, and sounds, like it’s popped out of a time capsule from 1991 but we initially assumed, based purely on the screenshots, that it was primarily channelling Treasure’s classic Gunstar Heroes. It’s not though; it is in fact a full-blown Sonic The Hedgehog clone and one of the best we’ve played in a long time.

On paper, Sonic The Hedgehog shouldn’t work at all, given the level layouts are so expansive and confusing and the speed of the character is so fast there’s not nearly enough time to react to what’s coming up next. As with all great art it’s unclear whether these problems were navigated by luck or judgement, but the concept clearly works – even if it’s proven difficult to replicate for both Sega and others.

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Apparently, the first Freedom Planet came out in 2014 but we admit we’ve never heard of it until now. Developer GalaxyTrail started out as a one-person development team featuring American Sabrina DiDuro, aka Strife, but the sequel is the work of a wider number of people, from around the world.

Unlike most Sonic games, Freedom Planet 2 has a complex plot, which it unravels via animated skits in small hub areas between the main gameplay levels. They’re not as funny or interesting as the developer probably thinks they are, but they do feature some lovely animation and the story of anthropomorphic animals battling an aggrieved ancient dragon is at least better than just trying to get hold of the Chaos Sapphires and fighting Dr Sputnik – which is what we thought they were going to do.

Although everyone can move fast, in typical Sonic fashion, the four characters have very different modes of transport and special attacks. There’s Lilac, who is the closest to being a direct Sonic copycat (well, dragon, actually); Carol the cat who rides a motorcycle; Milla the dogirl, who can use magic and has a flutter jump; and Neera the panda who can double jump and make ice projectiles with her magic staff.

Each character has their own special moves but no one, not even Lilac, has a homing ability, so the combat is a lot more involved than Sonic. That creates a point of difference but at the same time risks making the game feel more generic, especially given Lilac basically just punches people. Combat isn’t a big part of the game, but the characters already feel disarmingly weightless and there’s a distinct lack of feedback to the fighting, which makes it hard to tell whether your attacks are even connecting.

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Freedom Planet 2 – the graphics are great (Picture: GalaxyTrail)

As well as their unique abilities, each character is also able to use a guard attack, which is really a second’s worth of invincibility, that is vital for shimmying past some obstacles as well as avoiding enemy projectiles – with some, including bosses, impossible to avoid damage from unless you’re guarding properly.

The bosses generally last much longer than the average Sonic opponent but they’re not much more complicated, which means they can seem to go on for too long, and across too wide a section of level. Some are quite difficult too, although the game is generous about giving you second chances, as long as you’ve been collecting enough ring equivalents up to that point.

GalaxyTrail is doing its level best to imitate Sonic but the game has plenty of features and elements that are its own. The four characters are all more interesting than Sonic’s mangy collection of friends, and while the hub worlds don’t add much you can really sense the developer’s enthusiasm for them in the highly detailed animation. There’s also a shop where you can buy items to increase your health, your jumping range or things like draining health from enemies when you hit them.

It may not be as good as the Mega Drive era Sonic games, but Freedom Planet 2 is largely on par with Sonic Superstars and Penny’s Big Breakaway (from the creators of Sonic Mania). And if the last 30 years have made anything clear it’s that the glory days of Sonic the Hedgehog are well behind him, while the future for Freedom Planet is looking a lot more promising.

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Freedom Planet 2 review summary

In Short: One of the best Sonic The Hedgehog games never made, although the level design and combat isn’t quite up to the standards of Sega’s best.

Pros: The graphics and sound are exactly on point for a Mega Drive game and the action works very well, with four distinct characters and a great deal of variety in level themes and obstacles.

Cons: Characters often feel weightless and the lack of feedback and precision in combat is frustrating, especially in the overlong boss battles. The level design is too sprawling.

Score: 7/10

Formats: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5, and PC
Price: £22.99
Publisher: Marvelous
Developer: GalaxyTrail
Release Date: 4th April 2024
Age Rating: 12

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