Upon playing the demo of Freedom Fall at PAX Australia and subsequently realising this title was indeed the next for me to review, I got a little giddy. Then I looked up the word “giddy” and realised that I’ve been misusing it for roughly my entire life. Faced with the sheer embarrassment of the situation and the ensuing hilarity, I did indeed get a bit giddy, for real this time… So uhh… this neat indie game is very short but very fun, with an interesting twist on the whole damsel-in-distress narrative stereotype of which those beloved fairy tales have so passionately educated us. Falling down the innards of a seriously tall tower is our protagonist Marsh, who may or may be responsible for a missing elixir of life. Either way, he’s been locked up and is now well on his way to freedom (by falling. The name is very well suited) and need only outsmart the (let’s say) cunning, bratty-yet-lovable princess with the help of his new-found immortality and an otherworldly ability to build gliders, hoverboards and double-jump-enabling wings using only cogs, screws and workbenches left lying about. It isn’t exactly a fair match, but who gives a toss?
There are many, many platformers out there that have a lot of similarities to Freedom Fall. In terms of the actual puzzling gameplay, we’re dealing with pretty standard stuff, but not bad stuff by any means. There’s still a load of variety in the design of each level and multiple paths throughout the whole game (most often labelled as easy and hard, the hard tending to be more rewarding/fun), just nothing that really revolutionises the entire world. If there were, that’d be a bit much. Where Freedom Fall earns points is in its characters and the presentation of them. The walls of the towering structure are coated in the chalk-scribblings of a demented princess who, bit by bit, introduces herself and divulges the plot, while persistently narrating progress and taunting the player. It’s a similar style of deprecating humour as used by GLaDOS through the Portal series, and works well coming from a tomboy-ish prepubescent sociopath, even though dialogue is entirely conveyed through text. Every possible question (that I had) was addressed (e.g. why Marsh is in prison, why the doors from prison are left wide open), except for how Her Royal Highness the mute Emph can possibly conjure up so many chalk drawings in such a short time, which is probably the smallest bone anyone has ever picked from anything ever.
Technically, the game runs very smoothly without many issues. Since many of the puzzles rely on avoiding already-bloodied death traps and often require precise movements, it is a bit of a pain that Marsh’s hit-box doesn’t feel quite right at times, with infrequent deaths when a blade whizzes just past his head. The controls can also feel a bit clunky and Marsh himself a bit slow when caught in a fast-paced sequence, and I imagine it would be even worse when using your own sausage fingers on a mobile device rather than the simpler keyboard buttons I used. With my own sausage fingers.
So that’s where we’re at. A short game (maybe an hour or two) that varies enough to keep your entire playthrough feeling fresh without exploring gameplay elements much further than the platforming norm, a bright and beautiful cartoon-y art style that works well with the darkly cheeky humour, and a unique narrative that somehow manages to go all M. Night Shyamalan on us. Overall it is a worthwhile, entertaining and strangely heart-warming experience.
More so than an M. Night Shyamalan film, at least.
Select Start Media was provided with a review copy of Freedom Fall by Stirfire Studios.
Also, since the almighty Matt is a little pre-occupied at the moment, the header image here is a dismal mimicry of his usual format. Please excuse that.