Game Review: Freedom Fall

West Australian producers StirFire Studios have developed their most ambitiously unique title yet. But does it live-up to the bench mark its visual style sets, or should this one have remained just concept art?Freedom Fall puts you in the shoes of Marsh, a teenager who finds himself locked in a tower with only one way out: down. As you run, jump, swim, bomb and glide your way past all the spikes, blades, traps and fire, the incredibly twisted and frequently sadistic writing left on the tower walls, tell the story of the princess-turned-prisoner, Emph. Her musings slowly reveal pieces of her sordid past and subvert the traditional princess archetype to deliver an unsettling atmosphere. It’s an extremely refreshing take on the traditional trapped Princess tale and a style that perfectly accommodates for the limitations of mobile-game storytelling.Freedom Fall’s expert storytelling is only enhanced by the beauty of its art-style. It’s colourfully hand-painted world brings the characters and its story to life, while providing a warmth and familiarity which StirFire Studios has used to assist the narrative. Moreover, small touches — like blood stains remaining on obstacles that have bested you — highlight a care and attention to visual detail rarely seen in mobile gaming.Disappointingly, the music for the game fails to live up to its visuals. Appropriately catchy and suited to each environment, it is largely designed in 16-32 bar loops which transition poorly between each other. It’s by no means a deal-breaker, but a small oversight which prevents the game being the classic it could have been.Nonetheless, playing through Freedom Fall’s four to five hour story is extremely enjoyable. The controls work well, yet a slightly broken wall jump hinders the gameplay design and made me long for the control of Mario’s wall jump. The levels themselves are expertly designed; top-down scrolling pits of despair, which will constantly be sending you back up to the frequent checkpoints, are littered throughout the levels. If I had one gripe with the gameplay, it’d be that the incredibly frequent checkpoints make deaths feel inconsequential. When you die, none of the cogs or items you’ve collected since the previous checkpoint are lost, and as such, the difficulty decreases exponentially and the inherent joy I typically find in overcoming a difficult challenge was lost. Each of the levels contain three giant cogs to collect adding to the game’s replay value; however, it would have been nice if a Platinum Games-style grading system was implemented to encourage repeat visits to past levels.Despite these rather minor short falls, StirFire Studio’s third project has delivered an undoubtedly unique and refreshing game. With a visual style and story that stands tall against the giants of mobile gaming, I’m extremely excited to see what comes next from the Australian Mark SantomartinoCourtesy of Radio Respawn, SYN Media

September 15th 2013
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