Tuesday, April 12, 2016

[REVIEW] FreezeME (Wii U)

Played on: Wii U
Genre: 3D adventure-platformer
Developer / Publisher: Rainy Night Creations

I'm not sure why 3D platformers have fallen so out of favor with the mainstream, but I sure wish it wasn't so. Thankfully, more and more indie developers have been taking up the mantle in recent years, and the lastest result of that effort is FreezeME, a fun title that has genuinely surprised me.

The game puts you in the shoes of R, a little girl trying to rescue her dog from the evil Fat the Cat. To help her along, she has a very special camera that allows her to freeze enemies and objects in place. This is the mechanic that's at the heart of FreezeME, and it's incredibly well-implemented. It's used as the solution to puzzles, often in really clever ways, and it never overstays its welcome. It also happens to put the Wii U game pad's touch screen to very good use, bringing fun, intuitive gameplay innovation to the controller.

Thankfully, exploration is a pretty big focus here. From the game's overworld, you get to access a total of four fairly large worlds, and each of them holds various secrets for you to uncover. The main collectibles are golden cubes that function much like the stars in 3D Mario games: there are several to track down in each world, and getting one will bring you back to the overworld. Aside from those, there are also red pig coins (which replenish your life meter), green pig coins (mostly found by helping the cute pig-people who inhabit the worlds), and hidden salamanders that should be photographed. All in all, it's a fine selection that manages to extend the play time in quite pleasant ways.

The overworld also holds several challenge rooms, and here the results are more mixed. They're mostly time trials, but the controls can get a bit shaky, often making the difficulty feel unfair. This is a problem in the later sections of the campaign as well; the final world, for example, features quite a few tricky jumps which, due to the lack of precision in the controls, can be immensely frustrating.

Perhaps the most fascinating thing about the game is the fact that it was developed by a single person. A 3D platformer is significantly trickier to design and program than a sidescroller, and it should be said that the developer did a surprisingly great job given the circumstances. On the other hand, it's easy to see that some sections of FreezeME could have used a few extra hands, as there are aspects of the game that are poorly optimized. The camera is the worst offender, being shaky at best and quite unreliable at worst. There are a few annoying bugs as well, but thankfully a lot of them have been corrected by a patch since launch.

Even with its flaws, FreezeME is a game that should be a pleasant treat to platforming fans. The graphics and music are perfectly serviceable, and the fact that some of its sections feel perhaps too close to Mario games (especially in the first world) is mitigated by the honest-to-goodness innovation of the freezing mechanic. The later sections can suffer a bit from a design standpoint, but the basics are all here, making FreezeME a fun adventure that brought numerous smiles to my face over the course of ten or so hours.

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