System: Wii U (eShop)
Release date: February 4, 2016
Developer: Rainy Night Creations
Publisher Rainy Night Creations
The 3D platforming and collectathon style of game is one that hasn’t been very prevalent since the days of the Nintendo 64. However, fans of old-school 3D platformers have wanted to see a revival of these experiences and its seems as though their cries are now being heard by the many studios out there. One indie developer named Rainy Night Creations strove to create a game that followed in the footsteps of the giants that were Super Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie in an attempt to bring its new title, FreezeME, into the genre. However, unlike the platformer’s clear inspirations, FreezeME has some seriously glaring issues at its core.
Once the game starts and the player selects their file they are quickly introduced to the very simplistic plot of FreezeME. One sunny day, “R”, the main character, and her friend “M” (who happens to be an anthropomorphic dog) go out for a walk. Suddenly, the main villain of the game “Fat the Cat” appears and claims he wants to create a dog-free world. He takes “M” and flies away into a “time-warp-vortex-weird-thingy” and disappears with “R” following shortly after. And then you are thrust into the first world of the game. You are prompted with a message to learn the controls through the pause menu and then you have full control and quickly learn about the main gimmick, which is a camera that freezes platforms in place. This is where one of the major issues of the game rears its ugly head.
The controls in FreezeME are very clunky. Movement feels very sluggish and the lack of control and midair movement makes jumping from platform to platform feel like trying to make two opposing magnets stick together. Along with running and jumping, there is an option to attack with a jump kick, and the option to perform a belly slide, two actions extremely reminiscent of Super Mario 64. However, attacking never quite feels fluid. Whenever I attempted to attack I was never quite sure if my kick would land or if I would just fly into the enemy and take damage. Every input I made just felt slightly ham-fisted and frustrating.
Along with the sluggish control, the camera also gave me some very annoying issues. When you are in a level the camera usually points the direction that “R” is facing, however, whenever I tried to swivel the camera around to get a look at my surroundings, it felt as if the camera was fighting my input and trying to get back to its default position behind “R”. Even during platforming segments when the camera is fixed and out of the players control, it doesn’t cooperate. For instance, one of the early missions has the player jump their way up series of floating platforms while the camera is not in their control. I ended up getting to a segment where I had to avoid flame-shooters and make a jump to a long, thin platform across a gap. Just as I start to run up to jump the gap, the camera swivels a complete 180 degrees and I fall all the way back to the ground losing minutes of progress. Issues like this persisted throughout my entire playthrough of FreezeME. (update: The camera issues I experienced were a result of my misunderstanding of the camera options. I misunderstood the camera options as referring to the camera tool you use in game to freeze platforms; when in actuality, they were referring to the actual in-game camera. While the options were not entirely clear, tweaking and adjusting these settings accordingly should resolve any camera issues you might experience while playing.)
All of these problems culminate with a severe lack of direction that plagues almost every aspect of FreezeME. The only hint of your level objective is displayed through a guided camera segment at the very beginning of the level. After that, you can’t look at the level name to get an idea of the objective and the only way to see the guided camera segment is to leave the level completely and reselect it through the game’s hub world.
Oh, the hub world. FreezeME’s hub world feels completely unnecessary. No music plays while traversing it. It solely consists of some hills, some trees, a couple castle-like areas and some large blocks. The entire level select process could have been improved tenfold by a simple world select screen in the vein of Mario Galaxy 2. I’m all for having hub worlds in games, but when it becomes a chore to traverse them, I think a more streamlined solution is best.
Going back to floating platforms, the level design in FreezeME feels fairly generic and uninspired. For instance, the first world is a grassy valley themed area, filled with hills, wooden platforms, and lots of generic blocks or circles of varying colors suspended in midair. Everything just feels so clearly pieced together, like something you find in an in-game level editor. I often noticed when certain logs or platforms jutted out at strange angles or didn’t quite connect with the platforms they were supposed to be attached to. The graphical style doesn’t really do the game any favors either. Textures look extremely flat and boring and the models they are plastered onto look no different. The whole game feels a bit too bright, colors are monotone, and the graphical style sort of has a cell shaded look to it but still manages to feel uninspired.
FreezeME also suffers from many minor bugs and gameplay hiccups throughout. Shadows extend through floating platforms all the way to the ground, “R’s” glasses linger and fly around the screen when jumping into the portal to enter a world, and most objects that can be interacted with have strange collision that causes jittery and jumpy movement. These issues don’t necessarily hamper the game overall, but seeing them pop up every-so-often makes the game feel very rushed and unpolished.
However, if there is something positive to be said about FreezeME, it’s the game’s soundtrack. The music is upbeat and catchy and the themes fit their specific levels well. One piece in particular is very reminiscent to the opening theme of Banjo-Kazooie and the homage is very clear. The soundtrack consists of ten songs altogether and they’re all pretty solid.
FreezeME is a 3D platformer that fails to come close to the games it so clearly strives to imitate. With clunky controls, lackluster visuals, an ankle-deep plot, and a severe lack a direction, it fails to bring that lost magic of the 3D platformers of old back to the table.