Frozen In the 90’s!
By Richard Jewell
Reviewed on Xbox One
Released on September 2nd, 2016 on Xbox One (also available on PC and Wii U)
Developer: Rainy Night Creations Publisher: Rainy Night Creations
Super Mario 64, Banjo Kazooie, Spyro the Dragon. If you played any 3D platformers back in the 90’s, then no doubt you have played at least one of the aforementioned games and probably have some fond memories of them. FreezeME is an indie game made by a small team of developers currently based in Barcelona, Spain, whose goal was to create a 3D platformer that would serve as the perfect homage to the golden era of N64 gaming. Growing up, I have spent countless hours of my childhood indoors, collecting gold stars with Mario, rummaging for puzzle pieces with Banjo, rescuing my fellow dragons with Spyro. I even beat the often forgotten Jersey Devil game for PS1. So I have plenty of firsthand experience with the genre and time period so I can say with some authority that Rainy Night Creations hit all the nostalgic sweetspots with FreezeME. FreezeME is the story of a girl who goes by the name “R”. One day she is outside with her best friend, “M” the dog, when the evil “Fat The Cat” appears and kidnaps him, telling “R” that he plans to create a dog-free world. Now “R” must go on an adventure to track him down and get her best friend back.
You start off in Hubbiton, which as you may have guessed by the name, is the game’s central hub. Here you can find access to the 4 different worlds you will be exploring. Your main goal is to find 40 golden cubes hidden throughout the levels so you can rescue your friend. There is only one world available to you at first, the rest are unlocked once you get the requisite amount of golden cubes to unlock them. I hope you like collecting stuff because this game has plenty of things to find. In total, there are 41 golden cubes to collect. There are 10 in the first three worlds, and 3 in the final. There are another 8 golden cubes that you can get by collecting green pig coins and exchanging 10 of them for a single cube via a floating green pig statue that can be found in the hub, and in each world. Green pig coins can be found hidden throughout the worlds, and earned by doing tasks for the friendly pigs that you will find living in each area. Red pig coins recover health when you pick them up and award you with a golden cube when you collect 150 of them in a level. When entering a world, a menu showing the challenges you need to complete to earn cubes opens up. This immediately reminded me of the star menu that appears before each level in Super Mario 64. Once you choose one, you enter the world and a short cinematic gives you a hint of where you need to go. There are also very handy signs hanging around to help point you in the right direction so it’s pretty easy to find your way.
Speaking of the worlds, the level design in the game is fantastic! Each level is well laid out and a joy to explore. The first world, Sunshine Valley, is very reminiscent of the first level of Super Mario 64, complete with a huge hilltop with a spiraling path to climb up while dodging cannon balls in order to get to the boss. Chilly Cool Frozen Mountain is laid out in a circuit with an emphasis on verticality, with mountains up above, a frozen lake down below, and a spooky manor nestled on top of a mountain in the center of the map. Giantbits Islands is my favorite world of them all. It is actually three separate planets orbiting a central, which can be reached by using a catapult. Each planet has its own theme, ice, desert, and water. It gives the game a dash of Mario Galaxy, with each planet having their own separate gravity. Fat The Cat’s Den is the final world. It is much more challenging to navigate than the others. Most of it is covered in lava and you must traverse from platform to platform full of dangerous obstacles in order to reach the top, where Fat The Cat awaits. To make it easier to get around, each world has a number of interconnected teleporters to find and activate. The visuals of this game really shine. Lush, vibrant colors combined with simple, clean looking graphics give FreezeME a wonderful cartoonish aesthetic. The jazzy soundtrack fits in with the style of the game perfectly without grinding on your nerves. It’s a game that is pleasing to the eyes and ears.
The core gameplay of FreezeME is standard fare for most 3D platformers. Health is denoted by hearts around the character’s portrait. Your character can run around, double jump, slide, wall-jump, and sidle along narrow ledges in order to navigate the world and all the obstacles in it. Most enemies can be dispatched with a kick or a headstomp. There is, however, one unique gameplay mechanic that separates it from the crowd. “R” has a camera that she can use to freeze enemies and obstacles. This feature can be used to make your life so much easier. Is a platform spinning too fast, making a tricky jump even more difficult? Freeze it. Is the clock not giving you enough time to collect the 20 coins you need to complete the challenge? Freeze it. Are obstacles in your way moving too fast for you to get by? Maybe you should spend more time practicing the timing of your moves? Naw, I’m just kidding, FREEZE ‘EM! The ability to use the camera to manipulate the world adds a little bit of a puzzle element to the game which I find quite enjoyable. For example; there is a high up ledge with a golden cube that you can’t reach through normal means. You step on a button and enemies appear for a limited amount of time so you must quickly freeze them in place and then use them as stepping stones to bounce your way to the top. It adds a nice variation to the standard “go here and get that” formula. Later in the game, when you defeat a certain boss you unlock rage mode. When entering rage mode you move faster than normal, and you now have the ability to fly for a limited amount of time. Taking damage kicks you out of rage mode and then you need to regain full health before you can enter it again.
FreezeME is not without its problems, however. It shares in some of the most common problems that plagued the games it was modeled after. First off are the controls. They are, for the most part, fine. They can feel a little clunky though when trying to complete precise maneuvers. A problem I ran into a few times was when I was trying to climb up a structure and instead of grabbing the ledge I ended up in a wall slide, causing me to jump off in the opposite direction and sometimes to my death. It’s the same situation with the camera as it is with the controls. Most of the time it works perfectly, except when you get into a tight, confined space and then it’s welcome to camera collision city! When swimming in the water the combination of poor camera and controls make it a lot less fun than it should be, especially later on in the game when you’re trying to swim through an enclosed system of pipes. There is one more thing that gets on my nerves but doesn’t affect the gameplay whatsoever. Whenever you double-tap the Xbox home menu and go into the sidebar, the game requires you to choose the profile you are playing as every time you go back into the game. Not a big deal, but still annoying. Despite its relatively minor flaws, this game has a lot going for it. It’s a perfect throwback to 90’s 3D platforming, it boasts nice, clean, and colorful graphics and a great soundtrack, and provides hours of fun for a low price ($9.99). If you’re a fan of platformers, collecting stuff, or just a person looking for a nostalgia trip, picking up this game is a no-brainer.
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purposes of the review
Final Score: 8/10
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