In a time when the video game market is flooded with 2D platformers, it's refreshing whenever developers make use of the third dimension. In comes FreezeME. It's an undeniably adorable 3D platform game but is it camera-ready enough for your living room?
FreezeME stars a pint-sized little lady simply named "R". Sadly, her best pal (a dog known as "M") is kidnapped by the sinister Fat the Cat who desires a world rid of all canines. Armed with a camera that can freeze enemies and various objects, it's her job to rescue her beloved puppy and put an end to Fat's evil ways. I must say, this is by far the cutest game that I've played in a long time. R is so small on the screen and she runs with such gusto as her tiny legs rapidly patter back and forth. Also, her tongue sticks out whenever she runs or jumps which is a bit too much cuteness. Were the developers trying to make gamers punch the nearest pillow? If so, they've succeeded. On top of this, the brightly colourful environments are an absolute joy to explore. The various animals that you talk to can get annoying with their repetitive nonsense voices, but it's easy to forgive once you're reminded of the vibrant world that you're playing within.
When I first started playing FreezeME, I figured that it's a lot like Super Mario 64. This is true in that the basic controls feel similar yet it gradually forged its own identity the further I progressed. Using the camera to solve puzzles and traverse tricky platforming situations is so cleverly implemented that working through these segments will leave a smile on your face. I had many frustrating moments along the journey, but this was more often than not due to the fact that I messed up. For example, I kept flying off of platforms and I didn't understand why. After several failed attempts, I realised that I needed to freeze a windmill in the background to stop it from blowing me away. Freezing things is such a fantastic feature as it puts your platforming skills to the test and makes you think.
FreezeME's campaign consists of three main worlds to explore that are connected by a hub area. Each area's name describes it perfectly: Sunshine Valley, Chilly Cool Frozen Mountain, and Giantbits Islands (which will be very familiar to Super Mario Galaxy fans). Each of these locations has ten gold cubes to discover and plenty of side-quests that reward you with Green Pigcoins that you can redeem for extra gold cubes. Additionally, the hub world has some bonus doors that slowly open up as you work your way through the adventure. Behind these doors are mini-games such as a timed 2D platformer stage and a candy-themed slide. When you have enough gold cubes, you can battle Fat the Cat at his den. When you win, you unlock Rage Mode which is just plain awesome. R gets mad as her hair turns red and she gains the ability to fly for some reason. She's still as cute as a button, though.
Although it sounds like there's a lot of content, the fact that there are only a few areas to explore remains disappointing. When you compare the vastness of a 3D Super Mario title to the humble offering here, it really pales in comparison. In fact, you can probably master the entire game within a few hours if you know what you're doing. That brings me to my next point: for such a complex game to control, there is almost no tutorial whatsoever. The only instructions that you get just go over the basics. I played the beginning of the game for about an hour not entirely sure what I was doing. Considering situations that you'll face can get rather daunting, it would have been fitting to feature a fully fleshed out tutorial. Instead, you'll fall from insanely tall heights thus forcing you to work your way back up, stumble in the boss fights, and probably drown the first time you dip your toes in some water. Furthermore, sometimes you get stuck and are made to go back to the hub and restart. In one stage, I slipped on some ice into a corner and just couldn't escape no matter how hard I tried. Whenever these events unfold, it'll put you in your very own Rage Mode.
FreezeME is a delightful 3D platformer that I highly recommend to anyone who can get their hands on it. However, make sure you prepare for many frustrating moments and are ready to learn its intricacies on your own before you jump in.
- + So cute that it's ridiculous
- + Freezing mechanic makes for many satisfying puzzles and platforming segments
- + Rage Mode is pure awesomeness
- - There are only a few stages to master
- - Many events such as getting stuck or falling from high up can feel unfair
- - Needs a thorough tutorial