I’ve played a fair few shoot-em-ups in my time, but I feel safe in saying that Freedom Finger is unlike any of them. While certainly challenging, it’s unique style and rhythm makes stand out from the crowd in a great way.
We play as the captain of the Freedom Ship, a blunt – and literal – middle finger to our enemies. Our commander Major Cigar – played brilliantly by voice over veteran Nolan North – sends us on a mission to rescue hostages from a Chinese space station. Along our adventure, there is plenty of well written and funny (and crude) dialogue from several characters. While the story is hardly going to redefine the medium, it’s at least entertaining enough to keep us invested throughout. Occasional dialogue choices appear, though rarely do they have any real impact on the game, save for a different response from a character.
Once we get into the game proper, what initially appears as a standard example of the genre soon throws a few unique elements into the fray. Being a flying fist, our ship not only fires bullets from its middle finger, but is also able to punch and grab enemy ships. Punching is powerful, though opens us up to attack for a brief moment if mistimed. It can also be used to break certain elements of the levels, opening up alternate pathways. Grabbing allows us to, well, grab objects from within the stages. Small debris and enemies can be thrown, causing massive damage to craft and helping to clear the screen in quick fashion.
One of Freedom Finger‘s most unique elements though is the ability to use grabbed foes as impromptu power-ups. Their mode of attack becomes ours, at the expense of losing the punch ability. It’s a great spin on collecting power ups, and effectively allows unlimited access to new firepower. Once we’ve had enough or a power becomes unusable we can simply lob it away and grab another. They also act as a small shield, but too much damage will destroy them. Larger enemies resist being used against their allies, but we can rip their guns off of them, or yank a handful of ammo from them to throw. Making use of these abilities is the way to get massive high scores, but it’s also just a lot of fun. Some of the enemy weapons feel a little too awkward to use, such as the homing rocket of the army man, but all in all I enjoyed this little twist to the gameplay.
That’s not the only unique spin on things that Freedom Finger offers though. Each stage is set to a licensed song from a large pool of indie artists. The flow and rhythm of a stage is tied directly into the music, with faster songs offering some breakneck speed attacks, while a more relaxed tune has the action going at a slower pace – though the challenge is increased in other ways. I found the slower songs tended to make the stages drag on a little too long at times though, and later in the game the difficulty makes it so that I needed to replay these many times over to clear them.
A short tea break was usually enough to bear it, but even just one mid-level checkpoint would have gone some way to helping alleviate some frustration. Boss battles can feel a little attritional too, with no clear indicator on their current health. The length of the song is all we have to beat them, but again unless you’re on a repeat play there’s no indication of just how long we have left. Their designs do show some wear and tear as we hit them, but it’s not really all that helpful. That’s not to say they’e not fun, as the patterns and general wacky shit going on is enough to dull the pain of another defeat. For the most part though, I enjoyed the songs on offer and appreciated the ways it fed into the gameplay. As a song briefly pauses so do the enemy and bullets, giving us time to readjust or simply blast them out of space uninhibited. At time’s it was unclear how the music was really affecting the flow of the gameplay but for the most part it was yet another addition that helps Freedom Finger stand out.
Helping that further are some brilliantly detailed and animated visuals that offer up some bizarre, yet hilarious, sights. Wide Right Interactive keep things fresh here too with lavish cartoon-y visuals, retro style 8-bit visuals and more. There’s very little time that the screen isn’t filled with something weird and wonderful to look at, yet it never gets so hectic that I lost track of my ship – of course, it being a giant middle finger helps!
Freedom Finger is a brilliantly surreal, challenging, vulgar and plain fun arcade shooter. While difficulty spikes can get a little frustrating, overall I enjoyed the style, story and gameplay more than enough to keep me going.