Peruse the App Store and you’ll no doubt find a wealth of sidescrolling platformers to scratch any itch you might be feeling. What you won’t find as easily down-scrolling platformers. Australian developer Stirfire Studios dabbles in this little-used subgenre with Freedom Fall, and the end result is an engaging and charming experiment well worth your time.
Freedom Fall tells the tale of Marsh, a young boy who finds himself trapped at the top of a great tower with only one way to escape: down. Only problem is, aside from potentially breaking every single bone in his body, the tower also happens to be littered with a crazy assortment of spikes, traps, blades and fire.
Throwing caution to the wind, Marsh makes the journey anyway, slowly learning that he might not be alone. Along the way you encounter the Princess, your captor whose father was the main man behind building the prison you now call home. You won’t communicate with her directly, but you will catch glimpses of numerous etchings on the wall as you tumble your way down.
With a dark humour very reminiscent of the Portal series, these etchings are without doubt the most entertaining element to Freedom Fall. They’re often subtle jokes that aside from making you chuckle, also manage to push the story forward in an engaging manner without any need for interrupting cutscenes. That such a comparison to one of the most highly-regarded games of the past decade can be made here is a true testament to Freedom Fall’s writer, creative director, artist and level designer, Lisa Rye.
As you move downward from level to level, stage designs grow increasingly complex, leading you to die, a lot. An excellent checkpoint system is in place to counter any frustrations, and the inclusion of multiple paths will cater for both experienced and newbie players, preventing the challenge from never hitting rage-quit proportions.
Instead, navigating the tower is a joy, with the only issue being that the iPad's touch controls can become a bit fiddley as certain key actions are reserved for particular segments of the screen that aren't well-suited to your grip. On the iPhone it’s much easier to handle, but I still ended up switching on the virtual dpad for the much finer control it offers. Particularly once the game escalates and the levels start throwing more traps at you.
Stirfire deserves a lot of downloads for Freedom Fall. For a debut effort, the team has twisted a well-worn genre and added its own twist that very rarely falters. The experience might only take a few hours to complete, but when those brief moments are as refined as they currently are, that’s never really a negative. It’s a tough gig to get noticed in such a crowded marketplace, but there’s a lot of love shown in this one and I hope Freedom Fall shines bright.
You can grab it here for $2.99
Verdict: A unique down-scroller that experiments with the humble platformer genre and succeeds on charm and challenge. Freedom Fall might be a brief tale, but it’s one well worth checking out.