Describing itself as a ‘Bat$#!% Crazy Space Shooter’, Freedom Finger is exactly that. So much so that that could be my review right there, done and dusted. However, to please my editor, I will elaborate on why that description is so spot on.
Freedom Finger is very much a traditional side-scrolling space shoot ‘em up but with heaps of extra charm and personality thrown in for good measure. Players must fly through levels shooting as much as possible, taking down the frequent bosses that appear throughout the 40 levels. Interestingly, there is also a dash of melee combat thrown in – your ship that you fly around in is a hand performing a rude gesture with the middle finger on display, but you can also punch ships when flying around should they dare get close enough. Some larger ships can also be grabbed and then their firepower can be used against your enemies.
Freedom Finger isn’t afraid to take that protruding middle finger before poking and prodding at politics in a satirical tale of US governance. You play as a rookie pilot called Gamma Ray who – under the guidance of Major Cigar – must fly to the moon and save lunar scientists who have been taken hostage by Chinese terrorists. Unsurprisingly, things don’t go quite to plan and when you throw the Russians into the equation as well Major Cigar has quite a lot on his plate. During this journey you will encounter Russians, Chinese, asteroids, space worms and time travel. Freedom Finger isn’t afraid to go places: physically, mentally, metaphysically and quantum physically.
Occasionally, you will be given choices to make during the story that have an impact on how the game progresses. You could end up playing levels in a different order or even flipped from the standard left to right, forcing you to struggle with a different perspective playing right to left. It encourages repeat playthroughs but there is also an Arcade mode where you can play any level you like at any point; they are all unlocked from the beginning. For those that have played Freedom Finger before when it launched on Steam in 2019, this is also where you can find the new Rhymesayers update featuring brand new levels.
There is also a stellar voice cast with none other than the likes of Nolan North and John DiMaggio offering up their voice boxes for Freedom Finger.
Music is also a key part of the gameplay, as levels are designed around licenced music. Whilst the musical selection offers a wide variety covering electro, stoner rock and thrash metal from the likes of Com Truise, Red Fang, Power Trip, METZ and original music from Aesop Rock, the tunes won’t be for everyone. Your musical tastes will need to be a bit eclectic to fully appreciate what is on offer here.
The music is used to good effect when scrolling through the levels, at times at least. The first level opens with Prehistoric Dog by Red Fang and towards the end of the song there is a big crescendo of drums and guitars as the song comes to close – at this point the level is flooded with enemies firing at you. This effect of pairing the music to the action is a great idea – and has more than a whiff of rhythm-based games about it – but it feels underused. For the vast majority of the first level, the action doesn’t match up, or is done very subtly that it isn’t really noticeable, and this is across the board for each of the levels.
Rather than go for eye-blistering neon and epilepsy-inducing visuals like most other shoot ’em ups, Freedom Finger has a lovely hand drawn look to it with a real cartoony style to everything. If it wasn’t for the frantic mayhem going on on-screen then I would recommend stopping and taking a look, but that would ensure certain death.
This hand-drawn feel extends into the cutscenes and some of the interactions between characters make it feel like you’re watching a late-night adult cartoon; one of those obscure ones that only you and a couple of your friends like and quote at each other all the time. But one that you love.
Freedom Finger has 30 achievements in total, with a wide Gamerscore range from a singular 1G to a massive 150G. The achievements will also require repeated playthroughs to unlock them all as some of your conversational choices will pop an achievement, so you should make a note of what you said before to make sure you don’t choose the same one again on a second playthrough. But you are also required to do some pretty obscure things to get every achievement; censor the middle finger, punch a space toilet, load the crafting menu and get called a ‘F***stick’ are just a small sample.
Difficulty is always one of those things discussed when it comes to shoot ‘em ups as well, and Freedom Finger is no exception. Straight from the start it feels like you are thrown in at the deep end. You can change the difficulty in the options menu – at a penalty to your level score and the online leaderboards – but Freedom Finger can represent a decent challenge at any difficulty. Best of all though, this doesn’t affect the achievements.
It is very clear from the outset that Freedom Finger on Xbox One is a niche game. It being a space shoot ‘em up is enough to put people off from the start. But if you also have an aversion to satirical, on the knuckle toilet humour, or more experimental music, then steer clear. If this does sound like something for you though, then Freedom Finger will offer a few hours of a lot of fun. It is slightly overpriced perhaps at £12.49 but it is certainly an enjoyable romp.