November 13, 2001
Freak Out - Review
Freak Out is the latest game from Japanese developers Treasure, who are one of the most respected and loved development teams among the gaming community. Their game includes hits such as Gunstar Heroes (Megadrive), Guardian Heroes (Megadrive), Yuke Yuke Trouble Makers (N64), Radient Silvergun (Arcade & Saturn) and Bangaio (Dreamcast). Treasure make the games for gamers and put gameplay and entertainment ahead of sales, and it shows. To this day many of their games have 2D graphics while everyone else has moved to 3D, they put playability before graphics, and they have a wacky sense of humour. While it's taken me a while to review this game it's not due to a lack of enthusiasm, more like a misplaced disc. But I found it, and got back into the game to find yet another classic game from Treasure, although it may not suit many and has a couple of disappointments to hold it back.
|Attacking one of the bosses.|
Freak Out is actually called Stretch Panic in America, which is much more appropriate given the content of the game and the ability to stretch your scarf and the surrounding scenery. This 3D action adventure game places you in a surreal world with a rather twisted storyline. Thirteen demons embodying the spirit of vanity and superficial beauty seek out to posses the most beautiful sisters of the land, turning them into grotesque Barbie doll caricatures. There is a slight problem however with the thirteenth sister, Linda, whose possession takes an unusual turn. When the demon dives for her, it accidentally possesses the scarf she was wearing instead. Although Linda's scarf takes on a life of its own, she is able to control some of its actions, while everything it touches or grabs will get a certain elasticity and stretch and snap back like rubber. Linda can pester enemies, grab, throw, climb, pull, pinch and enlarge any object in the game's environment. In fact, this is one of the most emmersive games in years.
Playing Freak Out will be a bit of a shock to the gaming system for many people. This is no conventional platform game, there are no weapons, no shotguns, no bazookas, and no sniper rifles. In fact, the only item for you to use in the game is Linda's stretchable scarf. Before you baulk at the idea, let me just say that Freak Out includes some of the most original gameplay seen in years. Controlling Linda is via the left analogue stick while the R1 button and right analogue stick combine to extend the scarf and grab items. Impressively, absolutely everything in the game world can be stretched including the background, foregrounds and objects.
|Effects are numerous, and cool.|
The bulk of the game will see you completing mini-games to collect enough points to battle the 12 bosses, each of which has weak points and will require a different method of attack to defeat. It's definitely a different game to what most people may be used to but sadly it's far too short. Another problem is the camera which all too frequently becomes side on to your character and despite the inclusion of the L1 adjustment to behind your character it shouldn't have to be used so often.
Treasure aren't know for plain looking video games and this is no exception. Looking at the surrounding screenshots (which are very poor quality compared to the game on a TV - sorry) you will see that this is one very peculiar game with very cartoony graphics and bold colours. The characters are also quite absurd in their design. A perfect example of this is the first enemies which you will encounter, namely very large breasted women. When I mean large I mean breasts as tall as the woman herself. The frame rate holds up pretty well and the game is littered with plenty of special effects and is anti-aliased to smooth out the edges.
|Nope, no goobies here.|
Sound-wise Treasure have kept the music in style with the unusual gameplay. This background music is very interesting, quite up tempo, and suits the gameplay perfectly. The sound effects are adequate with plenty of springy type sounds to accompany the action on screen. Overall the sound is effective, if not mind blowing.
Freak Out is an interesting title. On the one hand the game is unique, fun and interesting while on the other it's confusing, cutesy and a little too short. If you're after something different then look no further, but for the casual gamer the rather strange gameplay and cartoony graphics may be a little to much to cope with. If the game were longer then I would recommend a purchase for those willing to take a punt, but due to it's short gameplay it's probably better off as a rental.
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