PAX EAST: Freedom Finger – Hands-On demo
The 1990s were home to some of the most rebellious moments in human history. Somehow, in a decade that had earth-shattering moments such as Windows 95 and the rise of The Request Live, the wildly-talented team at Wide Right Games has brought together a fine team of wildly eclectic designers and engineers to create “the most bat@#$% crazy space shooter.” Wide Right Games has created Freedom Finger, an unapologetic and eclectic spaceship shooter, with a tremendous degree of creative talent. With PAX EAST 2019 in full-swing at Boston, Massachusetts, I had the special opportunity to see the game for myself.
Freedom Finger takes place in the near future. Major CIgar sends you, the player on a top-secret and dangerous mission to the moon. The Chinese have taken over a special facility on the moon, providing a grave national security risk to the United States of America. The Chinese Government has an entire armada standing against you, along with allies from other communist nations. From blimps with cannons stapped on their bottoms to mechs, spaceplanes, and all sort of bizarre and impractical weaponry will stand in your easy. America’s future and the good it brings the world must be protected at all costs.
Freedom Finger is a is a spaceship shooter or shmup for short. Games that fall into this genre include Galaga, RayStorm, and Skyforce: Reloaded. Players will face nearly endless waves of enemies that are aggressively determined to hurt the player. However, the player and their middle-finger shaped spacecraft have a plethora of abilities to fight this grave threat to the U.S.A. Players can shoot lasers, punch enemies, and even grab a ship to utilize their weapon to attack.
As mentioned before, the enemies are wildly imagined, but the levels themselves are just as wildly creative, if not more imaginative. From Asteroid fields to space stations to even a twisted digital fantasy born from America Online, this is a mission unlike anything ever imagined. Adding to this is a glowing soundtrack straight from your favorite venue for indie and underground punk rock. For the demo at PAX EAST, there would only be three levels, but each one was extraordinarily unique and significantly different from the next.
From the moment I played level one, I absolutely fell in love with Freedom Finger. The music, coupled with the visual cartoon style that reminded me immensely of Beavis and Butthead, created a recreation of a sensation. Lasers perforated the screen and the incredibly animated levels feature a cacophony of events, from planets exploding to the pistons of a combustible engine attempting to crush the player.
If the gameplay and the animation provided the heart than the music was the souls. Freedom Finger wasn’t a rhythm-shooter per se, such as Thumper or Amplitude, but the ferocity of the bullets and enemy movement was tied to the bass and drums in a noticeable way. When the guitar and drums got fast, so did the enemies and their shooting. During moments of pause, or slower rhythm, the bullets slowed down. The animations in the background, such as a moon crashing into a planet, were tie to the intensity and the lyrics of the track that was playing. Freedom Finger wasn’t a nostalgic trip. It was a full-alive 90’s infused experience.
The gameplay experience was fast, fierce, and infinitely fun. At any one given moment, I could punch the living daylights out of a gunship, shoot a robot in the face, or grab a tank and use the tank’s cannon as a new weapon, before chucking the tank into an enemy wave. I have to remark again how much Freedom Finger embraces its satirical self, especially with the third level in the demo. This level took place in what can be described as a digital dreamscape of windows 95 errors messages and early internet icons. Seeing this, along with a hearing a Pink Floyd inspired, made shooting the rabid internet viruses all the more entertaining and euphoric. Freedom Finger has a tremendous vision behind it that I have never seen in any other game at PAX EAST.
Freedom Finger absolutely embraces its style and satirical humor. Major Cigar is voiced by the legendary Nolan North, and the Communist leader is voiced by Fender and Jake The Dog himself, John Dimaggio. While the demo didn’t reveal too much, the voice talent was incredible, and the two are expected to have a tremendous degree of humor and enthusiasm with their roles. The game is expected to have 36 levels across 12 worlds at launch, with the hope of additional music-focused levels to happen at some point post-launch.
It’s possible that readers are reading this, and asking themselves how, as well as why, this game is seeing fruition. I talked to the developers and gained some valuable feedback that connected to the world that we currently live. While it may sound rather concerning, there is a special, calming feeling when there are cohesiveness and connection in insanity. Currently, in our world, we live in times where common sense and the mechanics of right and wrong seemingly no longer apply.
The same idea can be applied to the 1990s when in the span of a decade, so many civilization-defining moments occurred. The Berlin Wall fell and Operation Desert Storm occurred. Compact Disc players became the norm and the world wide web connected entire continents. MTV has pulled off the air for a week because of a Madonna music video, and Eminem shocked the planet with his Slim Shady music video that pulled no punches on the mass entertainment world at the time. The president was elected and rocked with a sex scandal, but every home was obsessed with the Nintendo 64. Somehow, in this insanity, there is a sense to it all, perhaps, maybe even an observation of how varied the human experience can be. Even more son, maybe there is an observation of how and where we can take ourselves and be better.
Based on the demo, Freedom Finger is fantastic and highly recommended for all players. Freedom Finger arrives this coming summer for PC and consoles.