When we usually see space shoot-em-ups – or “shmups,” as some hardcore players call them – they usually involve a solo spaceship going up against an alien armada, or some warrior that’s capable of firing unlimited bullets while also flying in the air. (Looking at you, Cave.) But with Freedom Finger, Wide Right Games decides to take a turn for the weird, focusing more on a ship that’s essentially…a giant hand.
The game puts you in control of this ship of “freedom,” as it were, as a cigar chomping major gives you orders, and a secondary tech lends you a hand. As you journey across the galaxy, you’ll run into a number of kooky villains, including a Russkie that seems to be missing a shirt – oh, but he has his medals.
You’ll take on each mission, cleaning house on enemies by shooting at them through your middle finger. But there’s other stuff you can do as well. You can ball your ship up into a fist and punch mines, walls and other objects, and even a few enemies. Think of it as a “melee” sort of attack, though it’s not guaranteed to knock tougher opponents out.
The real cool aspect with the gameplay, however, is the ability to grab enemies. Sometimes you can just hurl them; but other times, you can actually grasp onto them and utilize their firepower for your gain, blasting their own kin into the stratosphere. It’s a neat tactic, even if all the firepower you pick up isn’t guaranteed to be better than your finger.
Freedom Finger comes with a worthy challenge level right up there with some of the Nintendo Switch’s better “shmups.” Some stages are a breeze at first; but then you get into the nitty gritty of the game, with moving objects, tough-as-nail bosses and more. You’ll need split-second timing to stay alive, so cross your, ahem, fingers? No, wait, you can’t do that here.
Gameplay works really well for a title like this, though, again, some power-ups are a little on the lame side. Fortunately, you can pick up other goods to help you out, like a shield that swirls around your hand and a neat health boost. Overall, it balances out pretty nicely, though you’ll still need skills to see this finger through to the end. (Did I just say that?)
The visuals feature hand-drawn (not a pun, I swear!) animation that really brings the game together, along with simple but neat little background designs. And the bosses have some ingenuity, including a giant hand that could very well be your dad. (A daddy hand? Wait, are these getting out of hand? Wait, another pun?!)
But where Freedom Finger really stands out is its audio. Wide Right Games has utilized the talents of a number of AAA voice actors. Stealing the show here is Nolan North, who portrays Cigar with the right amount of pulp. But then there’s John DiMaggio (yes, of Gears fame) voicing the Russkie, and some other support work from Eric Bauza and Sam Riegel. They go for cheesy, and they definitely deliver.
Plus, the soundtrack. Wow. It’s a mix of indie-style tunes put together by a variety of bands with this game specifically in mind. While they’re all not entirely hummable, a few of them are awesome, fitting the game like a glove. (I swear this is not a pun.) It can be a little loud in places, but overall, it’s a real surprise.
The game may not have too many components to keep you around following its end, but the journey is still worth it, thanks to the creativity of the developers. Whether you’re tripping out through a 16-bit style stage or cleaning house in a Soviet space factory (those exist, I guess?), Freedom Finger has something fun to offer for “shmup” fans. Plus, it works great in both handheld and TV mode, so it doesn’t matter what your preference is.
I like how this Finger turned up (sigh), if only because of its creativity and all-out silliness, while also sticking to its guns with being a serious shooter. It’s a tricky balance, but one the team pulls off with great aplomb. I would’ve liked more content after it was all said and done, and maybe less levels that felt like a grind. But overall, this Freedom Finger does everything it can to satisfy. (Okay, that’s it, let’s wrap this up before it gets really weird.)
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