Sometimes, a game tries to follow a high concept and then doesn't do enough to make something worthwhile. Unfortunately, Freakyforms was an example of this when it originally released on the DSi Shop last year. With an endearingly simple premise — assemble parts to make a creature — it had a clear, enjoyable concept. The problem was the gameplay attached to these creations; Spore this was not, and the result was something that was interesting but not particularly special. Alas, with Freakyforms Deluxe: Your Creations, Alive! for the 3DS, the game is still not particularly worthwhile.
Freakyforms Deluxe focuses on creating creatures called Formees, which are used to play through environments. This is done through a large interface that includes a variety of heads, bodies, and other bits. When put together, the result is a collection of unskippable, slowly scrolling tutorial textboxes that make you pine for Clippy. Eventually, you'll create a simplistically (but sufficiently) animated 2-D creature interacts with the game's 2-D world.
For the first several hours of gameplay, you spend more time in tutorials learning how to play the game than actually playing it. It's infuriating enough to abandon the game. The title offers you the chance to make objects to personalize the environment after some early missions. Guess what happens if you hit "Yes"! (Hint: more tutorials.)
Admittedly, at least some of these tutorials may be justified, thanks to the title's rather unusual touch-screen control scheme, which consists of a large circle in the center. To move, you tap outside of the circle. To jump, you tap inside the circle, drag down, and release. To fly, tap above the circle. This sounds easy, but in reality, especially compared to the cleaner interfaces for the 3DS, it's exceptionally unintuitive and feels like a design out of the early days of the DS, when developers used the touch-screen although there were better control schemes. (Again, you are given unskippable tutorials at every step of the way.)
The number of tutorials does a good job of hiding how much Freakyforms Deluxe lets you customize the world. While creatures are made of defined parts, a good stack of colors (and patterns) and size customizations let you create a surprisingly decent array of beings. Similarly, the world environments are customizable with surprising depth (and, in a nod to Drawn to Life, the game makes sure things remain a surprise even as these interfaces reveal some things before you encounter them).
Unfortunately, Freakyforms' biggest problem is that the platforming gameplay isn't that interesting. While it tries to offer free exploration, the limits of its controls, combined with some odd movement physics that can make easy tasks annoyingly difficult, turning controls into your primary opponent during the time-limited challenges.
This is particularly sad given the art style. Formees' parts are made to look like paper constructions when assembled, and the unusual limb animation physics, while annoying, do a wonderful job of making them feel alive. Similarly, the worlds capture a feel not entirely like the cloth worlds of Kirby's Epic Yarn, feeling like hand-made constructs. Unmemorable audio (including the Formees' Simlish-like language) isn't a bad thing, surprisingly, and it doesn't get in the way of the game's aesthetics.
For those who played the first game and want more, Freakyforms Deluxe is an expanded remake, not a sequel. New features that use the 3DS cameras for augmented-reality viewing, QR code-based sharing, and StreetPass show off the 3DS' potential. In addition, dungeon-like environments and some more battle-like functions have been added to the game. Unfortunately, most of this won't become available until well after the game's turned you off with its glut of tutorials.
Pretty and distinctive-looking, however, aren't worth $15 if the gameplay doesn't hold up, and in Freakyforms Deluxe: Your Creations, Alive!, it really and truly doesn't. If you want a game that captures what Freakyforms Deluxe tries to do, you're best served hunting down the Drawn to Life games for the original DS. Kids might find the game entertaining in spite of the number of demos, but without a demo, it's hard to recommend risking the cost.
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