The starting menu of Freedom Finger describes itself as a Bat$#!% Crazy Space shooter. Let me tell you, the game does not disappoint. It’s an insane, fast-paced shoot ‘em up with an art style and humor that’s comparable to Rick and Morty crossed over South Park. Freedom Finger is set entirely to an eclectic soundtrack of artists ranging from Aesop Rock, Red Fang, Com Truise, and Power Trip. The game was developed by Wide Right Interactive and makes its debut on PS4 and Xbox One after previously being available only on PC via Steam and the Nintendo Switch.
Freedom Finger offers two game modes: campaign and arcade. In both, you take on the role of a high-ranking officer named Gamma Ray who is the pilot of the spaceship Eagle Claw. Shaped like a giant fist with its middle finger extended, the Eagle Claw can shoot, punch, and grab enemies. If you are easily offended, Freedom Finger probably isn’t the game for you, but it does offer the ability to censor the dialogue and Eagle Claw’s middle finger. The latter places a black bar over the offensive finger that reads “censored.” Completing a level with the black bar of censorship gets you the hilarious and appropriately named Tipper Gore trophy/achievement.
The campaign begins with a briefing from Major Cigar, voiced expertly by none other than Uncharted’s Nolan North. Chinese terrorists have attacked and captured the American research facility that is located on the moon. They demand that the United States surrender the lunar base within 24 hours or they will kill all hostages and destroy the facility. Your mission is to rescue the scientists and civilians, which includes Major Cigar’s beloved daughter Holly. After all the hostages are rescued, you must determine whether the enemy actually has the resources to destroy the station. As the story progresses, we learn that Major Cigar isn’t as noble as he presents himself, and soon the Russians become involved in this all-out galactic battle.
The gameplay is typical of a side-scrolling shooter and the campaign unfolds through chapters that include song length levels that end in some sort of boss fight. Controls are basic and intuitive, with the musical interludes providing a rhythmic frenzy that becomes increasingly more difficult. You frequently have to fight your way through a myriad of debris and enemies such as aircraft, robots, cats, flying shotguns, and the menacing peace signs of death. Even on the “normie” difficulty setting, Freedom Finger is a punishing game. If the Dark Souls of side-scrolling becomes a bit too much for you to handle, you can drop the difficulty to the Diaper (easy) setting or you can customize the amount of collision damage you can take or how much health you start with.
While side-scrolling shooters are rarely known for their stories, the Freedom Finger campaign not only offers a short and cohesive plot, it does so with comedic relief that pokes fun at our current state of politics without being too heavy-handed… pun intended. The game sometimes requires you to make choices through dialogue options that will directly affect the story’s outcome.
The Arcade mode brings a high replay value to the game and includes the new Rhymesayer levels featuring the music of Aesop Rock. This was previously not available in the initial PC and Switch release. The new levels will be added for free if you have Freedom Finger for the aforementioned platforms, however. All the levels from the campaign can also be played in any order. Additionally, the difficulty and censorship options are also available to you in arcade mode. At the end of an arcade level, it gives you a score, a rating, and there’s a leaderboard to compare your scores against other players.
Admittedly, Freedom Finger’s simple gameplay does become redundant. While enemies and surroundings constantly change, the basic combat is to shoot, punch, grab, and avoid damage with very little diversity in the game’s rhythm. Scattered amongst the levels you can pick up shield and health power-ups, but once again, nothing that changes up gameplay.
That’s not to say the game isn’t entertaining, but as I continued to play, I just hoped for something that would break up the basic gameplay such as special power-ups. Some enemies can be grabbed, and either thrown or held onto, which allows you to use their projectile weapons as your own. Unfortunately, it’s not always clear which enemies can be grabbed, so it often leads to severe damage trying to figure it out.
From a technical perspective, Freedom Finger ran and performed nearly perfectly. The only slight defect I noticed was sometimes the dialogue dropped. It’s a short campaign that I played through in one sitting. However, what it lacks in length, it compensates with a fun and challenging experience that was highly entertaining for little more than the cost of a movie ticket.
When I sat down to play Freedom Finger for the first time, the real world crumbled around me. We are facing a worldwide pandemic so frightening that it feels as if our real lives have become the plot of a movie or video game. Our only defense against the evil coronavirus seems to be hand-washing and isolation. For a few hours, Freedom Finger was able to take me out of this harsh reality and I briefly forget the world was burning and that I’m in a constant state of fear and quarantine. Maybe that’s just what the world needs right now; a quirky game where you take down enemies by controlling a giant hand with its middle finger extended.