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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Nom Nom Galaxy and Freedom Planet.

Transcript Edit

I didn't want to do another indie double bill so soon after the last one. It feels like taking two dates to the cinema and making a play for the hypothetical stereo surreptitious tit-grab. But I couldn't resist the almost serendipitous conflux of Nom Nom Galaxy coming off Early Access and Freedom Planet coming out on Wii U. And while the phrase "coming out on Wii U" is about as significant to me as the phrase "hopes to have children of her own someday", it's as good an excuse as any to take a look at it.

While the two games aren't thematically similar, they do both have titles consisting of an astronomical term and a word that ends with "om", and on top of that, both of them provoke precisely the same reaction from me: the words "how cute" muttered through clenched teeth.

So let's start off with Nom Nom Galaxy, aka "the one I want to get out of the way first." Nom Nom Galaxy is a sort of resource-gathering, base-building game in which the universe is dominated by all-powerful soup companies and you must travel to various alien worlds to establish new factories and discover new soup recipes. Gosh, isn't it quirky! It's Captain James T. Quirk of the Federation Starship Quaint-erprise!

Nom Nom Galaxy (I am going to fucking stab myself in the throat if I have to say that fucking title any more) takes the Terraria/Starbound route of the 2D Minecraft sort of jobbie, but with two major differences: Firstly, blocks fall if not supported, so it's possible to bury yourself alive in dirt and cry, "Hey, everyone, come look at my Rupert Murdoch impression", and secondly, it's much more goal-oriented. You move on to the next sandbox as soon as you've cornered the local soup market, and I appreciate that, because the trend with all these indie survival/base-building games that swim in the wake of Minecraft's success trying to catch its divine farts in their mouths is to just set up a world and some rules and then hope that the player will build nine-story castles that do bugger-all except to give them something to bore all their friends to death with every time they come over. Minecraft is the model train set of the modern age with none of the catharsis that can come of going at it with a sledge hammer.

So it's nice for a game to be something that you win. Call me old-fashioned, it's only the fucking definition of the word, and it's nice to be building something with a function, but while I was supposed to build a factory that's automated to a certain degree, I found that the time I could spend building a robot production line was better spent running around gathering easy ingredients and flooding the market with as many shitty unvaried soup combinations as I could. Essentially I was being the soup equivalent of EA.

If you are a fan of explore-y freedom type sandboxes, you may find Onomatopoeic Word Relating to Food Consumption Galaxy a bit restrictive since you can't venture too far without creating a return journey too long to make a decent production line. And the planets get kind of samey once you dig below the surface, not unlike kidnap victims, but I enjoy it for the same reason I enjoy coding. When I've set up a complex conveyor belt network that on its first test drops everything it carries into the space behind the fridge, I'm like, "Dammit, I can never remember when I need a semi-colon." Then I spend the whole mission manually carrying stuff up the conveyor belts, which in this metaphor is when you give up and hard-code everything.

So let's narrow our focus from a something galaxy to a something planet. Freedom Planet is an action-platformer that deliberately aims to resemble a game on the Sega Genesis, excepting of course it's about half a gig and if it were on the Sega Genesis, it would've needed a cartridge about the size of a wardrobe. But that aside, it's a rather convincing imitation of a Genesis game and by that, I mean one specific Genesis game: Sonic the Hedgehog, or rather Sonic the Hedgehog 3, right down to the multiple types of shields and background design more cluttered than a Magic Eye picture.

But since it was after Sonic 3 that the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise officially abandoned its potential for good games to focus more on trying to sand off its own eyelids on the floor of a car park, then it's perfectly reasonable for something to hop into the niche it left behind. But let's be blunt: Freedom Planet is a Sonic fan game. The giveaway is that it has a classic mode. You came out last year, Freedom Planet; If you're a classic, then I'm a World War II veteran. You mean classic Sonic mode, that is, just the levels back-to-back with no cutscenes, a mode that I am going to really fucking recommend. I'm going to hold that shit up like that monkey in The Lion King. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

To the game's credit, it replicates the feel and the pace of Sonic uncannily well, although Sonic was quite elegantly designed and Freedom Planet suffers from overcomplicating the gameplay a tad. I played through as the green cat-thing and I still couldn't tell you why only one of my two functionally identical melee attacks drained weapon energy. There is a hated lives system, but you just continue from the same point if you run out, so it's really just a nod to retro gaming about as vestigial as the tongue of a castrated dog.

On the whole, it's a solid game whose gameplay and art design reflects real effort, talent and enthusiasm, which is why it just breaks my little heart to have to say that the story cocks it up a filthy drainpipe. The voice acting is the warning sign. Firstly, every character has noticeably different audio quality as if all the actors were recording in different bedrooms, and secondly, there's voice acting! You see, despite obviously being a big fan of the retro Sonics, Freedom Planet paradoxically failed to notice the vital point that retro Sonic kept his fucking mouth shut!

On a world of anthropomorphic cartoon animals that's, legally speaking, totally not Mobius, a bunch of original characters (do not steal) who are all irritating, smart-mouthed, improbably-skilled warriors, because this is the bad anime thing where every character is under eighteen but has had three careers already, get enlisted to save the world for no reason besides obviously being great and it plays out like bad self-insert fan fiction, which it may well technically be. All characterization is established by having the cast verbally explain their personalities to each other. At one point, one of the three main playable characters says to the others something like, "Wait, you two finally agree on something?" And I said aloud, "What are you on about? They have never disagreed up to now! They first met two levels ago when you all decided on the spot to become BFFs and have a slumber party. And while we're on the subject, why did you interrupt gameplay for five minutes to make me watch that?!" Were the authors writing about these characters before they put them in this game, I wonder? Oh, Christ, we're playing as someone's fursona, aren't we?

I know people will tell me I'm just a misery-guts who expects too much of everything, but fuck you! You know where we end up if we all stop expecting much? Two words: President Trump!

Addenda Edit

  • Star child: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • So if everyone is an anthropomorphic animal then was that sushi made out of murdered sentient fish
  • Kawaii Five-O

Screenshots Edit

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5

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