When it was released on eShop, Freakyforms: Your Creations, Alive! was a thoroughly charming and cheerful creature creation tool, tailored to entertain kids and big kids alike. Its positive sales on the digital platform were clearly enough to convince Nintendo to expand the package, with Freakyforms Deluxe: Your Creations, Alive! arriving in Europe. Adding a word and putting it on a retail game card puts a certain amount of pressure on this sequel to significantly enhance the original, and what we have is a creation that’s just about freaky enough.
In terms of the basic premise and structure, this title repeats its downloadable predecessor in many ways: in fact everything detailed in our Freakyforms: Your Creations, Alive! review applies here. The primary focus and attraction is still creating interesting creatures, called ‘formees’, with various forms and shapes that are gradually unlocked. The creation tool is immediately accessible and charming, with new players given a thorough step-by-step guide on the tools available. Early options are limited, but the pacing is perfect for children, or even adults that simply want to relax and feel young.
Once you’ve created your creature you set off to explore your very own 2D planet. It starts off with a plain meadow, but as you meet other formees, complete quests and create more quirky creatures of your own, it expands to include new areas that can be traversed with ever-stranger characters. The exploration bears out in much the same way, as you take in various quests and objectives such as eating fruit, delivering a present or breaking a certain number of blocks, to give some examples. The goal is to find and earn gold coins, unlock goodies, customise your world and expand the possibilities for creating more intriguing formees and environments.
So far, so much like the original eShop title, with much of the experience being unchanged. This being the Deluxe version, there are some additional options included to boost replay value and justify the increased price tag. The biggest change is the introduction of dungeons in each area of the world – with increasing difficulty stages — and associated Special Actions to find and collect. These areas, once discovered, kick off a slight twist in a formee's attributes, with its size and body form determining factors such as speed and attack power. The special actions, once found in the early stages, can be applied during the formee creation process and serve to boost the character’s performance in battle. They range from ‘gorilla grunts’ to ‘frosty foot’, with plenty of bizarre descriptions inbetween: like the rest of the title, they’re delightfully quirky.
While applying these actions and assigning special actions lend a basic RPG flavour to these dungeons, these sections have been made too simplistic and feel under-developed. While the goal may have been a noble one — to avoid confusing young players — turn-based battles with other formees while moving through the area are completely randomised. The player has no input into whether to use a special action, rest a formee for a power attack or to launch a standard attack; the game makes those decisions. Most of the time the AI makes decent choices that enable you to progress, but we lost a boss battle in a final stage of a dungeon due to our character repeatedly jigging around to lower the opposition’s stats, when only one more hit was needed to win. Considering the fact that losing a dungeon sets you back a stage when you return, it can be frustrating.
Despite that complaint, the dungeons and special actions add an extra degree of strategy when producing formees, with the action collectibles having an undoubted ‘catch ‘em all’ vibe. The other notable inclusion in this Deluxe edition is a multiplayer component, which thankfully uses download play – only one player needs a copy of the game. Once the second player joins in, there’s the option to set any theme, such as ‘farm’, and both players have free reign to create a formee. Once both players are finished there’s a particularly entertaining stage show, where both creatures are introduced onto the stage and you can see just what your friend was up to: both players can then opt to add the images and QR codes to their SD cards to view later. Although incredibly basic, the cute-factor that’s such a major part of the title shines brightest in this mode; it’s easy to imagine two friends, or a parent and child, passing a lot of time with plenty of laughs.
That’s ultimately the whole crux of the title: it overwhelms with cutesy visuals and sound – with an extremely subtle 3D effect suitable for children that are old enough — with each bizarre creation amusing with its strange movements and mannerisms. It’s frustrating, therefore, that such a fun concept still carries over the same primary weaknesses as the eShop title. All control and movement, for example, is still with the stylus, with a combination of presses and drags used to walk, jump, swim and fly. It’s only a minor irritation in the larger outdoor landscapes, but when trying to jump onto moving platforms in dungeons it can be a nuisance. Those dungeons, meanwhile, may help to resolve the repetition of the download title with an extra layer of challenge, but are let down by the completely randomised attacks in battles, occasionally leading to losses that should have been victories. There’s also just one save profile, or world, available: considering the space on a game card, that’s a poor oversight. So much is done right, but small elements like these detract from the experience.
Freakyforms Deluxe: Your Creations, Alive! adds subtle improvements to the original download’s content. The dungeons and special action collectables add much needed variety to exploration, while the basic multiplayer is, like the title as a whole, irresistibly charming. Despite the improved environments and increased scope, however, the control scheme has once again overlooked basic customisation, while the element of chance in the dungeons can be frustrating. Whether the extra modes justify a retail investment – albeit at a budget price-point with many retailers – is a matter for personal taste. Like its smaller eShop cousin, however, this title is likely to warm hearts and win fans: particular those who fancy themselves as a wannabe Nintendo-style Dr Frankenstein.