FreezeMe is an outstanding blast from the past. It borrows so many ideas from Super Mario 64 that the resemblance is almost uncanny, but ultimately there's enough new content here to constitute its own quality experience. The game isn't as polished as it could be, but FreezeMe provides an enjoyable romp through the format of an old school 3D adventure game.
The story of FreezeMe is as thin as your typical Mario adventure game: Villain "Fat the Cat" has visions of a dog-free world and has kidnapped your dog "M". Your character, named "R", must go on a quest to rescue your dog while collecting a variety of pig coins. Right after the story begins you're thrown into the action, and instead of featuring an annoying series of tutorials the game simply tells you to check the manual (accessed via the + button) to learn what you need to do. Even though this approach means reading several screens of instructions, there is something pleasurable about returning to the time where we relied on instruction manuals and intuition over having our hand held for every new mechanic.
The main overworld hub contains four different worlds. You are tasked with collecting golden cubes, which involves completing a variety of different quests in each world. Some cubes are obtained by collecting green pig coins which you can trade in for a cube, and you gain these green pig coins by helping out characters in each world or by completing challenges in the hub world that become available as you progress through the game. Each world has some scripted quests, such as beat the boss, collect 150 red pig coins or beat another character in a race, but also has a variety of missions unique to that specific world. All of these aspects can be readily compared to Super Mario 64 and other retro 3D platformers, but the developer has never denied those sources of inspiration.
Missions often challenge the player by requiring some serious platforming skills, although sometimes the challenge is in dealing with controls more than the actual straightforward platforming segment. Controls work well for the most part, but there are situations where players may become frustrated that their character didn't respond as intended. You can double jump, kick, do a side jump upon skidding to a stop, jump and dive (which is also your method of running) and briefly freeze things in the environment with your camera; the latter is the most unique. While a novel mechanic, it's rarely needed to progress in the game, and it seems like it could have been utilized in more ways. Eventually you unlock "Rage Mode" by beating a certain boss, and this introduces a few new mechanics into gameplay, such as the gliding ability that is shown at the end of the game's trailer.
You can use a variety of different control methods, including the Wii Remote / Nunchuk, the GamePad and a Pro Controller. The GamePad allows you to freeze items by tapping the screen, and that implementation is extremely helpful in dealing with moving enemies and bosses as you can simply look down at the controller's screen (which supports off-TV play) and intuitively freeze them.
Each world contains a boss battle, and all of them proved to be a disappointment in relation to rest of the game's strengths. These encounters are boring and unimaginative, and the requirements for beating them are not entirely consistent at times. Enemies are not noteworthy either, as they are mostly just small variations on the same design, and not particularly difficult to deal with.
The worlds themselves are another matter entirely. Each individual world feels like its own distinct magical place, and the game's structure that dictates you reside in each world for a fair amount of time results in an expertly crafted overall experience; players are encouraged to explore the environment and discovers many challenges on their own. If you have difficulty understanding what you are supposed to do the camera pans over the relevant part of the map at the beginning of each mission to give you a hint of where you need to go. A nice touch is that teleport stations are also scattered throughout the game, and simply touching one activates it and allows you to return to that area any time.
You won't be blown away by the visuals, but everything looks vibrant and fitting for the genre. Unfortunately, there have been some framerate issues for those who install the game on an external hard drive, so the developer recommends you prioritize some space on your system memory for FreezeMe. As this review is based on a playthrough on system memory the framerate was never a problem. There are, however, numerous instances of clipping and graphical flaws if the camera rests on particular angles, but these are a minor concern overall. The character models and environment function well and create a pleasant atmosphere which is further built upon by an upbeat yet charming soundtrack. The music in the game is very well done; tellingly it retains its appeal despite having to revisit the same worlds multiple times to collect cubes for different missions.
Most mission objectives are reasonably clear without being overly direct. The level design is smart and simple; it feels clean as it enables you to figure out your plan without being too opaque. Levels sometime contain light puzzles that you need to solve in order to obtain a golden cube, but they never become overwhelming, sometimes erring in the other direction of being too simple.
Some design aspects go a little too far in mimicking Super Mario 64, however. One of the first missions has you running up a circular mountain - complete with rolling black weight balls - in order to fight a boss, in a section that could generously be described as an homage to Mario 64's Bob-omb Battlefield. This evoked feelings of nostalgia, but also a little bit of frustration at such a blatant copy of a previous game. Thankfully FreezeME is self-aware of this over-indulgence, and even occasionally pokes fun at itself through signs like "GET A LIFE – The Plumber." Some have also compared this game to Super Mario Galaxy, but although there are limited sections where you can manipulate gravity, at its heart it is much more similar to the N64 title through its design, worlds, controls, and adventure.
Fans of Nintendo 64-era 3D platformers will find it hard not to enjoy FreezeMe. The level and character design, mechanics, music and structure are all love letters to the seminal N64 launch game. It brings back the sense of adventure in a cartoon world that has largely been missing since the demise of the 3D adventure platformer, and it ticks all the right notes of nostalgia. Still, occasional issues with controls, graphics and enemy design, coupled with the fact that (despite the freezing mechanic) the game feels like a less polished version of Super Mario 64 and thus not especially original, hold back the game from achieving the heights of its spiritual predecessors. Despite those limitations FreezeMe is an exceptionally crafted game from a one-man development team, and it's a fun adventure worthy of your time and money.