Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Freedom Finger (Playstation 4 and Switch, 2020)


This is the single craziest space-shooter I've ever seen. It's a parody of American foreign policy and a bit of an indictment of the Establishment with its many victims. It's also completely nutso. I had no idea what I was getting into until I played this with a friend over one afternoon. We expected a pretty basic space shooter and what we got was something else entirely.

In the immortal words of William Shakespeare: F*** it let's just do it.

First off, I make sure to leave the difficulty on Diaper. These shooter games have a different scale of difficulty from everyone else. Their "Easy" is like a regular game's Hard.

Big Kang's Chinese Buffet, huh? Now with Vegetable Oil!

In this game you play as a state-of-the-art new American space-fighter, shaped like a middle finger because F U that's why!

Here's Major Cigar, who has a personal stake in this mission. You've got to go to the Moon and attack a Chinese moon-base in order to rescue some hostages. One of them is his daughter, dammit!

...this is a lie.

Wait, you mean the government lies?

Yes, and if the news media gets most of their inside info from the government... but I digress.

He tells the truth about one thing: If everything goes south, it's the grunt soldier who takes the fall. We don't torture.

On loading screens we get quotes from various former presidents and persons of interest in war crimes government operations.

As far as the actual gameplay goes, it's a standard shooter where you zip around blasting Chinese? ships with your laser shots. It's the only weapon, and there don't seem to be any real powerups besides a temporary shield (think Mega Man rotating shield weapons) that usually doesn't last long before all the particles of it get taken out.

You can also grab and throw enemies at other enemies, and punch at close ranges for large damage.

Every level ends with a B rank, no matter what I do. Always B. I think the game might actually be programmed that way and not actually have a ranking system.

More quotes. I wonder if that guy sitting there is one of the developers.

Level 2 ramps things up a bit as things get serious. At least there's a very generous life bar. Up top we can see the game's one powerup.

Boss fight!...?

That's like unmistakably Russian, dude.

This poor operator guy tries to talk some sense into Major Cigar, to no avail.

The Russian space station "attacks" by gettisoning all their garbage towards our hero. It's actually hilarious.

"They provoked a devastating response when they defensively gettisoned their garbage at us! America doesn't need a permission slip to defend ourselves!" -Major Cigar, probably

Yeah. Yeah you did.

Major Cigar is THRILLED at our win over that fearsome boss.

The general of the Space Russians appears and he's not pleased at all. He calls himself "The Comrade" and so far he isn't exactly lying. What I learned in 2003 (and again lately) is that "democracy" the way the government/media use it is actually just shorthand for "the establishment" and places it controls / has an outsized influence over. Next time you hear someone go on about something being "an attack on our very democracy!" what they mean is that something is threatening one of the establishment's cathedrals.

As for the game, it turns out that station was just a science vessel where they were testing the viability of growing potatoes in space. You know, to make WOODKA.

The Russian Space Force shows up! Things are getting serious now. Could this be WW3? Nobody fucks with their Space Woodka and gets away with it.

Well, this all seems pretty accurate...

Russia produces the oil, China buys the oil, the circle goes around. No need to ever fight when they both need the other.

That's indeed a saying. Not that any of this matters because now the orders have come through: Our heroic finger must BATTLE RUSSIA.

This is actually a good quote. Starting to think this game has a lot to say.

Next I take on Russian forces in this space-city. Funny thing is, despite being a hyper-advanced bubble city in space, it's still run-down with grafitti everywhere.

Next I battle sickle-throwing communist robo-cops. Not sure when this takes place, but this seems a lot more USSR than Russia.

"Wait a minute...communist robo-cops??" Somewhere, someone just got a terrible idea for how to "fix" America. We already found a way to make logic-based AI biased, so robo-cops are now the worst idea ever.

The boss here is THE CITY OF MOSCOW inside of another bubble, on a giant tank. Wait, what is the scale of this finger-ship supposed to be?

Comrade is defeated, but he wants everyone to know that he respects Air Man from Mega Man 2.

At this point I get a choice, not sure how much effect it has on the game. There are a few choices like this and I think they slightly-branch the story in that you can skip a few stages or bosses, or alter who we're at war with in the ending.

Major Cigar is NOT happy at my refusal to murder The Comrade.

Next up is this alien cavern full of jellyfish and tentacles. Wait, tentacles? Wrong game. Hentai Vs Evil is THAT way.

There's also a giant crocodile that gobbles up the Freedom Finger, leading to a level inside of it where you end up having to battle its heart Contra-style. The level is super gross and I didn't even get shots of it. You don't wanna know.

At this point I made a stunning discovery: There's a gold trophy for playing a level with your Finger censored (check the options menu). It isn't actually a level though, it's a world. So 7-1 + 7-2 + 7-3 for example.

This Tipper Gore trophy will be mine! CENSOR THIS GAME!

The next level is this psychodelic area designed to look like a toy box, while a disembodied hand flies the Finger around blasting army men and toy helicopters. I think this is a commentary on the Military-Industrial Complex's disregard for human life, like a kid playing with toys.

The next level is a retro NES-style level. I think it's the Finger's pilot having a flashback to the time he fought in 'Nam.

All rights revoked.

Probably the best level in the game, and plays like a pretty standard war-based shooter from the 80's. Looks good too.

I DID IT. TIPPER GORE TROPHY. Note the Contra graphics.

Next is a mirror match against a larger, more powerful Freedom Finger, which I guess was a previous pilot who went rogue. Leave on the censor bar, and the boss also has it.

Next, the operator guy makes a stunning discovery: It seems the Freedom Finger has been armed with nukes this whole time, and none of us were aware of it.

He then makes an outstanding reference. 10 out of 10 game.

Next stage is some kind of asteroid belt. China is mining the asteroids, so we gotta take 'em all out! At this point I'm just plowing these stages to get back to the story cutscenes and see what insanity is next.

Operator guy has HAD ENOUGH. Time for Major Cigar to tell us what's going on here!

He explains that there are no hostages (much less his daughter lol) and that they were gonna drop the nukes once the Freedom Finger arrived at the Chinese base where the hostages supposedly were. So no going in to rescue anyone, just wipe everything out.

The engineer protests this and gets hauled out by Krang's Stone Soldiers MPs.

Next stage is directly battling the Chinese fleet to get to the moon base. These ship designs make no sense!

The Comrade returns (since I spared him) and now he has a Death Star.

This fight is hilariously obnoxious, and goes full bullet hell (with lots of very obvious large openings, at least).

Then the bullets basically turn into a level. Tremendous.

Inside the ship is another level, culminating with a battle against the Comrade and his giant gun.

This is the only time in the whole game that I got anything other than a B rank, and judging from Youtube videos I've watched, everyone gets an S rank on this level.

With the Comrade defeated, Major Cigar explains why it's so necessary to nuke the Chinese moonbase: Cock Sauce. They're producing Cock Sauce there, and using it to infiltrate America with their pro-CCP indoctrination.

I don't care if it IS delicately spicy, By God we have to do something! ...how is Cock Sauce the key to infiltrating America, you ask? Don't ask questions! Do you want the terrorists virus CCP to win?

Arriving at the moon base, it's time to NUKE THE MOON. But first, I have to fight past the Chinese moonbase air defenses, including a giant robot in a food box.

Finally I arrive at the Cock Sauce Factory and obliterate it! China's schemes are foiled! No more spicy Cock Sauce in America's restaurants, thus preventing China from... wait why did we do this again?

Now we get one of the most meta endings I've ever seen. Our hero takes a ride down a long road as we see newspaper headlines about his victory.

The destruction of the moonbase triggered WW3, as if everything we did already here wasn't enough.

Don't worry everyone, according to CNN they were mostly peaceful, and also totally justified. Don't worry about people who lost their home or business, they "have insurance"

Then we see some pills and beer fly by. Yeah, I get what they're saying here.

And finally this thing flies by.

And that's where the game ends. Daaaamn. I thought this would be a joke game, but it turned out it had a lot to say. Most of it requires reading between the lines. It's actually incredibly subversive, and a send-up of, well, all of the bullshit that we get fed, and the repercussions.

Gameplay-wise there are also a number of alternate routes and secrets to discover. It's fun enough to play through a few times looking for those secrets, which is the important part. For being like a $4 game, this thing punched way above its weight. 8 out of 10, no joke.

The soundtrack is hit-or-miss, but sometimes it's really good, like this Aesop Rock track. Aesop Rock did a lot of the music for this game, and was involved with some of the stage artwork too. Note how the cadence of the action follows the music. Every stage is like that.

Also recorded the first 40 minutes or so of gameplay while giving first impressions, see it in action. Re-iterating that this game turned out a lot better than what we were expecting right off the bat.

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