Developer: Bulkypix
Price: $0.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPhone 5

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
User Interface Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★½☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

When an insect has the audacity to scurry across our path, most of us will take a shoe to the little bugger without a twinge of guilt. FreeDum by Bulkypix is, therefore, a rare specimen in itself: its harsh puzzles drive players to feel sorry for its teeny ladybug protagonist. A single wrong move sends the insect to a pretty horrible death.

freedum_03FreeDum is an action/maze/puzzle title that puts players in charge of an imprisoned ladybug’s fate. The bug, Dum, has been captured by a vicious kid named Max who has a talent for torturing things smaller and more helpless than him – going by the disembodied doll heads decorating his bedroom, his hero would appear to be Sid, the great doll-decapitator from Toy Story. Max forces Dum to run through several boxed-in mazes, each one outfitted with traps made out of razor blades and nails. Then there’s the menagerie of nasty bugs that patrol the impenetrable walls made of erasers, batteries, and matchsticks. If Dum makes it to the exit safely (preferably after saving the three baby bugs that are scattered around each maze), he’s rewarded with another chance to fight for his life.

FreeDum‘s graphics are bright, personable, and reflect a lot of imagination. They’re also disturbing for that very reason. There’s no doubt Max is a brilliant, messed-up kid, and the worst part is there are actually kids like him out there. The player is reminded of Max’s sadism every time Dum stumbles into a trap and leaves a smear of bug-blood behind. The bloodstain is permanent, so if the player is having a hard time with a level, the cardboard mazes begin to resemble the floor of a tiny slaughterhouse.

freedum_05Tapping the screen sends Dum lumbering to that particular spot. Tapping twice causes Dum to run/fly, a necessity when navigating quick-moving traps and bugs. Problem is, Dum’s hitbox is huge. The blades, nails, and beetles that swish and scurry around him constantly make contact, which sends the player back to the start of a level. There’s little chance for stealth or clever moves; Dum usually has to book it past traps and pray he doesn’t get hit. It’s frustrating to zip past two traps in a level, only to get caught at the tail-end of the very last hazard. Some of the mazes are pretty large, making the inevitable restarts all the more unattractive.

Players that take their maze/puzzle games very seriously will love FreeDum‘s brutal challenge, but its unyielding difficulty makes it a poor choice for kids. Then again, it’s not as if the bloody bug-splatters that accumulate after multiple failures are as friendly as Crayola markings.


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