Art was never one of our strong points. Whether it was our failed attempts at ceramics that fell apart before they got to the kiln, or attempts at real-life drawings the teacher mistook for abstract interpretations (yes, this sadly actually happened), we were better served taking an extra language at GCSE level than fumbling our way through two years of art before inevitably failing. But without a grumpy teacher standing over you scrutinising your every brush stroke, sometimes being creative can be fun - particularly when you tie it in with other fun things like games. We played the super serious Xbox racing game Forza to death, when we realised we could unlock more cars to paint - and we managed some pretty impressive designs with just a selection of basic shapes, even if we do say so ourselves. In fact, games where you just have to assemble pre-made shapes into something much more interesting are definitely the best of both worlds, requiring very little artistic ability, whilst making the finished thing look a lot more impressive than you'd manage by hand - win!
And if you mix this prefab creativity with some traditional Japanese oddball-ness, you won't be too far off the concept of the 3DS titles, Freakyforms - only instead of decorating a bunch of boring cars, it's up to you to create your own planet, and populate it with a whole host of freaky alien beings. Which is much, mcuh cooler. Presented with a choice of shapes, appendages and face parts, it's up to you and your imagination to assemble them into all sorts of weird and wonderful beings known as Formees, which you'll use to explore the planet.
Sadly, the first few times you make a Formee, you'll be limited to following a basic tutorial, which does hinder your options somewhat - making that flying monkey or Wall-E you had in your head look more like a collapsed Jenga tower, but you can easily go back and edit your creations later, so it doesn't really matter. Once you're happy with your creation, you can take it for a little stroll around your planet, eating food to lay eggs, opening any locked chests you come across, and helping out the other residents with their pressing problems - like delivering parcels, leading them somewhere or having a golden poo. Finishing a quest for a resident then unlocks them in the shop, where you can buy their constituent parts to use in your own creations.
To begin with, your planet is rather small, having only a titchy 'Meadow' region to it - but as you create more and more Formees, it grows, presumably in order to accommodate all the new residents, and new regions open up, letting you explore a city, ocean and cloud land too. Far from simply being a change of scenery though, these regions exist to encourage you to be a bit more creative with the formees you design, forcing you to make use of the wheels, fins and wings when creating your characters if you want to get anywhere. Once discovered, each area comes with it's own dungeon to explore - a nice change of pace, which sees you on a quest to rescue King Roy, a Formee who's been captured and handed round the various bosses of the dungeons like a royal pass the parcel. Whilst travelling through each of the dungeons, you'll get ambushed by various other Formees, which, in a manner not too dissimilar to Pokemon, sees you entering a turn-based battle - but rather than having direct control, you and your opponent simply take it in turns to automatically attack each other. But while there's nothing inherently wrong with only being able to spectate the battles between your beasts and their opponents, it can feel a tad unfair at times, as your Formee decides to just sit there dancing, rather than attacking, and ends up getting obliterated. Luckily, health pick-ups in the form of food are plentiful and generally found close to every battle, so as long as you don't die mid-fight, you should be fine for the next one. Completing the dungeon and beating the boss results in a more complicated, levelled up version of the dungeon being available next time you enter to beat.
Besides the battles, dungeons have you wondering around collecting gems to open doors, pushing blocks around, and trying not to fall off moving platforms as you make your way to the room with the final boss (who's battle is only really different in that he usually has more health than the other people you've fought). Also scattered around the dungeon are chests containing the new 'Special Actions', which, although the name may not suggest it, are actually items, which your Formees can equip to help boost their abilities in battle - whether it's covering your Formee in pretty flowers to distract opponents, turning them invisible, or making your Formee miaow to increase their chance of doing mega damaging critical hits, there's a few oddball names thrown in too, like 'Gorilla Grunts' and 'Frosty Foot'.
However, as much fun as making your own Formee may be (and it really is - you can have hours of fun here), the problem with Freakyforms Deluxe is that it's already available on Nintendo's own eShop for a fraction of the price. While this 'Deluxe' version adds over a hundred new Formee parts, and introduces the aforementioned dungeons, it also weighs in at around five times the price (the eShop downloadable version only cost £5.40), without five times the content to make up for it, so may not be the best investment for those who already own the downloaded version - unless you really REALLY liked Freakyforms. Which we did - but if you've already finished the eShop version, everything does feel rather samey, as it is, for all intents and purposes, the same game, just with some extra parts to choose from. They have added a cursory multiplayer mode, but it's little more than choosing a theme and laughing at the creations you all make centred around it - again, not really worth shelling out a load more for. We would have jumped at the chance to purchase the extra bits as an add-on for the eShop version if we could, but we don't see there's much chance of that happening.How much you get out of Freakyforms Deluxe will depend on what sort of person you are - if you can spend hours creating silly stuff then you'll likely play Freakyforms to death, but if you're looking for something more involving you'd be best looking elsewhere. Even with the exploring sections and new dungeons, it's still basically an (admittedly cool) character creator with a game tacked on, and for five times the price of the original, it's probably best looking at the downloadable one first - unless you really like dungeons.
Format Reviewed: Nintendo 3DS