Not since South Park‘s Kenny has a character been so lovingly bludgeoned by his creator as Fred! Having been splattered in endless falls and ripped to shreds in his sprint through nightmarish gauntlets, he’s back for some macabre wintry action in Skiing Fred (Out Now, Free). If you’ve played the previous Fred titles, you’re probably downloading the latest already; and if not, the main thing you need to know is that Dedalord Games once again put the “fun” in “freemium.”
The premise of keeping Fred alive as long as it takes to nab a spot on the leaderboard sounds familiar enough, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find Dedalord’s done more than just slap a snowboard on an endless runner. At the heart of the Skiing Fred experience are micro-missions that provide a sense of progression and engage the player with the game’s full depth.
What’s really neat about this approach is that every facet of gameplay becomes a dual-use element. Take “near misses,” for example. Playing with reckless abandon and keeping Fred within a hair’s reach of the many things that threaten to slice, dice, or skewer him is key to racking up points, but it’s the direct challenge to pull off a certain number of these close calls that feels satisfying to the gamer interested more in goals than in high scores. Every achievement earns Fred a star on an experience meter of sorts, and leveling up grants bonus items or access to higher difficulty levels. With the focus squarely on these mini-goals, Skiing Fred’s infinite nature and randomized courses fade into the background, where they serve just the purpose they should: keeping the experience fresh no matter how many times Fred’s severed body parts roll over the snow.
Lengthening Fred’s lease on life are arcade-style powerups that let him hop into an armored snow mobile, jetpack over wide chasms, roll up into an invincible snowball, and more. Coins gathered along the track can be cashed in for upgrades that strengthen these or grant abilities that feed back into Fred’s coin-collecting prowess. In addition – and this is where IAP comes into play – you can deck Fred out in different accessories, swap him for other unwitting victims, and unlock new endless tracks with properties that put new twists on the usual formula.
Fred’s death-defying antics are backed up by rock solid controls. Tilting for left and right movement is tight enough to make daredevil brushes with traps a feasible approach to high scores. Tapping a few times at the right side of the screen makes Fred double jump so he can bound over whirling cleavers or just reach alternate paths presented in the level design. Holding at the right or left side of the screen makes Fred speed up or brake, respectively, and managing his speed is a critical aspect of the game. Take it to the max and you’ll earn more points for skyrocketing risk; play it too safe and Grimmy Reaper will fly in to lop Fred’s head off for failing to amuse him.
Also worth noting is Skiing Fred‘s heavy Facebook integration: daily rewards, co-op play, and secrets await those who mix their gaming with their social networking. And speaking of Facebook, here’s the ill-fated hero’s own page and the game’s official website, where you can learn more.