Well, fuck me! It's been wayyyy too long, Dtoid...
I've been very busy of late with writing for Gamer Limit and trying to make my band blow people's ear drums, but I've been here, lingering in the shadows and watching you all like an eagle in a long dark coat and big hat.
For those who don't know me: hello there! For those who do: Well, HELLLLLO!
So, here's a review I wrote for Fat Princess. It's a bit long, but give it time to settle into your mind like a good bottle of 1996 red. If you like it or hate it, leave me a comment :)
If you’ve ever dreamed of being a knight in shining amour, traversing dangerous lands and taking on huge, menacing armies in order to reach a damsel in distress trapped at the top of a dark tower, you probably didn’t imagine it like this.
Fat Princess takes the classic fairytale blueprint that countless stories are based around and throws in giant, cursed cake growing out of the ground, potions that turn characters into chickens, lots and lots of blood and… well, overweight princesses.
The premise of the title is born from classic team-based gaming – of which capture the flag and team deathmatch are prime examples – although the finished product is dressed up in an entirely cute way that blends the look of most Cartoon Network shows over the past ten years with the cel-shading technique of Prince Of Persia.
The stumpy character designs and colorful environments are terrifically well rendered, standing out as soon as you load the game up. An overdose of color and character certainly adds a humorous edge to proceedings, while somehow triggering memories of first loading up the likes of Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie; perhaps the trick lies in the way environments seem welcoming and attractive at first glance, branding an image on the brain that demands you return again and again to its realms, in which you can get easily become lost for hours (in a good way).
It is also worth pointing out that there is enough gore to attract even the most stubborn Killzone 2 fan among us; there’s nothing like seeing cartoon flesh and bones rolling around the floor after a suitably comic explosion or using a carefully aimed arrow to pick off a foe desperately scrambling along with a giant piece of cake in his or her arms.
She's had enough
While the meat of the game lies in its multiplayer option, it is very much worth the players while to play through the story mode before jumping online. And if, like me, you prefer going in prepared, have a flick through the tutorial booklet too. This manual uses simple instructions and pencil-drawn illustrations to teach you the basics before jumping in to battle.
Consisting of seven chapters, the single-player campaign tells the ridiculously charming story of two princesses who, while out having fun together in the Black Forest, stumble upon some giant cake. Unable to resist the delightful appearance of the dessert, the girls tuck in to its delicious sponge and icing. This is when things get eerie; the cake turns them instantly obese, while their respective families believe them to have fallen victim to some kind of Black Forest curse.
What follows is a selection of levels that introduce the player to the different gaming modes – Rescue the Princess, Snatch ‘n’ Go, Team Deathmatch and Invasion – while loosely relating each battle to the tale being told between missions. A voice not unlike Stephen Fry’s graciously speaks of desperate kidnappings and the impending arrival of a prince, although you never really feel like you are taking part in the story – more moving through each chapter to learn what happens next in the tale.
At the games heart lies a great sense of humor, with players asked to feed more and more cake to their corresponding princesses to make them larger, heavier and therefore more difficult to be carried away by the enemy. Naturally, the cake is scattered throughout the maps, which are usually full of the kind of chaotic action that can please and frustrate in equal measure. But it’s difficult to get mad at this game at all; though not impossible.
While the modes that Titan Studios has made available in Fat Princessare highly enjoyable to play, they are certainly lacking on the inventive side. Although it is harsh to criticise a game for using a template that other games of its ilk and even countless first-person shooters have previously utilised to great effect, one can’t help but feel that they played it a little safe. Perhaps they should have pushed further for the kind of outlandish gameplay that the look and feel of the title calls for, rather than leaving us with modes that need no explanation.
What the game does do brilliantly, however, is take these modes and add a selection of well-balanced classes to proceedings, each bringing their own skills and benefits to teams that can reach up to sixteen players – there are two teams in each round. These classes can be swapped throughout the game by pressing circle at one of the various generators at your team’s base. Characters will then don a hat that relates to the class and become specifically tuned with appropriate skills.
For example, the Mage wears a large pointy hat and can control fire and, when the class has been upgraded, ice. To upgrade these classes, Workers are expected to collect resources by chopping down trees (which grow back after a minute or two) or cutting into rock for diamonds using their axe. They then carry the goods to what they want to improve, usually needing a handful of trips to succeed. This class is for those who prefer to work toward the greater good during a game; the tasks that need doing that may not be as glamorous as choping heads off. Mind you, those axes can pack quite a punch if you get close enough.
Rangers wear a Robin Hood-esque cap and feather and carry a bow and arrow. Long-range attacks are slightly weaker than those from the viking helmet-clad warriors – who can destroy enemies in one fell swoop from close range using their sword – but the use of L1 to lock on makes Rangers far more accessible. When upgraded, these soldiers become marksmen with old-fashioned rifles, which cause enough damage to require others to choose the Priest class in order to help allies stay alive.
You will die a great deal during a game of Fat Princess, of this there is no doubt. However, the Priest – Titan’s version of a medic – can help improve the situation ten-fold by zapping life (represented by classic hearts) back into teammates. They also, like all other classes, have a special ability that can be triggered when holding down the square button. Priests can cause a blast of energy that effects those players within a certain radius. The use of the word “effects” is important here as an upgraded Priest – who looks like an evil Pope – can suck the life from opposing forces. A quick tap of triangle enables this wonderful ability switch to happen, as is the case with all other classes.
An emphasis on the use of teamwork to reach goals means that this game is best enjoyed when you play with people who care enough to go out of their way to win. Attempting to go it alone will almost always result in death, as facing more than one enemy at a time is a very difficult situation to overcome.
You’ll find that by moving in groups – you can call others by pressing “up” on the D-pad – you’ll capture strongholds much easier, as more people standing near them switches the color from red to blue or vice versa far more rapidly. These small structures scattered through levels can be used to charge up energy and are the basis for Invasion mode, which requires teams to attempt to dominate maps to drain enemy morale to zero and win. Also, by varying the classes within each group you may just find the best balance to break through the castle gates and actually have a chance of bringing home the princess, which can take a while. It basically makes for a more enjoyable experience.
At the time of writing, news has surfaced that a patch is currently being worked on to cure some of the problems players have had with connecting to games. This would obviously come as a relief as the issue has effected many people although, personally, I didn’t suffer quite as badly as others apparently have.
One thing that was noticeably wrong during play was some of the behavior of the bots. More often than not, during a game there will be one or two characters standing still for the duration of the match. At other times they will wander into molten lava and certain death, or merely gather in groups of two or three and stay still as though tied up. Again, these are problems that are sure to be patched as time goes by, it’s just a shame they have marred what has been an otherwise a stellar introduction to the game’s lifespan.
The different maps on offer are a credit to Titan’s attention to detail. Symmetry is the key for these arenas, with no one team benefiting from a different route to their goal or an awkward patch of water in an awkward place.
The look and feel changes from game to game, from shipwrecks on sandy beaches to cavenous canyons with narrow rope bridges. One of the standout sections is a Super Mario Bros.-style pipe that appears and dissappears according to the ebb and flow of the lava. Waiting for your moment to jump and be carried to a different section of the map is comically frustrating and somehow tense – you’re usually dropped into a mass of swords, arrows, fire and death.
Fat Princess boasts a soundtrack that isn’t much to write home about – traditional music of an era that resembles baroque plays on repeat, which is quirky and fun but not particularly memorable – until, that is, you run the credits and are treated to something that I’m not actually going to spoil for anybody who hasn’t played the game yet. Let’s just say, you’ll either love or hate it, but should love it.
Meanwhile, the voice work, as mentioned, resembles that as heard in LittleBigPlanet – except this is not Mr. Fry – and is particularly effective during battle when the polite rumblings of an English gentlemen warn of castle gates being breached, princesses being stolen and classes being upgraded. There is little variation, but it does a great job of keeping players informed and entertained.
If you’re looking for a team-based game that steps out from the first-person view, away from shadowy greys and browns and into a world of color and hilarious, sugar-coated gore, you should look no further than Fat Princess. Provided you are working within a strong team or, if all else fails, enjoy playing against thirty-one slightly deranged bots, you’ll be sure to laugh and revel in a well-executed kill like never before. It’s one of the best games to reach PSN – well worth its £11.99 price-tag – just don’t expect to be shown too much new, aside from team deathmatch in a glorious pink frock covered in crumbs.
8.5, 'cause I said so.