Let Them Eat Cake!
This has been the year of downloadable games/content. With tons of gems available and consoles finally becoming more network and online oriented, I challenge you to find anyone who has either a 360 or PS3 (maybe even select Wii owners) who has not splurged on any sort of downloadable game. With full fledged disc based games now coming to your PSN or Live store (look up Burnout Paradise, Warhawk, or 360 games on demand service) the future is definitely download friendly!
One of these gems that I will review today is Titan Studios, Fat Princess exclusively for the PlayStation Network. It takes aspects of Tower defense and capture the flag/zones and feeds it a big piece of cake.
I will be very upfront about this, Fat Princess is a PSN game designed with online multiplayer in mind. That is not to say the game cannot be enjoyed single player-wise but the actual mechanics make sense and shine online. You have selections from your standard grunt, mage, priest, worker, and scout. Now you are in full control of one person and once you die you are re-spawned. You can get AI buddies to follow you and help you but let me stress this: you’re in control of your character only and offline that means tons of AI NPC s going about their business. These guys are helpful but no way near as if you had your friends by your side.
Becoming any class is handled by picking up any hat outside the respected class’s barrack. Want to be a mage after storming your enemy castle? Find a mage hat and put it on, it’s honestly that simple and thus a much faster paced game.
To start things off you can design your base characters avatar, unlocking more as you progress with single player and multiplayer matches. This base avatar is among many that can pick up any hat within your fortress and become a certain class of warrior. Each of these classes can be upgraded in the course of a match and once proper combinations are used can create the strategy you need to win the match. You have eight sprawling maps to wreak havoc in, each with its own theme and music, a gladiator area to practice your combat in and a decent single player adventure that serves the purpose of outlining each mode of the game and showcasing its depth in strategy.
There are plenty of game modes as well, ranging from the standard invasion, death match, capture the princess, and a variation of hold the briefcase. These modes are self explanatory and with the exception of death match and invasion revolve around your Princess and the enemy princess. The goal is simple: lock the enemy princess in the dungeon and rescue yours so she can take her throne. In the process you are collecting resources via workers and pouring them into your outposts so you can upgrade your classes and other items. Death match and invasion take the same resource and class building systems but give away any princess objective. Instead you have a re-spawn counter for death match and a counter for outposts taken for invasion. An odd mode thrown into the mix is soccer, which is basically a game of soccer using your class characters. This mode seems like an afterthought and though it is fun to try out lost its charm after a couple of matches.
In the end, it’s the small touches this game adds that make such a tremendous difference. A good example is the potion that sits within your fortress ready to be unleashed at a swarm of enemy soldiers and can have a tide changing effect. Then there are the small innovations your worker can build, stuff like catapults for you to skip over great distances, ladders to infiltrate the enemy fortress, and small trampolines to take you to higher ground. These small invention hotspots are scattered across the map and placed ideally to make things easier. And believe me that’s not a bad thing, often times consoles get shafted with these smart strategy games however I found that Fat Princess is a good take on strategy style games since Battalion Wars 2 for Wii. By utilizing and simplifying things such as resource management and building zones, we are given a more core focus on combat strategy and territorial control.
Of course not all of these innovations are offensive, some smart defensive aspects such as feeding cake that’s scattered around the land to your opponents Princess which results in having her gain weight and thus taking more people and effort to carry her out of your dungeon. So suddenly a lone infiltration mission may result in a hasty death.
In terms of classes you can choose from, the worker I found was the most essential in the beginning of each respective match. Solely responsible for all of the games upgrades and building some cool inventions. This class is more important to the game than you believe. The other respective classes to pick from include the warrior- spartan esq character with short range powerful attacks and the ability to use a shield, the mage-a wizard who can conjure up elemental spells of fire and icewhich in turn can either freeze enemies in their tracks or send them running aflamed, the priest -a..priest who can heal your team mates or deal out a large radius of charged holy damage, and the scout – the archer who is best suited for long range attacks and essential for retreats. Each class has its alternative attack that can be switched with the triangle button and can attack with the square. The carrying of items is handled with the circle button and jumping is as easy as pressing X. Besides that, small lock-on opportunities (for the worker only) are handled via the bumpers. It’s all so simple yet believe me, overwhelming and time consuming to get the desired strategy and plan that fits you.
For example you can have a couple of archers clear the way and gain control of a map choke point then send in a couple of warriors and workers to the front lines. Now you can have your warrior buddies fight off the hoards while your workers create ladders and trampolines; send in the mages to do heavy damage at the enemy gates and with the help of the priests and scouts make for a hasty retreat with the princess in possession. There is essentially no limitations to the amount of tactical strategy that is created with these classes working in tandem.
My only gripe is that the tutorial has one too many chapters that don’t fully connect and explain the relative actions that are available to you. Since it’s a download only, there are no instruction manuals to refer to. Thus, you sadly have to really play all the tutorials to get a basic understanding.
This is not the type of game you can just jump into if you haven’t seen how its foundations work but I would say play a couple of the single player campaign missions and you should have a good grasp on things. Overall it’s a tried and true game play with variations that make things interesting and defiantly fresh.
The game retains a cell shaded design with tons of vibrant colors popping at you. Surprisingly, this is a T rated game and that is evident, the second you attack someone you are treated to some blood. The blood is cartoony but does create a visceral look as it’s spattered realistically across the map. This cutesy design choice is somewhat reminiscent of cartoons like Happy Tree Friends only less gory. It’s charming enough to get the mature gamers attention. The game runs smoothly with little to no hiccups (though depending on your online connection that could vary) and you’re treated to a pleasurable visual treat of great weapon effects and tons of carnage on screen.
The stylistic choice was a good move for Titan Studios since having 30 plus people online and going on a full fledged cartoony war feels so right.
Small touches like having support barriers and bolts rise up to create upgrade barracks of each class are going to make you smile. Add in some subtle water and foliage effects that don’t distract from the overall design and you have a game that as a total package is at first simple but both fresh and visually pleasing.
The sound design is fairly well done, with some good narrative voice work that sounds like John Cleese. This narrator will inform you of things like your castle being raided, outpost being conquered and other important information. Sure hearing someone saying “upgrade complete” a couple of times may get on your nerves, but the voice isn’t annoying enough to be muted. Your characters sound like little chipmunks with a warrior’s heart; it has its charm and is very appropriate. The sound work may get repetitive but it isn’t poorly done. The music for each map is very appropriate too and often time creates the perfect vibe for a match. It’s not intense nor is it laid back, but a good orchestral arrangement that compliments the maps theme. My only gripe is the title music, which for some reason sounds like a sad haunting ballad that I believed just was the wrong choice. With sword slashes, gun blasting, and explosions really taking advantage of your sub woofer, you’ll love some of the more intense battles sounds.
This is a downloadable game and as such, its replay is going to be judged by how much content and support is available. For its price Fat Princess already serves as a fine multiplayer and okay single player action. With unlockable sets for your avatars and other small bonuses, you have something tangible to unlock and are always rewarded along the progression of your game. Trophy sets add to the achievement hoarders dream and with recent rumors of more downloadable content in the form of levels and skins, things are looking good. In the end all this replay means nothing if you plan on playing the game alone, you need friends to fully experience this game.
To summarize, we have a fine PSN game that should make any castle crasher fan envious. It’s a great game and tons of fun. One word of caution though, since PSN owners rarely have any headsets it’s best recommended you and your friends do. I mean at this point, playing online without a headset is ridiculous but it’s been a huge problem on the PSN, despite the fact that the freedom to choose your own headset and connect it seems like such a great option. With more people buying and playing this game online we hope to see more people take advantage of the strategy that can be executed when you all are communicating with each other. Despite some learning spikes and lackluster singleplayer it is a solid effort, don’t let this title pass you by.