These reviews I am republishing on my blog were originally published on texasteamplayers.com (now teamplayergaming.com) and are my copyrighted work. Please do not repost or use these reviews in part or whole without my consent.
I’m sure that one of the first questions I’m going to get is why review a game that has been out for six months? Truth be told, it’s a very deserving game of some high praise. In six months I have set aside Fat Princess untold times, only to be drawn back to it time and again. With it’s delicious graphics, cute soundtrack and an endearing heroine, Fat Princess stands out as maybe the best multiplayer game on PSN. Capture the Flag games have come in a slew of different forms over the years but Fat Princess has managed to put an imaginative twist on the genre and hit a home run for the PlayStation 3.
Release Date: July, 2009
Platform: PlayStation 3
Review by: Kyle “Rumble” Bousquet
There’s no shortage of Capture the Flag games out there. I’ve been playing capture the flag since the original Quake was released on the PC. Most times a new Capture the Flag style game is heralded by flashy upgrades in graphics and weaponry. You’ll hear about the seriously pimped out level design and textures. The gameplay generally has remained the same over the years. None of this is what makes Fat Princess relevant six months after it’s release. Original gameplay and an innovative class system the likes of Team Fortress 2 is what has led me to spend oodles of hours playing Fat Princess.
Capture the Flag is a simple concept. You start in your base, travel to the opposition’s base, steal your flag, return it to your base and you win. If that’s all that Fat Princess was the review would be about a paragraph long extoling the reasons why Sony robbed me of my $15. Sony’s game studio (SCEA – Sony Computer Entertainment America) has really done a crackerjack job frosting the Capture the Flag cake.
OK, I won’t make anymore bad puns, but cake really is a key in how Sony changed Capture the Flag to make it a memorable experience. In most Capture the Flag style games you’re looking for your flag in the enemy base. This time around your flag is in fact your kingdom’s princess. The Blue and Red kingdoms are at war, and each level you start in your kingdom’s castle, with the opposing kingdom’s princess in a cell. The concept is simple; break into the enemy castle, grab your princess, and make a bee line back to your castle, deposit her on the throne and defend her until a short timer expires.
If only it WERE that simple. There is cake littered all over the maps in Fat Princess. If you are a clever enemy you pick up the cake and feed it to your prisoner. The more cake she is fed the fatter she gets. The fatter the Princess the slower you move when carrying her to your castle. This can be overcome by using more people to carry her, but leaves you vulnerable to attack. So fatten up the Princess, you give yourself more opportunity to stop the opposition from rescuing her as they lug her across the map.
At first glance it may not seem like the cake and ever expanding princess is enough to change gameplay significantly, but it does. Combine this new ripple in the CTF family of games with a clever class system and you’ve got a winner. There are machines spread throughout your castle which produce hats. Each machine produces a different hat that when worn turns you into that class. There is a bandana for the worker class, who builds doors and harvests materials. You’ll wear a horned Viking helm for the warrior class who can dish out the melee damage. There’s a bishops hat for your priest class, who can heal and syphon health from the enemy. An archer’s hat is of course for the archer, who can dish out damage at long range. Lastly there is the wizard hat for your mage class, who have both fire (direct single target damage) and ice (AoE multi target damage) spells. The workers can upgrade the machines to give your class’s new abilities and more defensive and offensive power.
There are also catapults to be built in each castle which will fling all aboard into the enemy stronghold, potions that can be thrown at the enemy to turn them into Chickens, and towers to capture and defend. You can find shortcuts, and even build ladders to assault the enemy citadel. Sony really did get into the little details that make the game so engaging. No two games on any map are the same because of the multitude of classes and items and their endless combinations.
Fat Princess really only has one shortcoming. It’s the ranking system. While scoring is pretty straightforward the rank you hold in the game is not. You never know when you are going to go up in rank. There is no experience bar, no indicator of where and when you will be rewarded with another rank. It’s all very arbitrary. I found myself gaining and losing ranks at random intervals with no idea what I did or didn’t do to deserve the promotions or demotions. There is a great “Why I’m Awesome” section of the game, but while it delves deeply into your scores and kill to death ratio among other things, it doesn’t give you any better indication on why or where your ranks are coming from. This seems like a simple enough oversight that Sony could have fixed by now but so far they haven’t.
While there is a short story based single player mode the game was meant to be played online. The single player mode is worth mentioning though because it has a cute story, and certainly teaches you about the different levels and classes.
Fat Princess is not going to break any barriers on its graphical design. The graphics are simple, but at the same time beautiful. The characters are all so cute, and the gore when you kill your enemies is so gruesome (in a cartoony way) that you may be taken aback at first. I was delighted by the characters and settings in each level, and eventually grew to love the over the top violence in the game. When you do away with an enemy there is blood, body parts, flying decapitations and just about any other gratuitous violence you can imagine, and it will make you giggle. Yes I said giggle. I haven’t giggled in years but I find myself giggling when I play this game.
The level designs are clever, my favorite being the Sugar Cove map, taking place in a pirate cove with ships and islands that appear and disappear as the tides come in and go out. You really have to take the time to explore all these levels are they are deeper than they appear at first glance. If I could sum up the design of Fat Princess it would be “Deceptively Simple”. It was almost two months after I first bought the game that I started finding some of the secret passages and raw material stashes around the maps.
As impressed as I was with the innovation in design and gameplay, the sound certainly had a lot to do with both. Sony has a great “cute” soundtrack in the background of the game. The music reminds me of early 16-bit Zelda games only not so synthesized. There isn’t a ton of variety in the music, all very cutesy and fun, but the appropriate cues are there for changes in tempo and tenor during events like the timer after you’ve rescued your princess. It’s understated maybe, but seems appropriate.
The voice acting is amazing in Fat Princess. You won’t even notice a lot of it at first. You’ll hear the narrator who gives you updates on the castle being assaulted, or your prisoner being sprung from your castle. You’ll hear the princess in your cell asking for cake, and believe me she has some funny little comments the more you feed her. There is more depth there than you first hear, and it takes some playing to really uncover and hear it all, but it’s a nice little addition.
Weapon and battle sounds are very well done, but again, how much effort do you really put into the sound of sawing that you hear when building an item? It works though, and the sounds are great, even if they are simple, because the game isn’t trying to break new audio ground. Doing something well counts a lot in my book, even if you don’t do something new, so I’m giving Sony high marks for being consistent and thorough if not innovative in their sound design.
Since Fat Princess included a single player campaign I suppose someone could play it and never venture out onto the PlayStation Network (PSN). Why would you though!? This game was made to be played with others. In small doses the single player game will teach you the basics but the computer controlled teammates and enemies don’t use teamwork and you won’t really experience the game as it was meant to be played until you have real live teammates and enemies to play with.
There is nothing quite as satisfying as raiding the other teams castle and stealing your princess in a well-coordinated effort. Using the in-game voice chat to coordinate your offensive, or which classes to build up first adds new dimensions that the single player game can’t touch. I’ve never had so much fun on my PS3 playing with other people as when we take down the enemies doors and carry off the bloated princess with an armed escort. Success is sweeter than the cake that made her fat.
You’ll need a good mix of classes for success in multiplayer, and the larger the server the better. You can find servers with as few as 8 players, but the real fun is a 32 player game. I’ve had a single map take the better part of an hour because both teams were so well coordinated. One small drawback of the matching system is the fact that servers are hosted by a player, so if that person has to go empty the trash or do his or her homework, and quits the game, the server is gone, and everyone is left looking for another game. I’ve had countless times I was really enjoying thrashing another team, only to have the host of the game, who was on that team, rage quit and take the game with him. It is the highest form of taking your toys and going home, and Sony needs to fix it, though I don’t really know how. Most times the maps are played through to completion though and it’s not a big enough flaw to detract much from the games overall teamplay score.
If you are looking for a game with teamplay at its core, Fat Princess is your destination. This may be the best game to come over the PSN store yet. Six months into playing it I am nowhere near putting it down. I can say with confidence Sony has given people more than their money’s worth here. They could easily have charged me $25 here and I wouldn’t have complained. The $15 price tag was low enough to entice me into trying it though so Sony did a great job of picking a price point that was low enough to attract the curious.
An added bonus is that Sony is giving away DLC for Fat Princess free of charge. In the last update for the game they included a new map called “New Pork” for free. Considering how every update I’ve downloaded for WWE Raw vs. Smackdown has cost me some hard earned scratch the Fat Princess model is making me a huge fan of SCEA. If Sony continues to do this with future games I’ll be more inclined to spend money on the PSN store in the future.
Fat Princess is not a huge leap forward in the Capture the Flag genre, but all of its small innovations together make it a very worthy purchase. Sometimes you don’t have to break new ground in graphics or sound to really hit the ball out of the park. It may not be everyone’s bag of tea, but with the low price point, fun graphics and utter dependence on teamplay , if you like team based gaming I think you’re going to be really happy with Fat Princess. I know I was.
Total Score: 92/100