Controversy and gaming seem to be inextricably linked in today’s society, but there are some games that you would never imagine to cause a ruckus. Fat Princess has garnered some hate for its use of overweight royalty, which seems unwarranted to us. When you get down to it the only stereotype Fat Princess has about overweight people is that they are more difficult to carry, which is just a fact of life. Controversy is not all bad though, and is often used by gaming companies to garner attention for their titles. We're happy to report that Fat Princess is definitely deserving of all of the 'unwanted' attention, but can it dethrone Flower and Wipeout HD to become the best the PSN has to offer?
The story behind Fat Princess is simple. Two kingdoms (one red and one blue) each have a princess who is vying for the affection of a prince. The red king finds out that the prince will soon be arriving to meet and pick which of the princesses he will join in marital bliss and hatches a devious plan. To keep the prince from picking the blue princess he sends his best men to kidnap her and bring her to the red castle until the prince has chosen his daughter by default. An obvious problem arises in this plan because the blue king has come up with the same idea. So you have two symmetrical kingdoms taking symmetrical actions, all of which ends in each kingdom holding captive the daughter of the rival king. The other important aspect of the story is that the kingdoms have discovered magic cakes that grow out of the ground in the forest and which each of the princesses have become addicted to. Consuming them has made them overweight - hence the name 'Fat Princess'.
When you turn Fat Princess on you are given the choice to either 'Play with yourself' or 'Play with others'. The single player options include a short campaign of six matches (each of which typically takes 15 to 20 minutes to complete) with computer opponents as well as computer teammates that back you up. These serve as a story driven tutorial more than anything else. Each chapter begins by retelling a portion of the story of the two kingdoms. This doesn’t really affect the game you will be playing much after listening to the story though, as they are all simply the standard match types you play in multiplayer. You also have the option of 'Messing about' which lets you make a standard skirmish match with yourself and the computer AI. And finally there is a 'Gladiate' mode, which pits you against wave after wave of enemies in order to hone your skills with each of the classes. If you are looking for a good single player game we suggest you look elsewhere on PSN, because this game is all about the multiplayer.
Matches in Fat Princess are deceptively simple. You are put onto a symmetrical map, with the red kingdom on one side and the blue kingdom on another, and are tasked with a certain objective. The objective is determined by the match type you're playing. The four match types are: Deathmatch, Rescue the Princess, Snatch ‘N Grab, and Invasion. There is also a Soccer match, but that is more of a fun aside than a full game mode. In Deathmatch you take a point from the opposing team each time you kill one of their members and the first team to zero points loses. Rescue the Princess is based on the two kingdoms trying to take back their princess from the opposing kingdom, while at the same time keeping the other princess captive. Basically, the goal is to have both of the princesses in your castle for a certain amount of time in order to win. You can also feed cake to the princess you're holding captive in your castle, which makes her more difficult to carry. Snatch ‘N Grab is supposed to mimic the part of the story when the kingdoms first captured the opposing team's princess. The first team to capture the opposing princess three times wins in this game mode. Finally, Invasion mode tasks you with capturing checkpoints that are on each map. Holding these will slowly deplete points from the opposing team and the first kingdom to zero points loses.
Fat Princess is a class driven game. You have the choice of five different classes (seven if you include the villager you start out as and the chicken you can be turned into). There is the mage, who can light people on fire. The warrior can take a lot of hits and deal strong melee damage. The ranger shoots arrows. The priest heals, and the worker gathers resources and builds. All of these classes are activated by having your character pick up their respective hat with the circle button. These hats can be obtained in your castle at hat machines, or you can toss on any hat you find around the battlefield. Strategy in matches doesn’t really come from a rock-paper-scissors type of gameplay in which one class is weak to another, but instead focuses on how you use the classes as a team. Any class can kill any other class if played well enough (except perhaps the non-upgraded priest). All of the classes can also be upgraded by the worker, who can use resources gathered to build a new and better hat machine for each class. Upgrading the classes gives them new abilities, such as ice mages and workers with bombs, and you can switch between them by pressing the triangle button.
Combat can be pretty hectic; characters zip across the screen in and out of battle, spells and attacks are being charged and cast constantly, blood is pouring out all over the screen, and the cute little characters start dropping like flies in large battles. Your health is indicated at the top of the screen by little heart symbols, and when you're low on health you can retreat back to a safe place where you can sit down, eat some cake, and recharge your health (which is pretty adorable to watch). Combat is great fun, particularly during Deathmatch games where everyone's being careful not to die but doing their best to kill, which means the teams start to work together properly, performing hit and run manoeuvres as a group. The one aspect of the controls you may find frustrating is the lock-on system. If you're using one of the ranged classes then you can press 'L1' to target one of the enemies on screen. You can somewhat influence which enemy you target by nudging the analog stick in that direction, however it's not very precise and so to a large extent it's pot luck which enemy you end up targeting (particularly during hectic, heavily populated battles).
Overall, Fat Princess’ gameplay is fun, and there is enough nuance and variety between all of the 8 maps that you won’t get into a simple routine, but like many multiplayer games it is dependent on how well your team works together. It is extremely hard to have fun when your team can’t work together to save their lives and you are becoming completely demoralized. One enjoyable aspect is how each castle has weak points that can be exploited, and the maps have siege weapons like ladders and springboards that workers can build to tip the balance of power. Little things like these allow for a knowledgeable person to make a large impact on the game as a whole, but an organized team will always have their princess fattened up on cake to the point that you will never be able to make it out alive on your own. To make the job of retrieving a particularly fat princess easier your teammates can help you carry the princess by pressing the circle button, so if you work together your chances of success are greatly enhanced.
If you’ve been following the game's progress at all you’ll be familiar with the cartoony art style. Blood spraying all over the place and cute little characters falling to their deaths makes for a great contrast with this adorable, almost child-like art style. The colours are rich and bright throughout, and the game looks really sharp. The levels are nicely varied; there’s a mountainous level covered with deadly lava, a pirate themed tropical setting, a grassy level divided in two by a large river, and so on. It’s a game with a lot of personality as well, and as you would expect from a cartoonish capture the flag game where the flag is a princess you have to stuff with cake, there’s tongue-in-cheek humour throughout. The menu screens are all uniquely named (‘Play with Yourself’, ‘Mess About’, ‘Get Fabulous’ etc.), the Princess will constantly demand more cake, and the little troops scurry about and collapse with a ‘bleh!’ when they die.
Sound design is a mixed bag. Some of the music is at first catchy, but can quickly get tiresome. This is particularly true of the title music which repeats endlessly while you go through the menus. Music during matches is far less repetitive and differs from map to map, so you don’t get as easily tired of it. The voice acting is surprisingly good for a small title that is not focused at all on story. Both the princess and narrator have voices that fit well with their characters, and the player characters spout out commands and rude jeers in high voices like the classic Worms games.
When it comes to length, the single player components won’t hold your attention for very long – the story mode (‘Legend of Fat Princess’) takes a couple of hours to complete, although as previously mentioned this just serves as a lengthy tutorial split up by some brief storyboard scenes, so it doesn’t have much to offer. The Gladiate mode is a similarly brief distraction (unless you’re aiming for the trophy associated with it), which merely allows you to hone your skills with a particular class.
The core game type can be played both offline single player with bots, or online multiplayer with humans (and bots filling in any gaps). There are eight different maps to play on, and as we’ve already detailed above there are four different match types to play through (Deathmatch, Rescue the Princess, Snatch ‘n Grab, and Invasion), as well as a bonus soccer game with a Fat Princess twist. This is a lot of content for a PSN title, although that’s reflected in the higher than average launch price of $14.99/£11.99.
Its multiplayer nature does make it very replayable however, with a typical match lasting about 25-30 minutes (barring a successful rushing attempt early on, which is extremely rare). You can easily sink many hours into Fat Princess just working through and mastering each of the different classes online, as well as learning the different gameplay modes and maps. One of the more interesting aspects of an online multiplayer game can often be the statistics that are tracked and tied to your account, and Fat Princess doesn’t disappoint here, offering several pages worth of statistics and leaderboard features. To further extend the game’s lasting appeal you can unlock new customisation options for your character over time, including things like different hair styles and hair colours, and there are of course trophies included as well.
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It’s unfortunate however, that one of the main problems with the game so soon after launch revolves around online multiplayer connectivity. For a game with a heavy focus on online multiplayer this is more frustrating and potentially game breaking than normal. In our experience there are no problems with lag or being disconnected from a game once you join one (unless the host leaves), however there are major issues when it comes to attempting to simply join a match online. Even when using the quick match feature (‘Jump In’) it typically takes several attempts before you manage to join a game, and this process has taken us anywhere from a couple of minutes to half an hour to complete. To some extent problems like this are expected so soon after launch, and it’s reassuring to hear that a fix is in the works
, but these issues are certainly something to keep in mind if you’re planning to purchase the game at this stage.
Fat Princess isn’t quite up there with the best the PSN has to offer, but it’s nonetheless a stellar addition to the PSN library. A handful of the game modes will prove little more than a brief distraction, but the core of the game is its online multiplayer match types, and here the gameplay is frantic and becomes increasingly enjoyable as you learn to master the game. With a bright, colourful art style, offset by masses of blood and dark humour, Fat Princess is a beautiful game and well worth a purchase.