The long-awaited PSN title Fat Princess has finally been released to the masses, packing tons of cartoon mayhem into a relatively tiny download. Titan Studios' hilarious creation takes players through a radical new twist on the world of knights and castles that you won't soon forget.
If you haven't heard of the game before, suffice it to say that the premise is simple. It's a multiplayer-focused title that splits up to 32 live players in two teams for a not-so-friendly match of capture the flag in a medieval setting. As you might expect, the warriors can take many different forms, in this case one of five classes ranging from archers to mages. The "flag", so to speak, is your team's princess, which is held hostage in the other team's castle dungeon. The key titular twist is that both princesses are constantly hungry, and monstrous slices of cake happen to sprout up at random on the battlefield. Naturally, a princess gets fatter and heavier as she eats more cake, thus making it much harder (and slower) for her kingdom's warriors to carry her back to safety.
The mechanics of the game are fairly straightforward. There are eight sufficiently diverse and beautifully crafted maps to paint with blood and guts, but the interface design suggests that more may likely be added as DLC later. Each map contains two bases at opposite ends, typically in the form of castles but one map switches it up with pirate ships, and a few outpost towers scattered across the map. Each outpost can be claimed (or reclaimed) for your team by standing next to it for a short while, without the intervention of a foe. These outposts serve multiple purposes, including providing cover for your ranged units which can avoid melee attacks from the top of the tower, and acting as front-line gathering points for resources. What makes each map unique is not only the landscape, which varies from tropical beaches to mountain tops and blue streams to red-hot lava, but also features different dungeon layouts to make players think twice about their direction. Some maps have secret passageways like underground pipes that take you to the opposite end of the map, or tunnels to help princess snatchers sneak in and out of the castle. Other maps make use of dynamic water/lava elevation to reveal paths to bits of land that are otherwise unreachable.
In addition to the dungeon prison cell and the princess' throne, each castle contains five hat machines, one for each of the classes. Players can switch classes at any time by picking up a hat manufactured by these machines or grabbing one from a fallen warrior on the battlefield. Players without hats can still use their fists to attack, but are by far the weakest of the bunch. Of the five classes, the Worker is key. Its role is to gather resources, wood and stone, by chopping down trees and breaking up boulders strewn across the map, and bringing back the quarry to any team-owned building. The Worker can then use these resources to build (and repair) castle gates, construct various contraptions like trampolines, catapults and bridges, and upgrade the hat machines. Upgraded hats give the class a second and usually more powerful ability, like equipping the worker with bombs to throw at opponents.
The other four classes each have an important role to play. The warrior is a great front-line melee attacker that can deflect arrows with its shield and, once upgraded, has the most health thereby making it the better candidate to carry off a princess. The archer is its logical complement, firing off arrows from a distance or using the upgraded portable shrapnel cannon for close-range attacks. These two classes and the worker can charge up their attack strength or range by holding down the attack button before firing.
The last two classes seem to play a more supportive than direct role in the battle. The priest can heal team mates or, after an upgrade, drain health from opponents. The mage throws fireballs at his enemies, but really becomes useful with the ability to freeze opponents in place, putting them at the mercy of the warriors' sword hacks. Both the priest and mage can charge up an area attack, affecting all enemies (or friendlies, when healing) within an illustrated radius.
Fat Princess does have three "Play With Yourself" modes: a "Legend of the Fat Princess" campaign mode, "Mess About," and "Gladiate." The campaign essentially chains together six predefined configurations of the multiplayer matches with bots as your team mates and opponents, and mostly serves as an introduction to the game's various player classes, match modes and maps. In "Mess About," you can choose your own configuration and further explore the maps before engaging live opponents. Don't count on the single-player to tide you over for long; the bots are reasonably organized and fight well, but certainly provide no lasting challenge for the human mind. The "Gladiate" mode allows you to hone your fighting skills with each of the five classes in a Roman Colosseum-like arena, and true mastery and tactics will be required to finish the twelfth round in each class. Of course, mastering each of the classes and switching it up during a multiplayer match will make a player much more effective.
The real meat of the game is of course in its "Play With Others" multiplayer. Four of the five game modes play out on the previously discussed eight maps and all split the players into two teams. Each team always has 16 players when playing online, though some will likely be computer controlled - the AI is great at helping out with tasks that your team may forget, such as collecting resources or defending castle gates, but just doesn't have the intelligence to mount a coordinated attack on its own. In "Rescue the Princess," you face the traditional capture the flag challenge to hold onto both flags - having your princess in her throne and the opponent team's princess in your dungeon - for a certain amount of time. Players can feed the prisoner cake to slow down any "flag" carriers, though team mates can collectively carry a princess to increase their escape speed. Similarly, "Snatch n' Grab" requires a team to snatch the other team's princess from her throne thrice, bringing her into their dungeon. Once captured, the enemy princess magically reappears on her castle throne until the third time. The humourous twist here is that cake is fed to your own princess to weigh her down!
The next two modes will be familiar to team-based multiplayer fans, as they remove the princesses from the game. In Team Deathmatch, teams start with 250 collective lives and must bloody the battlefield until the opposing team's counter reaches zero. In "Invasion," teams must decrease their opponents' counter by claiming more than half of the map's outposts for their team. The counter then steadily decreases in proportion to the percentage of outposts held.
The fifth game mode is played on a special map, the soccer field. This map has no castles or hat machines, just two nets and one or more soccer balls. When a team scores a goal, random things shower down on their side of the field including bits of wood and stone, and regular or upgraded hats. Once players have scored a worker hat and have brought some of the fallen resources back to their net, a goalie and various other field obstacles can be built. Naturally, you can still kill your opponents as usual. This mode is certainly not representative of the core gameplay of Fat Princess, but does provide a pleasing diversion.
Overall, the game's cartoony yet violent graphics add to the comical feel of the game without distracting players from the key gameplay elements. Cheerful music, exaggerated sound effects and cheeky taunts combine to form a sound sphere that completes the light hearted death-dealing package. Additional options allow players to personalize the look of their characters by changing characteristics like hair style and eye colour.
Fat Princess presents a captivating world, an absurd premise and classic gameplay in a very well balanced and original game that is both amazingly funny and fun to play. Best of all, the variety in maps, modes and playing styles will have you carrying cake and princesses alike for months to come.