Titan Studio’s Fat Princess was certainly one of the most highly anticipated PSN exclusive titles in recent history. Featuring a cartoony art style that clashes with the violence and gore in a way reminiscent of the Worms series and, more recently, Castle Crashers. The game certainly looks the part of a frenetic multiplayer game. Does it perform as well? Had I written this review last week, I’d have reported that it’s broken to the point of being almost unplayable. However, a patch to resolve the crippling network issues is doing its part to help a game that, while enjoyable to a point, ultimately fails to meet expectations. But by all means, buy it.
The first thing one will notice when playing Fat Princess is the humor. From the high-pitched cockney accents of the characters and the voices of the Princesses to the menu screen that refers to single player as ‘Play with Yourself,’ a steady stream of comedy is delivered here with admirable success. The highlight is, of course, the British narrator saying things that are extremely out of character similar to Stephen Fry’s performance in LittleBigPlanet. One can’t help but chuckle when a sagely voice cries out “We’re being ganked!” or “They’re in our base, killing our dudes!” But that’s right about where the laughs end because despite being fun to play and addictive to the point that it should be sold in back alleys, the game has several major design flaws that become all too apparent after prolonged play.
Playing with yourself is fine but it amounts to little more than a glorified tutorial with intervals to relay the skeletal, albeit humorous, plot. You learn about each of the five player classes and while you have computer controlled teammates, with no means of directing them and horrible AI, they end up either running head-on into the lance of an enemy with idiotic determination or just standing around the base. You can ‘recruit’ up to two AI teammates to tag along with you but they seem to be more content with doing their own thing.
Classes are your standard fare with a Warrior, Mage, Priest, Ranger, and Worker. Classes are chosen and changed by picking up corresponding hats and helmets and each one can be upgraded to have a secondary weapon or ability. Warriors can use a sword and utterly useless shield or wield a lance. Mages can freeze or burn individual enemies or use chargeable area of effect spells. The Priest heals allies individually or in an area of effect, that’s pretty much all the Priest can do with any type of proficency. The Dark Priest drains health in the same way its counterpart restores it. Rangers initially wield crossbows but eventually receive a blunderbuss for close encounters. Workers are the most important class because they are the only ones who can fortify your castle doors, upgrade other classes, gather resources, and build catapults/siege ladders/spring boards. If you leave it up to the computer, it’ll take forever because most of the time they’ll collect too much wood and not enough metal (and there’s no way to tell them what to collect) so you have to do it yourself and hope that a computer controlled character doesn’t waste your precious resources by upgrading the Mage before upgrading the Warrior or Worker.
Once you start playing with others, things get a bit messy. You have your standard multiplayer options; Team Deathmatch, Invasion (where you must control Command Posts), and two modes centered around the rescuing and capturing of the respective Princesses.
The former two are self explanatory and every match played under those rules ends up being a massive bloodbath of cartoon giblets. When Princesses are thrown into the mix, however, things change drastically. With each team in possession of the others Princess, it’s up to you and 15 other players to rescue your Princess and prevent the enemy from doing the same. To make the task more difficult, one must feed the captured Princesses as much cake as possible. The more cake you throw at them (literally), the fatter they get and the harder it is to pick them up.
The main issue is balance and this is apparent in all game modes where Princesses need rescuing or capturing. Unlike in many other online games where one skilled player can make a difference and lead his team to victory, such gallantry will result in swift death 9 times out of 10 when playing Fat Princess. If there’s a full game of 32 human players, a match necessitating the rescuing/capturing of a Princess can go on for hours. If you have a microphone and two or three teammates are willing to take orders or have mics of their own, then you’re fine because communication will allow tactical strikes and give you an advantage over the opposition. If not, well…then a match is best likened to a barnyard full of headless chickens.
The problem is that anyone can choose any class. This means that no one ever wants to be a Priest because all you do is heal your allies and where’s the fun in that? They’re spilling enemy guts and you’re running around in circles regenerating their health. This problem is somewhat alleviated when the Priest is upgraded and gains the abilities of the Dark Priest, but most humans controlling priests are selfish and stupid and provide no healing whatsoever.
Combat is controlled by one button–a face button–making it impossible to comfortably switch targets with the right analog stick. Why they couldn’t allow us to map our own controllers is beyond me. It doesn’t really matter, though, seeing as you only need to switch targets when facing two or more enemies and in that scenario you will always die. But you won’t die quickly, oh no…combat is nothing more than running backwards while attacking with all confrontations evolving into a strange dance-like affair where the two opponents circle each other until one lands a killing blow.
Because all characters move at the same speed, you can go from one end of the map to the other being pursued and never get caught. The only time your speed is hindered is when you’re charging an attack or carrying something. However, this means that those with ranged attacks will win a fight 90% of the time because while you’re fruitlessly chasing after them brandishing your tiny sword, they deliver projectile after projectile into your soft supple flesh until you’re nothing more than a pile of bones and a hat in the middle of a blood puddle.
Of course, all of these problems can be solved with solid teamwork and intelligent players but therein lies the fundamental issue: most players online are profoundly stupid. Just this evening I was frantically carrying a thankfully thin Princess back to our base and rather than pressing Circle to help me and increase our travel speed, this idiot teammate of mine felt that running in circles around me was helpful in some way. Many times I’ve been on the losing end of a fight with an ally Priest at my side who did absolutely nothing to save my life and his own because as soon as I died, he was killed in two hits.
If you can get some friends together or even luck out with some teammates with triple digit IQ’s, then you will have a blast but in no game does the idiocy of the average gamer shine through with such rich and full colors. The game is fun to play despite its many flaws but if you plan to download it, get a friend to follow suit or at least get a microphone so as to verbally abuse the terminally stupid.
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Titan Studios
ESRB Rating: T for Teen
Platform: PlayStation 3 (via PlayStation Network)
Release Date: July 30, 2009
Genre: Multiplayer Arcade Action