Title: Battle Princess Madelyn
Available on: Xbox One, PS4, PC, Mac
Developer: Causal Bit Games
Publisher: Hound Picked Games, Causal Bit Games
Genre: 2D Platformer/Side-scroller
Official Site: Battle Princess Madelyn
Release Date: December 6th, 2018
Battle Princess Madelyn takes me back to a time when arcades flourished. It has the essential feel of a classic arcade game without the drawback of losing quarters. Its cute pixilated style adds to its overall charm and design. Plus, the addition of a cute ghostly dog doesn’t hurt. Madelyn is a great example of bringing the golden age of gaming to current generations but can be a bit on the difficult side for those not familiar with platformers.
It’s easy to see where Battle Princess Madelyn takes inspiration from. Ghouls ‘n Ghosts released in 1988 and nearly 30 years later, Causal Bit Games built upon that familiar design and developed a unique game. Creative Director Christopher Obritsch wanted to create a game for his daughter and used her as the inspiration for the main character. The game begins as a classic princess tale; with a fairytale story. Madelyn’s grandfather reads to her in a scene straight out of The Princess Bride. The introduction to the story is played out in beautifully detailed artwork with moments of humor sprinkled throughout. However, the story is perhaps one of the weakest aspects of the game. I found myself questioning what my purpose was a number of times while running through the many dungeons and levels.
Madelyn is tasked with saving her family and stopping an evil wizard from gaining access to a piece of technology that deals with time travel. Madelyn, along with her faithful pup Fritzy, travels many levels to complete their journey. While the story may not be that great, the gameplay is entertaining and simple. Aside from the movement controls, players only use three keys; if playing on the keyboard, or three buttons on a controller to control Madelyn. It’s a simple concept pulled straight from arcade machines. Battle Princess Madelyn’s uncomplicated controls make it effortless to pick up and understand how to play. However, like an arcade, understanding how to control Madelyn is completely left up to the player at the beginning. Helpful hints along the way will guide the player if they are lost, but there is not a lot of them.
Players will traverse many levels and meet various monsters as they fight their way through the 2D side-scrolling world. Each new area is often met with quick deaths as Madelyn encounters new enemies and bosses. It features dungeons with skeletons and zombies to underwater nightmarish bonefish. Madelyn can be easily stopped in two hits but thanks to Fritzy, she is able to be revived in short notice. However, this only lasts a number of times before the player restarts the level from the beginning. A meter at the top right of the screen shows when Madelyn is running out of “lives”. Once the green bars are gone, she must start the level over. Madelyn uses weapons like axes or daggers she picks up to dispatch of enemies. Though many can be killed with ease, some are hardier and require several hits. It’s a challenging experience to enter a new area full of creatures with different abilities. Battle Princess Madelyn is a game built on repetition. Finding the way around a level is often met with failure, but each new chance allows the player to discover a new path they previously may not have noticed.
The game can be played in one of two different ways; in either Story Mode or Arcade Mode. Story Mode is for players looking to go the long route and invest time in Madelyn’s quest, while Arcade Mode puts them right in the action with far less text to read and more items at her disposal.
Story Mode for Battle Princess Madelyn is an extended journey through the world. Madelyn will meet and interact with many NPCs each with their own comedic quest. Many seek seemingly useless items like a bucket or their lost pet chicken. It’s these gimmick like quests that make Battle Princess Madelyn stand out in both humor and as an arcade game. While I never felt invested to retrieve an item for anyone, when I saw the prompt on the screen by Fritzy barking and pointing that it was nearby, I would go out of my way to try and get it. Each side-quest feels like its own mini-story, just remember to bring back whatever it was for that man named John. The issue that comes with this mode is in its exploration. Many times the world appears to end in a deadly drop-off, but more often than not, the correct path is found by taking a leap of faith.
Arcade Mode is a faster more direct path to the endgame content. Players come equipped with all Madelyn’s abilities from the start. They will find new weapons and armor along the way that they must use to fight enemies and bosses.
In a rather Dark Souls like scenario, each boss is developed with their own style. A first encounter means studying the creature to better understand how it moves and attacks. Success is often found in the second attempt after knowing how to properly defeat the boss. Battle Princess Madelyn’s boss fights are a joy to figure out and once completed, they offer a true sense of reward.
The audio and sound design is something to note. During the game, Fritzy will bark if items of use are nearby. The game also provides a vague compass for these items, but adding the adorable ghostly bark built my connection with Fritzy. She’s more than just a floating dog, but a guide through the chaos that is Battle Princess Madelyn. A cool feature of the game is turning the soundtrack from arcade mode to orchestral.
Verdict: Battle Princess Madelyn brings arcade gameplay to the current generation. With a powerful woman warrior as the lead, it’s a twist on the classic fairytale genre. Though the story mode may be weak, the level design and boss encounters are unique. It’s a game that offers plenty of replayability while capturing the excitement of arcade gaming without losing rolls of quarters.
- The vibrant and bright art style
- Simple mechanics
- Great sound design
- Lackluster story
- Repetitive nature
- Lengthy plot