Friday
Dec072018

QCF: Battle Princess Madelyn (PC)

et’s begin with the obvious point right out of the gate, this game looks like Ghosts ‘n Goblins. Actually no, that’s wrong. I know I will get corrected by retro gamers far more knowledgeable of the genre so I already did an internet search and discovered that its aesthetic is more like Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts. I never played those games, mostly because of the reputation the titles have earned as some of the most difficult games ever made. Fortunately, Battle Princess Madelyn allows fans both old and new to experience action platforming with superior gameplay and a challenging Arcade mode. Sadly, these attempts are muddled and obscured with a literal lack of direction, and a vague Story mode that seems like more of an afterthought than a priority.

Following a successful Kickstarter campaign in the Spring of 2017, Causal Bit Games and Hound Picked Games released Battle Princess Madelyn on all major platforms in the Winter of 2018. The story follows our adventurous young Madelyn and her puppy turned poltergeist Fritzy as she wages war against the undead armies of the nefarious Necromancer that has captured her royal family. The protagonist will travel through ancient tombs, treacherous subaquatic ruins and perilous winter countryside fighting not only the elements but a cavalcade of various skeletons and creatures at every turn.

The gameplay, as expected is arduous and at times can frustrate even the most skilled challengers, with patterns and jumps designed to stop players dead in their tracks. Personally, I struggled through plenty of the stages but only because of my amateur skill level and not due to the mechanics. Even with the difficult and sometimes heartbreaking attempts to succeed only to go back to the start of a checkpoint, I never felt that it was “cheap” or induced rage to the point of quitting. Every attempt drove me to try again and again, victory and progression always within reach but hard to obtain. The most painless element of the gameplay surprisingly was the boss battles, which could be exploited by simply finding the right spot to stay and following the patterns and attacks, and a little bit of patience. Perhaps for the more experienced journeymen, this is the normal way to take on these encounters but I was surprised that I was able to proceed normally after my first attempt.

Through the Story, weapons and abilities can be unlocked to assist in the journey but at times can only be obtained by backtracking after specific objectives have been completed. Playing through the Story mode does not have a chapter select, or a linear track to follow, so knowing when to find specific locations and unlocks is very unclear; I’m sure I played through a majority of the game without finding weapons and abilities that would have made advancement through the levels less stressful. Also, a huge disadvantage was finding the keys necessary to unlock the boss door and secondary doors to proceed with the story. One part, in particular, I found myself playing through the same level several times attempting to have a key randomly drop that either through a glitch or my inability to understand what I was doing wrong, never showed up.

At that point, I just decided to give up on finishing the story and honestly, I was not too disappointed with this result at all. The dialogue was fun at moments but ultimately there was little reason to follow through with completing the tale which I assume the developer also had a similar experience. The Story mode just felt like something rushed and uninspired with missing elements and an absence of features that just seem commonplace in any game released in this generation of games.

 A more gratifying experience for many will be Arcade mode, which throws the difficulty up for experienced aficionados with more enemies, tougher bosses and demanding jumps and precision movement. The character will have more weapons and armor to utilize, however, these seem to power-ups are seldom in appearance, dropping randomly throughout the levels. I feel that the Arcade mode could have been the entire game, if score and progression had any potential for driving multiple replays. It is comparable to playing an arcade machine and then having everything reset after you have unplugged it. Leaderboards or perhaps the ability to keep items and weapons through multiple play-throughs similar to Roguelike titles would have fleshed out the experience and led to an improved package.

To sum up, Battle Princess Madelyn is a success in capturing the feel and look of classic games from the past but cripples itself with lack of current mechanics and no clear objective or tools necessary to accomplish the task. It’s truly an unfortunate conclusion to a project that seems to be a labor of love for fans of old school games, fairytale adventures, and players that will always be kids at heart. Perhaps a patch or two to improve the quality of life will be beneficial to continue the adventure, the developer shows promise and could have the ability to make something special if they can include some polish to improve the experience.

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