Publisher: Casual Bit Games Developer: Casual Bit Games Players: 1 Genre: Retro Platformer Launch Date: December 6th 2018 Price: $19.99 or £16.74
Being someone of my age means that older styles of games warm the cockles more than some cutting-edge ones do. This doesn’t mean that all old school 2D titles work, because let’s be honest, that simply isn’t the case, but every so often you get one that captures the essence of what it was like to pop a SNES or Mega Drive/Genesis cart into your old console in the 90’s. Battle Princess Madelyn does this beautifully. Admittedly, the story behind it is just as vague as those from yesteryear, but you can’t deny both the heritage it tries to imitate and the one game in-particular it leans so heavily towards.
Let’s put it this way, if this had Ghouls ‘n Ghosts written on it then you would not even think it wasn’t from Capcom.
Madelyn and her recently deceased and resurrected dog are heading on an adventure with her grandad, Grampsy (ingenious name, obviously. Mind you seeing a geriatric in full on battle armour makes me think I’m watching an 80’s action movie with Sean Connery in it) to stop this evil wizard from wreaking havoc on their village and avenge the death of her little doggy.
This is all done through a proper Ghouls ‘n Ghosts method. You get two bites at the cherry every life, losing your armour after one hit and lying in your gown after a second, deadly hit. It is a lot bigger than older games of this type, spanning 50 levels across 5 stages. The game does follow a more traditional platform routine, but there are more modern-day elements interwoven into the fabric. Fritzy can be used for extra weapon power and help to solve puzzles and figure out how best to battle the bosses. It makes for a really well put together collaboration of old and new, and I like it very much.
I'm sure this guy just wants to hug it out....
Graphics - 8/10
A lot of 2D games try to move into a more modern take, with sharper graphics, higher resolutions and an altogether up-to-date feel. I love the fact that Battle Princess has maintained an old-school feel and it does it superbly. From the minute you load it up and see the pixelated title screen, you know exactly what you’re going to get. The only negative I can take from all of this is that the animated cut scenes don’t, I feel, really fit with the rest of the visuals. I’d have rather they’d used the game engine to do much more simplified variations of those, rather than try and make it out to something like Sonic CD, interlacing anime with 2D.
What you end up with in the main game though more than makes up for any niggly feelings towards the non-interactive bits. There is such a divine beauty with what is on offer. I love how it keeps its own identity, whilst also maintaining a link to the Capcom series it bases itself on. The characters and enemies are really well put together, as well as some very lavish level design and artwork. If you didn’t know it came out this month, you’d think it had come out 20 years ago, and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible.
Sound - 9/10
This is my favourite part. It screams Sega’s console almost like it is a love letter to it. All of those sound chip roars are present, as is every melodic fake flute and anything else that could fit in a cartridge back in the day. The sound samples are a bit more up to date and things are generally cleaner than they would have been churning out of an RF unit back in the 90’s, but I think it sounds delightful.
There’s no way this hasn’t come from a load of people who have a genuine admiration for the old 2D platform genre. It certainly appeals to me and I have no complaints in any way whatsoever.
I have the power, and other He-Man references you find specific.
Difficulty - 7/10
This is the part that will divide people in this day and age. The thing about the old days was that other than a save game or a password, you were stuck with whatever you could do. Sure, you may well get a save slot here, but the difficulty level is cranked up a bit more than most games nowadays. My own opinion on this is that it had to be to match the almost cruel intentions that Capcom laid out in everything from Ghosts ‘n Goblins right up to Maximo and the sequel on PS2.
Battle Princess Madelyn had me dying repeatedly, but I really didn’t mind. I expected it because of the style of game that it was. Some younger people who play this may not be used to it and will spit their dummies out at the television and carry on preying on noobs on Fortnite, but for those of my generation, you’ll feel right at home.
Achievements – 5/10
The “Battle Princess” achievement is rightly named, as it’ll take a while to get it, but the rest of them seem pretty straight forward. About 80% of them are all level based, so simply finishing the game will polish most of them off. Kill 2,500 enemies though and you’ll get the aforementioned Battle Princess honour. It’s just whether your patience threshold will last long enough to cover it.
One of the more peaceful moments within the game
These are the kind of games I thrive on. I’ve always been on the lookout for new games based on older ideals and Battle Princess Madelyn fills a hole that’s been there in my collection for a long, long time. A lot of older players will know that you have a lot of old games in the house and you just can’t bring yourself to put them on the old machines by spending so long setting them up and then realising all that time was too much time used in doing it. You need that 2D fix without the fuss and that’s what his does and it really delivers.
It has the best of both worlds, in that it uses modern tech, more up-to-date gameplay mechanics and some sharper audio, while all the time keeping things steeped in tradition and feeling like you’re putting on some old slippers. The only difference is you’ve got a ghost dog grabbing them with your newspaper from the front door. If you are a middle-aged gamer, or someone who is a fair bit younger who wants to see what the fuss was about, you can’t go wrong with this at all. Worth every penny and a damned sight better than some full price games I’ve seen lately.