Battle Princess Madelyn Review – Making Frustration Fun Again

    Title: Battle Princess Madelyn
    Developer: Casual Bit Games
    Release Date: December 20, 2018
    Reviewed On: Switch
    Publisher: Casual Bit Games
    Genre: 2D Action

I recall a time when games frustrated the hell out of me. Growing up with a Nintendo would do that to anyone. There’s this idea that games have become too easy, but I don’t necessarily agree completely with that. Sure, the gameplay options have become more advanced, but so have the tools that developers can use to give the player direction.

Learning the controls and where to go can be just as easily learned through gameplay instead of a tutorial given proper direction. I think developer Casual Bit Games has a good idea of how to implement these systems with their newest title Battle Princess Madelyn, but there are some areas that the developer should have taken into consideration.

Battle Princess Madelyn is, at its core, a homage to the retro game Ghouls ‘n Ghosts. On the main menu, the game gives you the choice of Arcade Mode and Story Mode. Story Mode begins with a story of a princess named Madelyn who is the middle of an all-out fight to save her kingdom with the help of her Grandpa. Although the game spends a bit of time on the story between sections. I felt like the opening scenes didn’t tell me enough about this world and why everyone was fighting. Instead, Madelyn built a statue for her dead dog who was resurrected by a ghost.

Regardless of not knowing why I was fighting, I eagerly set off into the world. Battle Princess Madelyn has towns full of NPCs who will ask for your help and offer advice. Accepting the side-missions is quick and easy and you will complete most of them on the adventure. I liked how they didn’t shove these side-missions in your face at first but then noticed that there were no menus to keep track of the townspeople that needed assistance.

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From then on I snapped into gear because I knew exactly what this game was. I quickly felt my gameplay tactics changing as I inched closer to the television like I did when I was younger. If this game wasn’t going to mess around, then I wouldn’t either. For instance, one of the first bosses you encounter requires a double jump, but since I didn’t know that, I killed him without it because when games want to fight you, you fight back. I found myself using tactics like I used to where I barely moved the screen to try and take an enemy before they saw me. This was similar to how I played through brutally difficult games like Ghost ‘n Goblins.

To be fair, Battle Princess Madelyn is far more forgiving than the Ghost ‘n Goblins series. The game has unlimited continues and will only send you back to where you entered a dungeon in if you waste all your lives. Frustration comes soon after you encounter the first arrow enemy who just won’t stop shooting arrows to give you a moment to kill him. The way this game was designed just reminds me so much of retro 2D adventure games that I’ve played before so approaching this type of gameplay was nothing new to me. I actually felt right at home with making my way through dungeons, searching out secrets, and killing anything that showed up.

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With that said, some players might feel lost with this approach to design. The game also lacks a traditional map, relying on arrow signs to direct players through the game’s large dungeons. Level design is what sets Battle Princess Madelyn apart from other 2D side-scrollers like it, even if it borrows the look, it’s winding paths and multiple areas of connections make it feel like an actual adventure, even if you don’t clearly know what you’re doing until the story gets a little more clear after a few boss fights.

Interestingly, one of the Kickstarter stretch goals for the game was the Arcade Mode, which I found the most fun in. It’s more of a traditional Ghost ‘n Goblins adventure and will fit right at how with fans of that series. However, that includes the frustration that comes with playing a game like this. Will you die? Multiple times. Will you get frustrated? You bet you will. Will you feel hella good when you clear an area? You know it.

Battle Princess Madelyn has a great soundtrack with two settings, bit and orchestra. Both soundtracks sound great and its tough to choose which ones to use because they are both so good. The game has a large variety of enemies and a lot to discover the deeper you get into the game’s story. By the end of my adventure I was fully satisfied and yet there was still more locations that I wanted to go back and check on to try and find more secrets. I’d also like to say the game’s boss designs are all awesome.

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Battle Princess Madelyn borrows everything from classic titles like Ghost ‘n Goblins and expands on the formula with its own unique character skills, bosses, and story. However, this also includes borrowing the frustration that Ghost ‘n Goblins subjected the player to for hours and hours. Battle Princess Madelyn demands that you try untraditional ways of getting through the game, and I believe this was by design. The game gives you an idea of where to go, but how you get there and which path you take is up to you.

Battle Princess Madelyn is for players that understand this type of game design or for those who are willing to give it a try. The game is as fun as it is frustrating and with a little more direction and an easier story to follow I think it has everything it takes to recreate this retro genre for a new generation of gamers. I wouldn’t mind going on more of Madelyn’s adventures in the future.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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