Why flags? They’re apparently worthy of self-sacrifice time and time again with teams of macho space-dudes fragging and maiming in the name of their safe retrieval; unquestioning and unfaltering in their loyalty to liberating the most useless of captives. You know, if it’s a status thing Argos do cheap bling and there’s nothing like owning a fast car. Oh well.
Fat Princess attempts to alleviate some of the curiosity behind the flags importance by replacing the flag with a princess. Rather than defending an inanimate stick, two teams of sixteen players have to defend their princess whilst simultaneously capturing the opposing teams’, hauling her from a comfortable castle throne to lowly castle dungeon.
It’s an amusing alteration that gets all the more bizarre when you start feeding your princess cake. In a Hulk-esque feat of blatant disregard for science, the princess grows remarkably (without busting from her princess dress) when she’s fed. The enemy, who have to carry her from castle to castle, then have to struggle with a monstrosity of cake-gorged royalty.
It sounds great but is a little less promising in execution. Fat Princess is a game of absolute teamwork, mounting a rescue operation alone is futile and if there’s one thing you can count on strangers online succeeding at, it’s failing to work together.
It doesn’t help that Fat Princess has been released on the Playstation Network. Trying to co-ordinate sixteen players into one effective castle-breaching/princess-defending team would be a difficult enough task to achieve if your entire team had mics, but when maybe one or two out of a full team have vocal capacity hour long games pilot comfortably toward a stalemate all too often.
Part of the problem lies with the scoring system. Hacking down a tree rewards individual players with the same score as killing another player so those looking for a superfluous rank next to their names need only adopt the life of a lumberjack, rather than assisting their team in capturing the princess.
The six classes all function perfectly alone and in concept should work even better together. However that’s simply not the case and games suffer from an almost complete lack of cooperation.
In fact the team-deathmatch mode works far better as those less inclined to join in arduous rescue attempts can hack at trees and fund construction while other players can play properly.
What doesn’t work however is the single player. The so-called campaign is an ensemble of levels identical to those played in multiplayer with the added infuriation that comes with some of the worst AI in recent memory. If directing an attack is complex with ignorant human players then it’s almost impossible with the friendly AI. They rarely contribute to resource gathering (which is key to upgrading classes and building castle doors) yet never manage to threaten the enemy castle either. The seven or so tutorial levels are less a sequence of teachings, more convincing grounds never to play Fat Princess again.
Even worse are the Gladiate battles, which only illuminate some of the games biggest yet otherwise hidden flaws. They’re typical arena-based battles wherein you choose a class and fight twelve waves of increasingly challenging enemies. However there’s no skill to Fat Princess, the auto-lock on assures aiming is never a thoughtful process, which isn’t a problem in the main game. But in the Gladiate arena where targeting the most dangerous foes is paramount to success, the lock on system is, at a most generous, clumsy and unreliable. More frustratingly, enemies capable of firing across the arena with perfect accuracy will run backwards firing at you so long as you chase them. Couple that with the inclusion of healing priests and Gladiate is nothing short of detestable.
But it’s hard to stay angry at a Fat Princess. Like a poorly trained dog, it’s still lovable no matter whose favourite carpet/car/leg it’s pissed all over. Cel-shaded graphics are a rarity and Fat Princess’ are striking no matter how many times you’ve seen them. Rich in detail, colour and comical gore it’s frankly refreshing.
If you’re lucky enough to have friends with mics then Fat Princess can be fantastic. The eight diverse maps have been designed to allow for some absurd rescues. None more so than utilising your castle’s catapult to fling an entire army into the enemy castle and cheekily using theirs as a means of a swift triumphant homecoming. But it’s greatest achievement is also its biggest pitfall. Naively assuming players would care about succeeding over their own individual, meaningless ranks, games in Fat Princess are prolonged gruelling affairs that regularly reach toward the sixty minute mark and end in stalemate.
But what it lacks in execution it promises with potential. The charming gory cel-shaded visuals, fantastic map design and class variety come together to offer an inventive, amusing take on capture the flag. With alterations to the scoring system Fat Princess could reach its potential with ease, and with the promise of future downloadable content, prove to be one of the years’ best PSN titles.