As a follow-up to a well-loved, competitive multiplayer franchise, Fat Princess Adventures' co-op action role playing makeover had some big shoes to fill. Having myself spent more than a couple of hours shoving cake down royal throats in the original Fat Princess, I had to admit a certain amount of hesitancy when I first booted up the game. Fortunately, Fat Princess Adventures delivers a sweet update to the series, maintaining the world's strangely dark sense of humor and cutesy aesthetic while providing some harmless hack 'n' slash fun.
The story picks up after the reluctant union of the previous games' Blue and Red Kingdoms into the realm of Great Bitten, thus heralding in the first of many, many food related puns. This newfound country is under attack from the Bitter Queen who has vowed to remove everything sweet from the land, starting with Princesses Plump and Muffintop. It's up to you (and possibly three online or local co-op friends) to prevent the capture of the princesses and rescue the kingdom from the evil queen's goblin hordes. Along the way, you'll have the opportunity to pick up various side quests, each complete with their respective wacky NPC and RPG savior logic, to earn some extra gold.
As a sucker for customization, I felt satisfied by the options provided for Fat Princess Adventures' character creation. You definitely won't be spending an hour or more building your character (don't expect to be fiddling with perfect nose bridge alignment here) but the game provides you with several options for each category including multiple hairstyles, skin colors, and accessories. As you play (and replay) the game, you'll also earn crowns for your character to unlock more customization options. One particularly pleasant addition to the character creation process is the option to choose your character's "Attitude", which will govern their dialogue and barks throughout the game. I personally recommend Richard Steven Horvitz's "Evil Genius" option for Male characters, especially if you have a soft spot for Invader Zim.
Just as in the original, Fat Princess Adventures allows you to alternate between its four classes, this time at various checkpoints in each level. The classes can be split roughly into two categories: the fun, smashy-smash melee classes consisting of the Warrior and the Engineer, and the not-so fun, run-and-shoot ranged classes consisting of the Archer and the Mage. Each class has a main attack (using the Square button) and a secondary defensive attack (using the Triangle button). While it's not quite a contender for Baby's First ARPG (I give that award to the tragically dumbed down Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I Don't Know!), Fat Princess Adventures also keeps its equipment system stupid simple. At first, there are really only two types of numbers you need to be concerned with: the attack value for your weapons and secondary items, and the armor quotient for your helmet and suit. As you level up and enter new areas, you'll find equipment with specific elemental attacks to which some enemies may be weak or immune, and certain items granting bonuses like an increased chance for a critical hit. You'll be able to pay gold and gems to level up your weapons and items at the Equipment Upgrader. Upgrading changes the appearance of the weapons and items, but frustratingly, if you aren't playing in Hard or Cakemare mode, you will be unable to upgrade your items beyond the midway point.
Unfortunately, the game's relatively shallow combat undercuts the decently deep weapon and equipment system. While there is a good amount of variation in enemy attacks and types (for example, some enemies will simply charge forward while others will gradually advance while emitting a cloud of noxious gas), you'll still find yourself blazing through most battles simply by mashing the primary attack button. The game exacerbates this issue through overstuffed waves of enemies and boss battles that feel more like an endurance run than a test of skill. Furthermore, combat doesn't do a good job of demonstrating how much damage you're actually dealing either, resulting in weak feeling hits. While the squelch of blood as an enemy dies is a nice touch (and nod to the other games in the franchise), it doesn't do enough to make up for the game's disconnect between button press and on-screen action.
Nowhere is this lack of visceral feedback more evident than with the Awesome Meter and Chubby Mode. Your Awesome Meter will fill up as you defeat enemies until you trigger it, granting you the brief ability to unleash more powerful attacks. Unfortunately, the visual representation of Awesome mode is just a slight increase in size, a slight increase in damage, and a slightly purple glow. Certainly, nothing there warrants the title of "awesome". As for Chubby Mode, you activate it by consuming a piece of cake at full health, thus transforming you into a super fat, super naked version of your hero. Thundering around in your tighty-whities and belly-slapping enemies may sound like fun, but once again, it lacks the "oomph" factor when making hits. It simply feels like a slower version of the Warrior class.
Fat Princess Adventures' lack of juicy combat spells double trouble for ranged classes, who are necessarily already removed from the heat of battle. As such, the immediacy of the two melee classes make them far more enjoyable to play as, especially the Engineer who is the only class to receive a decent AOE attack in the form of bombs. The ranged classes are also hampered by a clunky targeting system which manages to never quite target the enemy you had in mind, resulting in a lot of running away as you toggle through the enemies on screen. The Mage class was particularly difficult to handle, with elemental restrictions on each weapon and a terribly weak secondary attack. Additionally, pulling up your inventory doesn't pause the game so when you encounter an enemy immune to elemental attacks, expect some incredibly frustrating weapon switching for the party Mage. Rapid weapon switching would have made a world of difference.
Speaking of parties, do not be fooled by the option to play through the campaign solo. Fat Princess Adventures is really intended as a multiplayer game. Its levels and enemy distribution are both very clearly designed with the game's four player classes in mind. For example, to avoid traps and open all the locked treasure chests, you'll need at least one Engineer and one Mage in your party. If you like backtracking, you may be tempted to simply switch classes at each checkpoint and brave it alone, but you'll find your equipment will be severely under-levelled if you don't focus your spending on one class. In the case of the Mage, you are doomed to be under-levelled as you must spread your spending across multiple staffs. If you choose to ignore the class system and play solo, you may find yourself hard up for weapon choice early on as all equipment is class-locked and dropped at random.
Still, it is hard to go wrong with a game like Fat Princess Adventures. The charm of its predecessors is still undeniably present and despite the repetitiveness of combat, exploring the world of Great Bitten makes for a fun time with no brain power required. Fat Princess Adventures is basically the perfect game to pull up with a few friends for a night of gaming, especially if you have a variety of skill levels present. Whatever you do, just don't get stuck playing as the Mage.
- + Cutesy characters and world blend brilliantly with cartoony gore
- + Variety of upgradable weapons and items
- + Side quests add a taste of RPG flavor
- - Large enemy waves lead to repetition
- - Poor class balancing reduces fun factor for ranged players
- - Weapon system makes solo runs frustrating