Fat Princess has had a few incarnations over the years and this installment sees her royal plumpness in a freemium match-three puzzler. Although this may set off a few red flags, its clever utilization of RPG elements makes it quite an enjoyable experience. However, the question remains; is it worth sticking around for dessert or should you cut this meal short?
Piece of Cake is played like a typical match-three puzzle game with the exception that matches trigger your party of soldiers to do battle. Each match can have your attack units cause damage to the enemies, your heal unit restore some health to your allies, or you can bank some diamonds or cake. As you perform chains and match more than three tiles, you will trigger more potent actions, gain extra moves, and create more powerful gems. If you manage to match five in a row then you obtain a tile that can rid the board of any particular type of tile. Diamonds act as experience points since you use them to level up your troops. Cake is used to fuel the princess' attack which allows her to cause serious damage to your opponents once you unleash it. Considering the game is exclusively controlled with the touch screen, there are no controls to memorize and everything is intuitive enough that even your grandparents can play.
During gameplay, the screen is divided into two halves. The right half is where you match tiles while the left half showcases all of the action. Tiles are clearly differentiated with unique colours, shapes, and symbols, so making matches is an easy process. The left side of the screen is divided into three areas. On top, you can see your soldiers and enemies visually represent the battle that's being played out. Each character is rendered in three dimensions and is well animated as they fight in every one of the six unique environments. The middle strip shows some important information pertaining to upcoming moves for both you and your enemies and the bottom simply lists various challenges to be completed in the current level. Although there is a lot going on at any given time, everything remains easily navigable and this works in your favour as you strategise your way to victory.
Fat Princess: Piece of Cake's audio stands out as one of its strongest characteristics. The soundtrack is composed of orchestral pieces that provide a layer of earnestness to the atmosphere. A narrator lends his commanding voice to announce important events which helps to add even more excitement to the action. Your soldiers will grunt and offer one-liners in high-pitched voices that balance the ambience with a more lighthearted tone. Effects for creating matches are instantly gratifying, especially when you manage to create large chains. Generally speaking, the audio does a fantastic job of further sucking you in to the game world.
Progress is made by advancing level-by-level on the world map. Very difficult (and optional) challenge levels that can be quite rewarding to master will be uncovered as you traverse the map. Once you complete level 15 (which shouldn't take too long), you unlock a copy of the original Fat Princess for PlayStation 3. This is a great deal and is enough to make this game worth downloading if you don't already own a copy of it. Anyway, each level has a collection of three challenges that reward you with stars for completing them successfully. The first star is for simply finishing the level but the other two can either be for dealing a maximal amount of damage or using a minimal number of turns. Completing levels by using as few turns as possible is a fun challenge but inflicting as much damage as you can is often a flustering chore since a lot of levels feature a limited number of opponents. Therefore, how are you supposed to complete these challenges? Even if you overkill every enemy then the patience required to strategise how to do that is simply not worth the effort.
Gameplay in Piece of Cake is consistently fresh as new events unfold while you progress through the campaign. Some levels have you make certain tiles fall to the bottom of the playfield while others force you to clear blocked-out tiles via different means. Sometimes, boss enemies emerge who only receive damage if the tiles that you match are located in certain highlighted areas of the playfield. Overall, you will almost never get bored with the barrage of fresh challenges that are regularly presented to you.
It's finally that dreaded time to talk about micro-transactions. Every time you attempt a level, one point of stamina gets used and once you're out of stamina, you must wait or spend coins to get more. Although this is annoying, it doesn't happen too often because you probably won't find yourself playing for long enough periods that your stamina will fully deplete. Also, the levels can be quite lengthy so your wait time for more stamina may not be too long even if you do run out. Coins can be used as an alternative to diamonds for levelling up and for purchasing power-ups and permanent boosts. They can either be earned in the slot machine that appears after each completed level or bought with real money. I should note that in my personal experience playing the game, I have yet to earn a single coin via the slot machine so I think it's safe to say that they are very rarely rewarded. You can easily progress through the game without using any coins whatsoever but it's definitely tempting to buy some when things get tough.
Fat Princess: Piece of Cake can be quite an enjoyable game for those who can't get enough match-three puzzle action, but it can also be a thorn in the side for those with little patience for the genre. If this sounds good to you, then why not grab a slice of cake and go on a diabetes-inducing adventure with the right honourable lardy lady?
- + Cleverly combines match-three puzzle gameplay with RPG elements
- + New events constantly keep things fresh
- + You can easily unlock Fat Princess for PS3
- - Damage threshold challenges make no sense
- - Coins are almost impossible to obtain without paying real money for them
- - Running out of stamina is annoying