When you look at an overhead beat 'em up with RPG elements, it's hard to know what to expect. Penny-Punching Princess features a unique bribing mechanic so get your golden fists ready and let's see how much of a punch this princess packs.
Penny-Punching Princess is set in a world where even weaklings can triumph if they have enough cash. You play as the princess while working through a succession of stages within a chapter-based campaign. It's played a lot like a beat 'em up although from a top-down perspective. As you run around the 2D stages, you'll encounter hordes of enemies in arena-like settings. The basic controls consist of a regular attack, a heavy attack that requires a bit of time to charge, and a dodge move that you can use to escape harm. You also have a special attack that depends on your currently equipped armour. It's simple stuff that's easy to learn.
Where Penny-Punching Princess sets itself apart is its use of the bribe system. Basically, every enemy and hazard has its price and you can pay them off by bringing up a calculator, targeting whatever you want to pay off, then giving them the necessary cash. Doing so converts them from an enemy to a useable item with a limited number of uses. It's a very clever mechanic that allows you to carefully strategize in order to emerge victorious without having to resort to brute force. Thankfully, you can earn money by shaking down enemies via the break touch system. Basically, you spin the right stick around whenever a foe takes a certain threshold of damage. You'll also earn money through finding it in treasure chests and defeating enemies so it's easy to maintain a wealthy balance.
When it comes to graphics and sound, Penny-Punching Princess both impresses and disappoints. For starters, the visuals aren't much better than a run-of-the-mill indie game with basic sprites and generic environments. However, the audio is very well done and surprisingly cute. The music contains many delightful piano-based melodies that provide an overall lighthearted atmosphere and the effects are downright adorable. Listening to the gentle comical patter of the princess' feet as she runs and dodges is so cute.
Back to the gameplay, Penny-Punching Princess features very innovative character progression. In order to increase your base stats, you must either find or create Zenigami statues. Each stage has a handful of them hidden around and they're usually rather obvious and simple to uncover. Also, as you bribe monsters, they join your castle's control center. From there, you can redeem them for pieces of armor or Zenigami statues but you need specific amounts of certain types so replaying stages in order to acquire the necessary foes can be a rewarding endeavor. Overall, I found these systems to be pretty satisfying and they added some significant replay value.
All of that being said, there is an extremely steep difficulty curve. Around the middle of chapter 2, you'll find yourself perishing far more often than you thought you would and it quickly turns into a super-frustrating mess. Even when you play carefully and prepare as much as you can, you'll still bite the dust after a few unfortunate powerful attacks. Because of this, you'll frequently find yourself grinding in order to progress which gets tedious fast. It's especially monotonous considering the gameplay is as basic as it is. After playing through only a few stages, everything begins to feel repetitive due to the simplistic combat formula. Even the bosses aren't very fun.
Penny-Punching Princess is a promising arena beat 'em up with RPG elements and an innovative bribing system. However, its repetitive gameplay and steep difficulty make it an exercise in tedium. Here's hoping for a sequel that remedies its unfortunate shortcomings.
- + Innovative bribing mechanic adds a fun layer to the otherwise simple gameplay
- + Rewarding character progression
- + Cute music and sound effects
- - Overall gameplay is very basic and repetitive
- - Steep difficulty curve requires grinding
- - Humdrum visuals lack distinct flavour