There’ve been plenty of Kickstarter success stories over the years, but Battle Princess Madelyn is one that’s stood out to me. Besides having a touching origin story of the creator basing the game’s protagonist on his own daughter, it also offered an experience that was inspired by Ghosts ‘n Goblins – a video game that I adored in my younger years (even if I couldn’t beat the damn thing).
It has felt like a while since it hit its funding goal, but it’s finally available on the Nintendo Switch (after a bit of a rocky start anyway). The question is always there with these crowd-funded releases though: is this going to be another Kickstarter classic or is it a bit of an old-school flop? Thankfully, Battle Princess Madelyn is more of the former, with it offering a nostalgic adventure that’ll bring a smile to gamer’s faces throughout.
You know how a lot of video games task you with saving the princess? Well, Battle Princess Madelyn flips that around and sees you taking on the role of a boisterous and confident princess who has to save her kingdom from an evil Wizard. With your ghostly pet Fritzy by your side you’ll travel across perilous locations, beat up nasty baddies, and bring an end to the Wizard’s schemes once and for all. It’s all very traditional as far as the whole ‘good versus bad’ tale goes, but there was an extra bit of charm to the whole thing in knowing the game’s creator based the hero on his own daughter.
Battle Princess Madelyn’s gameplay is very old-school in design, with the player traversing across a wide range of 2D platforming-filled levels all whilst taking down the myriad of monsters that are in your path. You’ve also got a good few weapons to launch at your foes a la Ghost ‘n Goblins, whilst the bosses are as fun to take down as they are impressive to look at. The game really gets a lot right as far as offering an old-school action-platforming experience is concerned and it ends up being a heck of a lot of fun to play because of it. Sure, it’s tough and there are plenty of enemies and environmental hazards that are going to cause you a few frustrating deaths, but it’s in that satisfying way where the challenge is half of what makes the game so enjoyable to play. I guess the difficulty is just another similarity to Ghosts ‘n Goblins, though things like your armour (or lack of it) representing your health was a nice nod too…
There are two main game modes on offer in Battle Princess Madelyn: Story and Arcade. In Story mode you’ll head on a narrative-focused adventure where you’re given the freedom to explore open environments, interact with NPCs, and even take on side-quests during your journey. Those who prefer a more streamlined and level-based experience are best off sticking to Arcade mode, which is similar to the classic games that inspired Battle Princess Madelyn by sending you across linear levels in a specific order with no messing around in between it all.
Whilst the Story mode is the more fleshed out of the game modes, I didn’t really enjoy it all that much. It all just felt a bit convoluted in design, with things like the side-quests you’ve taken on not getting marked, the direction you need to go not clear, and even upgrades often too well hidden in the environment to enjoy uncovering – some even come from clearing side-quests, which is a bit annoying if you can’t remember what you actually need to do and whom for in some cases. I like a bit of a challenge and can appreciate what the development team has tried to do with Battle Princess Madelyn’s Story mode, but it just felt far too muddled to really enjoy.
Fortunately, the Arcade mode is great with the old-school linear approach proving to be a heck of a lot of fun to play through. It really shows off the best points of Battle Princess Madelyn’s design: fighting enemies, grabbing power-ups from them, running and jumping between platforms, and taking down big bosses at the end of each level. It brought on plenty of nostalgia from my younger years with its design and it kept a smile on my face throughout – even if it could be tough as nails.
Another area in which Battle Princess Madelyn shines is in its presentation, with the game not only featuring some spectacular pixel art throughout but also offering both an orchestral and traditional old-school soundtrack. It’s clear that a lot of love and care went into making sure that the game both looks and sounds the part, and it just makes the whole experience all the more impressive to be a part of. The enemies in particular stood out with their bizarre designs feeling both old-school and refreshing at the same time, but honestly, there’s so much creativity on show in all aspects of the game’s design that it’s hard not to be left wowed by the world as a whole.
There’s a whole lot to love about Battle Princess Madelyn, with its fun old-school gameplay, impressive visuals and constant nods to the games that inspired it standing out the most. Unfortunately, it misses the mark quite a bit with its Story mode, with it offering an experience that just feels far too muddled and awkwardly designed to really enjoy. It’s disappointing.
Luckily, the Arcade mode is there to save the day and it offers a thoroughly entertaining nostalgic adventure that’ll really push your skills to the limit. Battle Princess Madelyn might be a bit of a mixed-bag as far as the modes it offers are concerned, but fortunately the package as a whole is of a high quality and there’s definitely a good time to be had here for players itching for that retro-inspired fix.
Developer: Casual Bit Games
Publisher: Hound Picked Games
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC