Battle Princess Madelyn, developed by Causal Bit Games, is a title that pays tribute to games of yesteryears. With its retro pixel art and side-scrolling goodness, this platformer reminds me a lot of the SNES classic Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts. After a couple of weeks of platforming, fighting and getting lost in this cute pixelated retro side-scroller it’s time to weigh in on how this title holds up on the Nintendo Switch. So grab that coffee, kick back, and check out our review of Battle Princess Madelyn.
Set in a faraway land, players take on the role of Madelyn, the Princess of a magnificent realm. Surrounded by friends, family and her faithful dog Fritzy, all is well until evil forces rise up, kidnap your family, and murder your dog (yes it does sound like the theme of a country song with a brothers Grimm treatment). Fueled by revenge and accompanied by hey now ghost dog Fritzy, Madelyn sets out on a grand adventure to save her kingdom for the forces of darkness.
The story of Madelyn is a delightful take on the hero’s tale. From some great throwback moments to retro titles before it, Battle Princess presents a fun tale that is brought to light with some wonderful animation and scenes. Taken off the pages of 1980’s style comics, the art design is beautifully illustrated for the story scenes, with the in-game pixel art paying homage to games from the same era. However, the designers have gone used the full power of modern game engines to infuse Madelyn with so much detail in each level. This all culminates together to create a wonderfully vibrant world for players to explore.
In regards to exploring, players are given the option to play the game one of two ways. The Story mode which sees players unravel the mystery of the evil forces that have kidnapped Madelyn’s family and sees players head out on a grand adventure that requires a lot of exploration and discovery. This mode is arguably the more difficult of the two as you are required to spend a lot of time hunting for relics that are needed to advance to new areas. In much the same vein as games like Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, players will spend a lot of time retracing steps as new pieces of gear become available.
On paper, this is by far my favourite way to play the game. As mentioned it’s a beautiful world worth exploring. However, in the application, the game does struggle from time to time to explain what the player needs to do in order to advance. More than once I wandered around, retracing the same steps not able to figure out how to move ahead. A few times early on I even restarted the game fearing that I had missed some vital piece of information needed. This is really the biggest issue with Battle Princess and does lead to a few moments of frustration until you finally stumble across that needed item. If you’re willing to push through those moments, however, you’ll be rewarded with some great story moments and wonderfully illustrated cutscenes.
The other mode, Adventure, is a much tidier, streamlined affair, with important items and abilities, such as double jump, unlocked at the start, leaving players free to adventure and slay the hordes of undead and monsters alike. If you are a fan of the old school platformer games like G ‘n G than this mode may be more your pacing. It’s faster, focused, and a lot of fun.
Combat in Battle Princess Madelyn is a straightforward affair with jump and attack being the only two things you really need to worry about. Madelyn’s basic attack is a thrown spear with other weapons available in the world. These array of weapons offer different attack options for our hero and can be extremely helpful in later boss fights. It’s a simple system that takes inspiration from older platformers.
The health system has received the same treatment with the player only being able to take two hits, one that removes your armour and the second with removes your life. This creates a nail biting, hair raising experience as each move could very well be your last. Thankfully the game has injected some modern convenience into its retro title with a respawn system that takes you back to the nearest checkpoint.
Battle Princess Madelyn knows what it’s trying to be and for the most part does a good job at achieving that. It does struggle a bit with nudging players in the right direction and for the uninitiated can feel a bit punishing if you fail to make a jump or miss that spear shot. However, despite these things, Battle Princess Madelyn is a solid offering for those looking for the good old Ghouls ‘n Ghosts feeling of old. Battle Princess Madelyn is currently available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Steam, PlayStation Vita, and Wii U.