Fat PrincessThe Playstation Network has had some gems now and then, but many Sony fans have secretly looked at 360 owners with envy; not for the fifty dollar Xbox Live fee mind you, but rather, for the incredible downloadable games.

Now, with titles like Castle Crashers and Braid heading to PSN, 360 fans don’t have as much to gloat about. Even more threatening to 360 fanboys is the literal cake-in-the-face that is Fat Princess. PS3 owners have received some unique gems in the past, such as Shatter, but never before have they received a downloadable title with a depth that rivals the girth of a hefty princess.

The amazing title that is Fat Princess was in development for over two years, and it shows. As far back as one year ago, video game critics commented on the depth and unique art style of the title. Comparisons were even drawn to popular multiplayer titles like Team Fortress 2. Fat Princess is a complex title that is difficult to describe, but what it boils down to is that it’s a team-based multiplayer game. However, it’s not your average team-based multiplayer title sporting eight-on-eight competitive action. Despite being a downloadable title, Fat Princess features a whopping 32-player count with 16 players on each team.

Castletop battle

Having a legion of players on-screen simultaneously isn’t this downloadable title’s only impressive feat, however. Most surprising is its unique combination of several different game genres into one cohesive package. Do you like class-based team online multiplayer games? Good, because Fat Princess delivers in spades. Do character development and stat tweaking tickle your fancy? You’re covered here too, you Cloud Strife-cosplayer. Are you waiting for Starcraft II? Sorry, that trio of games was just delayed, but Fat Princess has enough RTS elements to satisfy your inner-Orc.

Fat Princess’ greatest strength lies in the creative synergy of all its components, but first, it’d be best to describe the basic gameplay. The core gameplay consists of a variation of Capture The Flag, which by now most gamers are familiar with. Instead of attempting to capture the other team’s flag however, your goal is the damsel in distress held behind bars deep within a keep. To capture her, your team has to cross moats, break castle doors, and build all sorts of contraptions that will get your team within the enemy’s walls. Even if you manage to evade all the traps on the way to the castle, you’ll still have to deal with numerous defenders. If you manage to sneak past the guards, the princess is in your grasp. Or is she? If the princess is in her original slim state, you should be able to lift her and escape with little difficulty, assuming you have a clear path. However, if the enemy has decided to feed her cake that is strewn about the course, she’ll be too heavy to carry solo. Well, technically you can hoist the plump princess, but your slow movement will almost ensure your demise. If she starts gaining weight, it’s best to bring some pals to speed up the carrying process; otherwise, you have no hope of escaping the enemy’s lair.

There are other modes besides Capture The Princess, which I’ll get to later, but first it’s important to discuss the other essential ingredients of this fabulous cake. One of the things that makes Fat Princess special is its class-based system. Much like the popular online shooter, Team Fortress 2, you pick a class as soon as you spawn. Each player starts out as a villager with two hearts (Fat Princess’ health), but you lack powerful abilities. You can slap enemies to stun them, and villagers are the most mobile class (which is useful for capturing royalty), but they will quickly die in battle. Most of the time, you’ll want to transform into one of the game’s five classes simply by picking up a hat.

The Princess likes cake

Inside your castle, you’ll find various buildings that you’ll soon begin to recognize that all contain unique hats. These five buildings pump out an infinite amount of Fat Princess’ five hats. These hats allow you to become a: Ranger, Warrior, Mage, Priest, or Worker. Each of these classes starts out with certain abilities, but they’re eventually upgradeable. Rangers can initially shoot arrows, simply by tapping square, and they can use charge attacks by holding down the button. You can fire blindly if you’d like, or you can lock onto enemies by tapping L1. Once the ranger is upgraded, he’ll be equipped with a rifle that is useful in close quarters combat, but is quite pathetic from a distance. Rangers can also set their arrows on fire if they run into a torch. They’re quite handy for defending castles and towers that are strewn about the course.

Warriors have more health than Rangers (and any other class for that matter), and they excel in close quarters combat, as you’d expect. Initially they wield an axe, which can be charged or used for combination attacks. The charge attack is quite powerful, and when paired up with a Priest, the Warrior can be quite deadly. After being upgraded, the Warrior can wield a lance. This is useful for long distance dashes, but the axe is the preferred weapon for close quarters combat. It also should be noted that the Warrior’s weapons can be set on fire.

The Mage is an excellent support class that is great for targeting large groups of enemies. Initially, the Mage can cast fire on enemies simply by tapping square, or he can target large groups by executing a charge attack. Charging takes awhile and slows your movement, so it’s important to keep a safe distance from enemies while doing so. Setting your enemies ablaze will slowly drain their health, so it is quite useful when you’re surrounded. Even better than the Mage’s fireballs are his ice spells. Like with fire, you can simply tap the square button, or you can hold it for a long duration to cast a spell with a large damage radius. Ice spells are especially useful for capturing/defending princesses and towers because they can freeze a group of enemies and temporarily render them immobile. The longer you hold the square button, the longer your enemies will remain frozen. It’s important to note however, that the enemy mages can thaw their allies by casting fire spells.

Dark Priest

Mages are great, but another invaluable class is the Priest. Initially, the priest can heal allies by pressing square and following them (L1 locks on as usual), and they can also charge heal groups of allies. To change who you’re locked on to, you can move the right analog stick in the appropriate direction. Having Priests is essential to keeping your army alive when defending choke points or attacking, so make sure your team at least as a few. Besides being healers, Priests can also cast deadly dark magic once they’ve been upgraded. As dark priests, they can turn their healing spells on their opponents. Their dark magic drains the life out of enemies instead of healing them, but it’s used in the same manner. Keep in mind that you can’t completely drain the enemy’s health however, so it’s important to have Warrior or Mage allies to back you up.

The final class that deserves to be mentioned is the Worker. Many players neglect the Worker, but this is an unfortunate mistake. Why do they despise the worker? Because he’s like the RTS peasant. Workers are valuable throughout the game, because they gather wood and minerals that are useful for building doors, upgrading buildings (which allow you to upgrade your classes), and they can build catapults, defenses, and ladders to scale enemy walls. Workers also can hack through stone, so they’re useful for finding secret passages into the enemy’s lair. Besides being equipped with an axe, they can also wield bombs once they’ve been upgraded. These bombs are useful when attacking Warriors from a distance, and they can also help break down the enemy’s doors. Bombs can destroy contraptions faster than warriors, so it’s useful to have a few workers at your disposal.

I’m almost done detailing the classes, but it’s important to note that once certain buildings are upgraded, new abilities become available. Once one of the magic classes is upgraded, a potion becomes available that turns your enemy into a chicken. Likewise, when the Ranger is upgraded, large bombs become available that any class can pick up. These are handy for destroying a group of enemies, but watch out, they can also decimate your own forces!

Bridge crossing!

Fat Princess’ classes certainly have a lot of depth, but so do the game’s nine maps. Anytime during play, you can bring up a large map showcasing the level layout simply by pressing select. Unfortunately, you’re an easy target when the map is out, but you’re still able to move (you just won’t be able to see very well). The map is quite handy, because it shows the various routes through levels, and it also reveals where enemies and allies are concentrated. If a certain choke point needs defending, you can look at the map and hurry over there in the hopes of saving your allies. Likewise, you’ll want to keep an eye out for who owns the levels’ towers. These towers allow you to regenerate health at a faster rate (health normally regenerates by standing still), and they’re also excellent places to position Rangers. Not only this, but you can also carry or throw Worker materials at towers, so you won’t have to make the long trek back to your castle.

Towers and castles are one feature common to most of Fat Princess’ maps, but the unique topography is what makes each level special. Some levels have vast canyons that can be crossed by careful jumps. These levels also contain hidden elevators and passages that can allow easier access into the enemy’s castle. Other levels take place on the sea, and are home to treasure coves and pirate ships. The tide rises on these levels, so it’s important to cross at the appropriate time; otherwise you’ll drown (water hurts the player in Fat Princess). There are hidden caves to watch out for that can be valuable shortcuts when you’re trying to escape with the princess. I managed to sneak the princess out of the castle with a villager and quickly escape through the caves, only to drown when the tide rose, but I was able to hand her off to an ally and the thirty-minute stalemate was ended. Other notable levels feature lava and other environmental obstacles. This might sound quite complex, but there are also simple maps available for those who just want a quick game with plenty of fighting.

Capture The Princess is what Fat Princess is famous for, but there are also plenty of other modes. One of the other modes is similar to Territories in Halo or Call of Duty where you capture certain pieces of land and hold them. In this mode, you’ll want to capture towers from the enemies and deplete their forces. Once you’ve captured all the towers, the game ends. There are also Deathmatch modes, and there’s another variation of Capture The Princess where you have to capture the enemy princess three times.

Carnage

Besides those multiplayer modes, there’s also a soccer game where you slay foes and score goals, and there are also a few forgettable single-player modes. Unfortunately, the single-player modes feel tacked on. The Story Mode is quite brief, and mainly serves as a tutorial for the game. There are six levels accompanied by a story featuring a British narrator, but the levels only serve to teach you the basics. Many details are left unexplained, however, which is why I described the controls in-depth earlier. Fat Princess’ tutorial even fails to explain simple details like upgrading structures–you do so by gathering the appropriate amount of materials, and by holding L1 and tapping square on the building of your choice, when playing as a worker. The tutorial mode and single-player campaign are quite useless, but I guess it’s nice to briefly get your hands dirty before jumping into a complex game like Fat Princess.

Besides having a few practically useless single-player modes, you can also customize your character and view the credits. The character customization options are quite limited, but you’ll gain a few more appearance choices by playing online. Viewing the credits is worth it too if you’re interested in chopping up enemies while listening to Sir Mix A-Lot’s, "Baby Got Back."

Ahoy matey!

Fat Princess is definitely worth fifteen dollars if you own a PS3, but there are a couple flaws worth mentioning. The main problem with Fat Princess is the current state of the online network. Many people (myself included) have been having trouble connecting to games, so once you find one, you’ll want to stick with that particular party for quite awhile. At first I thought it might be due to my Internet Connection, but it turns out that numerous people are having this problem, and the developer plans on addressing this issue with a patch. The other problem plaguing Fat Princess is not a fault of the game itself, but it’s more of a problem with Sony’s online network. Because Sony decided not to include a headset with all PS3s, many gamers do not have one. This makes it difficult to coordinate with other players, so it’s important to make plenty of friends that own headsets. There may also be issues with headsets not working properly (I couldn’t figure out how to speak, and could rarely hear other people), but at least I didn’t run into any problems with lag (even with thirty-two players). If you’d like to play a team-based online game with the visual appeal of Castle Crashers, get your credit card out and start downloading. Even if it’s your birthday, drop your delicious cake, and give it to a gorgeous damsel in distress. Just bring a bib for blood stains.

Score: 9.0
Pros:

  • An excellent game for those who like teamwork
  • Great class-based gameplay
  • You feel like you’re playing an actual role in an RTS
  • Sneaking the princess out of the castle
  • Courses are superbly designed
  • The feeding the princess cake mechanic
  • Usually lag-free online play
  • Excellent visual design
  • Defending and infiltrating castles has never been so much fun
  • The music is fitting

Cons:

  • It’s still difficult to join online games (a future patch will address this)
  • If people don’t use headsets, it’s difficult to coordinate attacks
  • In-game Rank and points earned often don’t match up with accomplishments
  • Teammates need more incentives to work together
  • The Story Mode is pathetic–even as a learning tool
  • The tutorial is incomplete
  • E-Gangstas now have a new home