When Fat Princess was announced, it seemed like a concept too strong to fail. The PlayStation Network, which seems to be dominated by two-stick shooters and, well, more two-stick shooters, could use the variety, something initial screenshots and information promised. Broken down into the simplest of terms, Fat Princess is an online game of Capture the Flag - something wholly unoriginal when it comes to gaming. The details, however, earn it a few more points, and a spot on every gamer's radar. The "flags," if you will, are princesses, and players force feed them cake to make them more difficult to kidnap. Now, several months later, the game is finally out, and the sure hit is available for consumption.
Fat Princess's tongue spends so much time in her cheek that it's a wonder she can choke any cake down at all. Immediately it's obvious that the developers understand their audience, from the opening menu, which presents the options to "Play With Others" or to "Play With Yourself," to the game's announcer, who reads everything in an extremely important and utterly urgent voice, relaying important messages like "They're in your base, killing your dudes!" with an epic tone. The graphics, which look reminiscent of a Saturday morning cartoon, serve the game well, and help reinforce the sarcastic nature of the title thanks to a goodly amount of blood and gore.
Comparisons can be drawn to Castle Crashers and Team Fortress 2 in terms of both style and gameplay. Combat is similar to the former, with a very hack-and-slash feel to the game. The class system, however, is much more like the one found in Team Fortress 2. By choosing between The Worker, The Mage, The Archer, The Priest, and The Warrior, players can help their team in a number of ways, all the while trying to capture their opponent's Princess, protect their own, and upgrade their buildings to empower their team's abilities. When the Mage's building is enhanced, for instance, the fire abilities are supplemented with ice attacks, freezing players in their tracks. The class system broadens the gameplay significantly, and gives Fat Princess much more depth than many originally thought it would contain.
In order to prepare players for the multiplayer component, which is obviously the focal point of Fat Princess, a singleplayer portion is available, bringing gamers through a narrative entitled "The Legend of the Fat Princess." As is the case with most games of this type, the mission's purpose is to train players for the competitive online scene, allowing for everyone to experience the game's four modes (Invasion, Rescue the Princess, Snatch N Grab, and Team Deathmatch) against AI before jumping online. Tying them together with short, funny cutscenes in a storybook fashion helps the game's presentation, and keeps the few hours spent sorting through the mode entertaining.
Anyone who grabbed Fat Princess near its release date is likely all too familiar with the game's singleplayer modes, since the game's flawed launch left most fans locked out of the multiplayer component. Just like Battlefield 1943's recent troubles, Fat Princess didn't leave early adopters with the greatest impressions, with lag problems and server issues. Thanks to post-release updates, finding games now is a much simpler task, and most of the lag issues have been addressed and are no longer worth worrying about.
Even though playing alone isn't the best way to play, it gives a good feel for what the game is about. Beyond simply running around and killing enemies, working together to capture points and upgrade is important to continued success, with each character class serving an important role. In that, it's almost like the arenas of World of Warcraft if they were segmented into short bursts without any persistence.
While the singleplayer accurately replicated the game itself, enemy AI is rough, and it's entertainment value is significantly lower when played exclusively against computer players. Online, however, is another story entirely. Issues with the AI aren't a problem when the computer players, who spend much of their time stuck in corners, are replaced with human opponents, who only spend some of their time there. It's a more entertaining experience, requiring teamwork from everyone in the game. Without it, there's just a mess of swords, blood, and magic at every choke point, with one experienced player exploiting the other team's weaknesses and running the show. This means that, while some of the games will likely be fantastic experiences that triumph over most PlayStation Network titles, others just don't cut it.
Sadly, due to Sony's refusal to ship the PlayStation 3 with headsets, just about every game has problems with communication. There's a huge amount of entertainment value in Fat Princess - it's just a shame that the PlayStation Network doesn't allow for the game to reach its true potential. The chaos that ensues when there isn't communication between players isn't nearly as entertaining as the well orchestrated and organized gameplay when there is. Either way, the potential for fun is there, giving PlayStation 3 owners something worth picking up, or at least trying out. Just don't expect too much from this twisted fairy tale.