Looting is one of video gaming’s most pleasing time-wasters. The near-endless search for goodies can draw you in and keep you plugging away in a trance, hoping to score a rare drop. It’s relaxing, a good way to play and chat with friends at the same time. It even allows you to catch up on podcasts or listen to music. Looting is a chilled out, rewarding time, and Fat Princess Adventures brings that joy of loot to the family crowd with an absurdly adorable co-op experience.
Fat Princess is one of the less celebrated of Sony’s Santa Monica division’s franchises. It focuses primarily on the protection of said less-than-svelte royalty, and puns about cakes and other sweet treats. It’s wonderfully daft stuff. This time around, set up very much as the family-friendly take on dungeon crawler extraordinaire Diablo, Fat Princess Adventures allows up to four players online or offline to join forces to defeat the enemies of the crown across the great land of Great Bitten (told you) by hacking, slashing, using magic or arrows to dispatch them whilst picking up anything they drop, be it coins, armor or weaponry. As you progress. You’ll upgrade your gear via those loot pickups and visits to the vendor and face ever tougher enemies.
Everything is presented in the cutesy, squashed manner of a toddler’s TV show, except with a bit of bite, violence and intelligence to it to make it more of a family affair (don’t worry it’s isn’t that violent, enemies explode into jam when they die, at least I think it’s jam). Great Bitten is a land of vibrant colors and its population consists of pint-sized people with oversized heads and ridiculous voices. Your journey through the land on the quest to prevent the calculating Bitter Queen from taking the kingdom remains tonally consistent whilst visiting the usual locations you’d expect from a loot-heavy dungeon crawler (spooky forests, swamps, icy plains etc). It’s nothing revolutionary, rather a bit safe, but that’s not as huge a criticism as it could be considering the audience it has in mind. Still, a little extra imagination in the scenery could have done wonders. Fat Princess Adventures constantly walks a tightrope between fun, absurd silliness and irritating, cringey twee nonsense, though it thankfully leans harder to the former’s side with some delightfully stupid puns, some mildly dark humour and slapstick nonsense that puts a grin on your face.
Like its more adult relations, combat is simplistic at a base level, with the depth added via different weapon abilities that are more potent against certain beasties. Thus begins a juggling act between using what’s powerful and what’s effective. That becomes more difficult as you make your way through the game’s stages as the enemies pile up and vary far more in their strengths and weaknesses’ . You’re given a choice between four classes that you can switch between at checkpoints if you so wish. Ranged attackers are the Mage, who is a obviously equipped with a magic staff that flings fireballs, and Archers, with a bow and a stun knife. The remaining two classes are more about close combat. Warriors wield a meaty sword (steady) and powerful attacks. Then there’s Engineers who despite the name, just like to smack things with a hammer to destroy them. There’s not a huge amount of difference between the four, enough to give you a preference, but not because of hidden tactical depths. It is fun to chop and change between each class in short bursts, keeping the monotony of killing and looting an enjoyable task for a far greater expanse of time.
It is certainly to Fat Princess Adventure’s benefit that the mechanics of all this are satisfyingly responsive and well-oiled, allowing for a smooth blood(jam)letting romp. The only minor issue is that the targeting is a tad fiddly in bigger battles, but then it is balanced out by the fact you’ll hit things you aren’t targeting anyway if they’re in your vicinity. You are also able to pick up one-off projectiles that can rapidly swing the odds in your favour. There are bombs that either explode on contact with the enemies or a short while after being thrown. These wipe out a decent-sized horde. Then you get ‘special’ potions that change enemy states, which is a fancy way of saying ‘does daft stuff like turn them into homicidal poultry.’
Getting caught in the blast of these affects you and your party too, so you’re sure to have many a heated moment as someone turns you into a chicken for the sixth straight time. The other weapon of significance in your arsenal only appears for certain sections and that’s the princesses themselves. When they do show up, it’s usually because you’re rescuing them, but when escorting them about the place they will turn enemies into-life-giving cake to aid you in battle. It does come in handy when things get more frenetic, but it also means you’ll need to protect them from getting ganged-up on.
Fat Princess Adventures is incredibly good fun, but it has little of the longevity this genre is synonymous with. Once you’ve finished with the campaign, there’s little to do but grind. Most of the game’s numerous hidden chests are easily found on your first playthrough and everything stays effectively the same the second time around. Thankfully the co-op is rip-roaring fun. PS4 doesn’t have much in the way of good family co-op titles so Fat Princess Adventures is a welcome addition. I question the logic behind the decision to throw it out there at the end of the year among higher profile titles instead of letting it breathe in the new year, even if it does make for a decent Christmas title.
Released as it is, it stands to be overlooked or ignored because putting a game out like this makes people highly suspicious of its quality, and that’s a real shame because Fat Princess Adventures is a well put together, fun-filled joy cake best enjoyed with friends. Playing on your own is tolerable, but hardly the intended idea behind the game. Now, I did have a cake-related pun to end the review on, but I think it’s been ex-sponged (No? Sorry, terribly sorry, not sorry).