Developer: Casual Bit Games, Inc.
Publisher: Casual Bit Games, Inc.
Rating: E for Everyone
Battle Princess Madelyn puts you in the boots of Princess and knight-in-training Madelyn, who swiftly sees her family zapped away by an evil sorcerer who kills her beloved dog to boot. But not to worry; the pooch is soon resurrected as a ghost and they set out together to defeat evil in the land and rescue her family. BPM found funding on Kickstarter, and with its launch is available on all current-generation and several last-gen platforms.
Violence: Madelyn fights many different creatures and enemies, defeating them with her weapons. She can also be beaten by them, and has a two-hit health system much like Ghosts n’ Goblins. One hit and her armor falls off, leaving her in a modest white underdress. One more hit and she collapses, but if it’s the first time in a while Madelyn is resurrected with a large lightning bolt. No blood or gore is shown.
Magic: Madelyn is constantly resurrected by lightning bolts that come straight down from the top of the screen. Her dog is brought back as a ghost, and stays by her side for the remainder of the game. Enemies use spells to try to defeat Madelyn, and the antagonist kidnaps her family in the opening cinematic using magic. He also kills her dog with a spell.
Worship: NPCs encourage Madelyn to kneel at statues or even ghosts—doing so gets her a small amount of treasure.
After a short introduction, Madelyn’s family is set upon by an evil entity: a sorcerer wearing a mask, who also kills her dog. After a short burial, the dog is revived as a ghost, now serving as her faithful, floating companion. Battle Princess Madelyn plays much like Ghosts n’ Goblins (1985)—enemies pop up from behind background elements, you only have two hit points, the game makes use of pixelated graphics, and the difficulty level is high.
While I enjoyed most of what I experienced in BPM, I need to address one glaring problem. Near the end of the 3rd level (I’m counting the introductory level as 1) which takes place in a swamp, you start to run into enemies and distances that require you to be able to double jump — something that is available to the player in Arcade mode, but not Story (from what I found). I went back to the castle, talked to every town-person I could find, but could not see how or where to unlock double jumping. I was able to muddle my way through until this wall, and even though there were times that I wasn’t sure where to go, this is a full-on impasse from what I can see. Either I am missing something or the developer is.
From what I did play (and replay—I died a lot) I noticed a wide variety of enemies and good sound design. You’ll fight many different flavors of skeleton—plain, in a coffin, armored, archer—as well as snakes, sentient plants, bats, zombies, swamp creatures, and rock-throwing ghouls in just the first few levels. The sound of her spear hitting enemies has a nice thumpy sound, and between that and the soundtrack BPM has a lot of notes that remind me of an afternoon in the arcade. The music can get repetitive if you’re stuck on a certain section, but thankfully you can access music options in the menu.
Arcade mode is a simmered-down version of the intro that lets you hit the ground running and play it more like a straightforward coin-op game. You get a score based on enemies killed and treasure accumulated, and your progress isn’t saved. As I mentioned before, Madelyn can double-jump right away in this mode.
Besides the progress wall I ran into, my major complaint is how Madelyn can enter a stunned state that results in her losing both of her hit points. It usually only happened when a bottomless pit or water was nearby, but I also had it happen when insta-kill enemies were on screen. How it comes about is this: Madelyn gets hit, which causes her to reel back—sometimes quite far—resulting in her falling into a pit or into the hands of an enemy that kills her, even though getting hit usually makes her invincible for a couple seconds. This is not a huge deal until you get to the jumping puzzles where you can get hit in mid-air, making you lose 2-5 minutes of progress each time. I understand that the difficulty is part of the retro draw, but watching a large chunk of progress go down the drain because a physics-defying blow took both your hit points can induce a controller-breaking level of frustration.
With a town reminiscent of The Adventure of Link, and gameplay that reminds one of Ghosts n’ Goblins, Battle Princess Madelyn had some things going for it. But confusing level design and that frustrating stunned state result in it feeling a little less than royalty. One’s time and money might be better spent on Celeste or Dead Cells if you’re looking to scratch that retro platforming itch.
Review code generously provided by PR Hound.
The Bottom Line
A decent platformer with nods to difficult classics, there are a few problems with this one that keep the score down. Might be best to look elsewhere until a patch arrives.