Battle princess Madelyn is a retro inspired action platformer inspired by one of the developers daughters as well as being written by a professional childrens author. The game itself comes in two game modes and whilst the regular gamer might believe story mode is the preliminary game mode it seems arcade mode is actually something quite different and the designed primary mode. Where arcade mode comes across 10 worlds of 5 levels each (according to the steam page but seems 2 and a boss), where weapon drops come from the sacks of enemies permanently replacing your main weapon until you find another, whereas the story mode is very different with actually shorter and different world levels all tied together with an exploration factor and unlocks involved which I played through believing this to be the primary mode and arcade simply being a level select of these and not a completely different entity which plays entirely differently.
There has been a huge patch to the game which has made some significant changes to the story mode through a number of issues experienced throughout by players, and at the time of print of this review there are some other issues I will bring up which would really change the quality of life of the game mode as well as one significant bug with fritzy which I will bring up with the aim of these being fixed in a further update and perhaps never being experienced by yourselves should you decide to go ahead and purchase the game.
Levels in the game involve a variety of enemies each with their own unique attack and movement mechanics spawning at various points in waves whilst you take them down with the arsenal of weapons you’ve collected attempting to traverse through the platforming challenges the area’s offer trying to find the boss keys and possibly finding secrets and additional powers along the way.
In story mode you have to complete side quests or defeat certain bosses in order to obtain additional weapons and powers like a double jump and whilst the area’s have been changed to be more linear initially and avoid a large number of very difficult challenges at the start there are a few additional balance changes which could be implemented to make progression feel a bit more natural. For example you find a quest to obtain a hammer for the blacksmith so you can upgrade your weapon and armour however by the time you finally collect this half way through the game you can fully upgrade everything, whereas if you were offered this opportunity earlier in the game and naturally slowly level things up the quality of life and pace of the game would feel far more appropriate, and whilst you have the opportunity to press a button in the menu to unlock everything at the beginning this is cheating and defeats the purpose of the mode, in which case again it feels like arcade mode is the way the game should have perhaps been played and released.
Another major bug in the story mode is that your companion fritzy lacks his powers until you obtain the pogo ability which is if played linearly 80% through the game, and if not at least over 50% of the game and it feels like this should have been unlocked from the very beginning and not tied to the pogo ability (which also grants you a wand weapon and no explanation that you must use down attacks on enemies to bounce of their heads at time of review and I had to ask the developers about how to use the ability thinking it was bugged and I hadn’t been provided the ability)
Some other gameplay bugs have been fixed and as stated earlier the developers do care and are trying to make the story mode as tight as it should be, and whilst they’ve made the earlier levels more approachable they also fixed actual bugs from sidequests which had prevented you from being able to even fight certain bosses. This shows that the developers are addressing issues with the game mode, so perhaps expect in the future that fritzy’s powers might actually work from the beginning of the game as expected, and if you could unlock some armour levels sooner in the game incrementally it would make quality of life so much better, so whislt there are bugs at the time of review I do expect these to be resolved.
Even with these bugs the game is very playable and enjoyable, in story mode you have a compressed taste of the levels with the challenge of having to find all of the unlocks and keys in order to fight the bosses. Boss fights are well thought out holding onto that retro feel with learnable boss patterns and a variety of mechanics involved in taking down the bosses as you progress so they all have their own ways of being defeated rather than just dodge and attack where possible often subtleties are involved to get the best patterns to avoid getting defeated in order to progress.
The story mode has an interesting way of subverting expectations as you expect the game to be coming to an end through the building of stitchbot actually you unlock the second half of the game and additional area’s to explore previously inaccessible offering a pleasant surprise with additional gameplay. (Which also allows you to finally complete some of the earlier side quests previously impossible to achieve should you desire a 100% completion rate) Collectible stuffed toys are provided to you as you complete the game, which I initially confused for some form of monsterpedia type thing, and whilst the game begins with some of your collection already filled out (which if you read descriptions suggests you’ve already encountered them) I feel it would have been better to collect everything from an empty state to avoid confusion, and this doesn’t even have to be through side quests it could have been achieved through defeating the first of these enemy types or additional drops from existing quests/chests/bosses.
At the end of the day for the price you’re paying you’re getting a pretty fun action platformer for the price, and while the arcade mode is the definitive version with all of the polish you would expect from the game they are making efforts to polish the story mode to ensure that there aren’t major bugs and gameplay issues and giving it a more progressive arc into the gameplay showing that they do care about the title and want it to be the best that it can be. The game would have been good enough value with the arcade mode alone, and the fact that you have additional modes as well as the story mode there is plenty of gameplay to be experienced, and depending on whether you want to battle through waves of enemies and challenging platformers or explore to complete quests in order to get to the bosses there’s a game mode for you. The bosses also offer plenty of variety as opposed to simply learning their patterns some often involve some extra aspect in order to be defeated adding a greater challenge and more interesting factors to the gameplay.
If you’re looking for a good retro inspired action platformer this is the game for you. Check out battle princess Madelyn for yourself on steam now at https://store.steampowered.com/app/603930/Battle_Princess_Madelyn/