Fat Princess Hands-On: More to Love

It's quite obvious that Sony and developer Titan Studios are aiming for the funny bone with their upcoming PlayStation Network title, Fat Princess. But after playing the game at a recent pre-E3 press gathering, I found that Fat Princess has more to offer than a couple cheap laughs.

While the irreverent humor and cute art style certainly take center stage throughout the experience, the unique blend of action and real-time strategy that makes up the gameplay in Fat Princess is the real star of the show. It's a funny game, but more importantly, it's also a fun game.

When I first started playing Fat Princess I couldn't help but make the connection between this game and one of my favorite and unfortunately oft-forgotten classics, General Chaos on the Sega Genesis. Beyond the funny animations and cartoon violence, the two games both feature a compelling mix of straightforward action and class-based warfare. Fat Princess is part real-time strategy, part beat-'em-up, and part capture the flag. It's just in this case, the flag is a morbidly obese princess.

In addition to a single-player campaign, Fat Princess has four multiplayer modes for up to 32 players online. In each mode, two teams compete on one of eight maps to complete various objectives.

In Rescue the Princess mode, each team starts with the opposing team's princess held captive, and the objective is to rescue your own princess before your enemies rescue theirs. Snatch and Grab is more like a standard game of capture the flag, but instead of a flag you have to capture a portly princess and return her to your base three times to win the match.

Invasion is a game of capturing outposts, which are placed throughout the map. To control an outpost, you have to stand near it for a certain amount of time. If you leave the area or get killed, the outpost reverts to a neutral state and is once again up for grabs.

Finally, there's a team deathmatch mode, which is all about killing the opposing team while keeping your own casualties to a minimum. All of the multiplayer modes can be played with bots if you don't have the means or desire to play against live opponents.

I played Rescue the Princess mode on a map called Sugar Cove. It's a large map of small tropical islands with palm trees, beaches, and cake that somehow grows from the ground (supposedly the mysterious ground cake is explained in the single-player story). Each team's base is a wrecked ship where the captive princess resides below deck and pops up to eat cake.

On top of the deck are five hat machines, which each produce different types of hats. You spawn as a generic character, and by putting on a hat you take on the role of a specific class. Each time you die you respawn back on your ship as a generic character.

Mages can cast ranged spells and area effect spells, priests can heal allies, rangers can attack from afar, warriors are skilled at melee combat, and workers can harvest resources and build things like catapults and siege engines.

Each of the five hat machines can be upgraded once to produce a different type of hat, effectively giving you 10 different classes. For example, a fire mage can be upgraded to an ice mage that freezes enemies. A worker can be upgraded to a bomber, the ranger becomes a gunner, and the warrior becomes a lancer. When you're playing as one of the upgraded classes you can swap back to the default version of that class at any time by pressing the triangle button.

The game can be played any number of ways based on the class you choose. For example, I found that early on it was advantageous to play as a worker so I could gather wood and ore, which I used to upgrade the hat machines as quickly as possible. If you get tired of a class you can always go back to your base and grab a new hat, or you can find any fallen unit's hat on the ground and pick it up to swap classes in the field.

Fat Princess requires much more than shoveling cake into the dainty maw of a ravenous princess. There's melee combat, which is simple but necessary, but charging into your opponent's base without a plan isn't likely to get you anywhere. You'll need to coordinate your efforts if you want to have any hope of success. This is especially difficult if you're playing alone since you only control one unit, and calling out for help is about the extent of the control you're given over the bots on your team.

Because the map is large and full of obstacles, getting around can be tricky. You can bring up a strategic map at any time by pressing the select button. This allows you to get a lay of the land and plan your attack. To further improve mobility you can have a worker build bridges, ladders, and springboards to make it easier to traverse the map. You can also take control of an outpost, which will then instantly transport you back to your base should you need to change hats, upgrade your machines, or attend to the princess.

In the short demo I played, the eponymous princess didn't actually play a large role in the game. She mostly just sat there in the base, getting skinny after not eating for awhile, or plumping up after scarfing down a slice of cake. A few times an enemy unit would snatch her up, but because it takes so long to carry a buxom princess across the map, there was usually plenty of time to intercept and overwhelm the kidnappers to reclaim the princess. Hopefully the units will be balanced enough in the final product to prevent stalemates.

The quirky charm and low-brow humor of Fat Princess belies a surprisingly deep and fully enjoyable game that encourages teamwork and trickery in addition to arcade-style combat and light platforming. The addition of multiple game modes, avatar customization, and a one-on-one gladiator mode is just icing on the cake.

Fat Princess is scheduled to arrive on PlayStation Network some time this summer.