by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
Ghouls and Ghosts/Ghosts and Goblins/Whichever iteration you can think of can be considered the hardest franchise of the 80s and 90s. Brutal, unforgivable, and completely irredeemable in terms of challenge, I loved them anyway. The Ghouls and Ghosts franchise is a side-scrolling shooter/action game from the days of the NES and Arcades, where you had three lives, two hits and you were dead, but a variety of weapons with which to demolish the dead and demonic alike. However, it tricked you and made you play through the game two times in order to see the True Ending – the game was hard enough on its own! It didn’t need a second playthrough! That style of games comes back in a big way, with some quality-of-life changes for a more modern era, with Battle Princess Madelyn.
I’ve been reading about and posting news about Battle Princess Madelyn for the better part of this year, and I was skeptical, to say the least. This style of game makes my blood boil (and that’s when they’re done right), and that’s putting it mildly. But Battle Princess Madelyn is more than a simple platformer/action title. It’s also a Metroidvania! The Story Mode has you running back and forth, collecting powerups and growing stronger. You’ll help the various people of this kingdom and ultimately prove your worth and be the hero of your own story. She’s tough, she’s cute, and she throws javelins with the best of them. I couldn’t figure out how to Game Over in the Story Mode, though. I just kept dying and coming back over and over. That’s fine, but it robbed Battle Princess Madelyn of a little of the challenge. Only a little, mind – you still have two hits til dead, tricky jumps, ridiculously frustrating enemies and much more besides. However, the game isn’t hard thanks to controls. Fans of the Ghouls and Ghosts series already understand the floaty double jump. Newcomers might be a little frustrated, but you’ll adjust, I promise.
The Adventure Mode is nice, because it’s got a catchy story, and is honestly enjoyable to explore this gorgeous pixel-designed world. The music and setting are both suitable to this style of game. However, I often found myself without direction, with no idea what to do, and the what of what I was supposed to do was ill-explained. I was never really sure where I was going or what I was doing, which wasn’t a big deal, but the current objectives and such could certainly stand to have a little explanation. Or at least, a little more. Despite that, it’s a fun mode and feels like the more casual mode despite being just as hard as the Arcade Mode of Battle Princess Madelyn. You’re still going to die a lot, but you’ll be dying and confused where to go next. The better mode, personally, is Arcade Mode.
Arcade Mode just has Madelyn trekking across this horrific, dangerous game, the same stages, but without the cutscenes and dialogue. it’s just non-stop mayhem and violence. She still has magic powers, her javelin/lance, the double jump, and the ability to throw it in four directions. I would love a diagonal shot, but if Arthur didn’t have it, she doesn’t have it. One major flaw though is she can’t throw up while on a ladder. So if you’re on a ladder and enemies walk past that can drop boulders/skulls/etc on you, you have to jump off the ladder, aim up and hope they walk into your shots. Very frustrating, but you definitely have to be patient in a game like this. The enemies are cruel but have very predictable patterns, so at least with trial and error you can get by and start kicking ass in this game. However, it wasn’t clear when I was about to run out of attempts in the game, and found myself starting over with no real explanation. The UI could be made just a bit more clear for things like that. Visually though, I love it. The 16-bit style really serves this game well, and all of the enemies look suitably horrid and show up from out of the background or from behind graves.
That’s One Boss-Ass Princess: 3.5/5:
With a little direction, this game could be fantastic. It’s already pretty fun, and I like that it’s a kick-ass Princess that’s not in need of being saved. She even gets knocked down to a shift/nightgown like Arthur did (only his were boxer shorts), and it has that same charm and same challenge as the original Ghouls and Ghosts games. Ghouls and Ghosts also had unlimited continues, so you could always keep trying until you got it right, so the way Battle Princess Madelyn is set up, it’s in that same vein. You can just keep trying and learning what the enemies can and cannot do. It’s fun, it’s difficult, it’s exactly what I expected. But I still have no idea what so many things in the game do, so with a bit more explanation or aid in that department, the game would go much further. That said, it’s an incredibly enjoyable tribute to the blood-boiling games of my youth. I also love that I can add scanlines, so it feels like a CRT TV of old. It’s beautiful.
A code was provided for this review. Apologies for the lack of exciting screenshots but do you know how hard it is to take pictures while playing a game like this on a controller? It would have been easier on PS4, but here we are.