Behind the cutesy visuals, the humorous notion of fighting over cake to fatten up and make your kingdom’s princess harder to kidnap, and the surprising amount of gore, Fat Princess was a fun class-based online multiplayer game. It’s strange to think that it’s been six years since that game first graced the PlayStation 3, but it wasn’t forgotten, and Fun Bits developed a long overdue follow up, which was released over the weekend at Sony’s PlayStation Experience event.
Alongside Chris Miller, Fun Bits’ CEO, and a couple of other staff, John Mundy worked on the original game, before founding Fun Bits. He said, “We wished we could have gotten to it sooner, but it is still a Sony owned IP so they do control the shots. It’s still our game, and we love it; it’s our baby!”
From the bright visuals – albeit in more of a traditional CG style, compared to the cel shaded original – to the pun-laden story and the (optional) blood spatter, it’s immediately clear that this is more of the same game world. However, this time that world is presented as an action RPG adventure, built around four player co-op, rather than an online battler.
The game’s framed simply enough: the Bitter Queen is leading her armies of Gobblings in an invasion of the kingdoms of Great Bitten, where red and blue now live in harmony. It’s up to you and anyone who joins you to stop her kidnapping and making off with princesses Plump and Muffintop. But at its heart, it’s still got much of the same spirit.
“It’s still a chaos-fest, and it’s awesome.” John said. “Four players is still pretty chaotic and we have quite a few enemies on screen, but yeah, it was just a chance to grow the game and make it a bigger world, because there really wasn’t a lot of story to it in the original.
“But there’s a lot that we still brought over. The princess and the cake, the favourite classes, like the Warrior, Mage and the Archer, but the one we’re really excited about is the engineer, because everyone liked to play the Worker. This isn’t a game where you have resources and you build stuff, but we still found a way to bring the Worker over as the Engineer, and he’s got this big hammer now.
“So we had a lot of fun building this out, and we feel like folks who played the first game will be familiar, and the controls are really similar too, so it’s not like a total reboot or anything, it’s more of an addition to the first game, really.”
The original’s six character classes – and three DLC additions – have been whittled down to just four that better suit the archetypes needed for a bit of dungeon crawling. The Warrior is on the front lines alongside the Engineer, while the Archer and Mage lend you a little more range and support. Switching between them is as simple as walking up to the checkpoint fountains and pressing on the D-Pad to pick a different one to play as.
Each character has two attacks which can be used quickly or charged up, like the Warrior’s sword swiping and shield bashing or the Archer’s arrow fire and dagger. The Engineer’s whirlwind, for example, lasts a surprisingly long time, spinning through the crowds of enemy Gobblings.
But the best and silliest attacks are saved for when you eat a slice of cake while already at full health. Your customised character balloons in size, is stripped down to their baby-like underwear and gets to run around in a fashion not too dissimilar to the Titans from Attack on Titan. Their arms stick out to the side as they careen forward, either dealing an awful lot of damage with swinging arms or stunning enemies with area of effect attacks.
Of course, an action RPG would feel bereft of content if it didn’t have a compelling loot and levelling up system. From hats to new weapons, you’ll find more than enough gear with which to improve your character, and there’s a nice and steady drip feed of new stuff. It won’t necessarily be for the class you’re playing as, but that’s hardly an issue when you can hop back and forth with such ease. Whatever you pick up helps to boost your character’s stats in battle, but can be upgraded at vendors for the coins you pick up throughout the game.
John explained that, “Eventually, to upgrade loot, you need to have gems as well. There’s two types of currency, but they’re not like microtransactions, we’re not asking you to go and buy gems [from the PS Store]. For us, it’s how do we gate players who have done well versus players who have really embraced the game and maximised everything.
“So players who’ve played a lot can show it. Your gear actually changes art; there’s ten levels to every gear piece and once you get to five, the art changes, and when you get to ten it upgrades one more time. So you’re running around with players online and you’ll be like, ‘Oh! You’ve got that crazy glowing unicorn rainbow staff!’ Like, why not?
“That’s why we have two currencies, because you actually have to play the harder difficulties. That’s where you get your gems, that’s the only reason.”
This system adds depth to what is some fairly straightforward RPG gaming early on, with small side quests to track down from the hub world of Great Bitten, not long after you’ve saved it from Bitter Queen’s siege. Exploring this and the nearby areas, there’s plenty of environmental humour, from NPCs with puns and cultural references for their names, to the bizarrely amusing sight of clowns performing CPR.
Discussing some of their influences, John said, “We felt like Fat Princess fit something like Diablo or Gauntlet, that sort of thing, and Chris Miller has a pedigree through Blizzard, so it was really an easy transition to be like, ‘Let’s do the same camera angle, but four player co-op. Oh my god! There’s all these games that are familiar, so let’s bring them in and do our own cutesy version.’
“There aren’t a lot of really funny games that I think appeal pretty broadly. Kids […] just pick it up really quickly, but there’s a lot of depth to the RPG parts. You get gear and you upgrade your gear and pick a class that you want to focus on, but just like the first one, you can switch classes whenever you want at the checkpoint fountains.”
There’s a few rough edges that I noticed early on, such as the lack of facial animation to go alongside the voice acting, not having emotes to let you prompt co-op buddies, and the jumps to cutscenes between the three stages of the first major boss fight are jarring.
Having said that, Far Princess Adventures gets off to a good start, as it reintroduces you to the vibrantly violent kingdom, and you set off on the first few quests and missions.
Now, here’s hoping Sony let Fun Bits loose on another competitive multiplayer Fat Princess…