Battle Princess Madelyn inspires flashbacks to previous titles such as Ghost ‘n’ Goblins, Metroid and Castlevania. It’s not hard to see where the developers drew their inspiration from for this game.
That’s not to say that it’s a bad thing to see a game wear it’s inspiration so proudly on it’s sleeve. In fact, the moment you lay eyes on its pixel artwork and see the armor-clad Madelyn lobbing lances at the shuffling skeletons in a murky marsh, you’ll be prepared for what’s to come.
A Terrible Tragedy
After recovering from a family kidnapping and the death of the family dog, Fritzy, due to a wicked sorcerer, our hero naturally seeks vengeance. Madelyn, fuelled by this tragedy, sets out to find and defeat the evil fiend. In a surprisingly original twist, the soul of Fritzy accompanies her and even helps to revive her should she fall in combat. On her quest to save her loved ones, Madelyn will explore creepy crypts, sprawling caves, volcanic peaks, haunted fields, and dangerous waters! It’s a simple premise and an effective one, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy.
There are two play modes in Battle Princess Madelyn: Arcade Mode and Story Mode. Both options follow the same story but present it in a different way.
Arcade Mode is short on dialogue and cinematics and long on fierce action, while Story Mode goes far more in-depth, featuring a semi-open world, story beats to progress through, items and secrets to uncover, and NPCs to interact with. Movement and action in both modes are similar, though in Story Mode, Madelyn has to find items needed to progress and gain abilities; in arcade mode, she has the necessary abilities from the start (aside from optional weapon drops from enemies).
Arcade mode is where you can most clearly see this game’s inspiration most. From the one-hit buffer of your breakable armor and the various weapons like lances and axes, to the unending waves of creeping zombies that make it hard to stay in one place for too long. It does improve on it’s classic inspiration titles in some key ways though.
Challenging & Rewarding
For instance, Madelyn’s double-jump is much easier to control and her life force, powered by Fritzy’s ghostly magic, can be replenished by slaying enough enemies. She can also spend a little bit of Fritzy’s magic to perform a homing attack on an enemy, which is a great aid in some of the trickier areas.
The Arcade Mode is easily the best part of Battle Princess Madelyn. It’s a tough action-platformer that rewards careful, thoughtful play and features memorable environments, tricky platforming, and some really cool encounters with gigantic bosses. Yes, you do have to restart the whole level if Fritzy’s life-giving magic power runs dry, but that’s part of the old-school experience.
At least you don’t have to insert more coins to continue!
While Arcade Mode is a great experience for challenge-seeking action fans, Story Mode is a pretty heavy disappointment in comparison. It feels like a fumbled effort at trying to fit a patient, precise platformer into an exploration-based gameplay mold. More often than not, it fails in incredibly frustrating ways. Unfortunately, Story Mode is also the default mode (at the top of the selection list), meaning that most gamers are going to play it first and ultimately be put off by it. I was one of them and if I hadn’t of been reviewing the game I probably would have never gone back to try the Arcade mode, which would have been a real shame. Story Mode tasks you with exploring several interconnected areas based on similar design concepts to the ones seen in arcade mode, but with very different layouts. Your abilities are extremely limited at the beginning, and in order to progress, you need to scour these sprawling areas to find routes, items, and NPCs that will help you on your quest.
Problems Quickly Emerge
The problems with Story Mode become obvious from an early point, and only worsen as the game progresses. For starters, the extremely large, enemy filled areas feature little in the way of checkpoints, meaning that should you lose all of Madelyn’s energy, then you are forced to do a complete restart from the area’s entrance. This is a tolerable setback in a linear arcade mode, but infuriating in an exploration-driven game. The main problem I found is that a lot of these areas tend to look the same, so unless the level you’re in features a very linear path, you may have some serious trouble figuring out how to get back to a specific location. In exploration games like this, objectives are normally logged in a quest log or are shown via objective markers on a map screen but since Battle Princess Madelyn doesn’t feature either of these things, navigating becomes increasingly tedious; especially when factoring in potential deaths and checkpoint resets.
Lack of Navigational Tools
One way the game does try to guide you is with a bony skeleton hand that will sometimes pop up to point in the general direction of important items. However it’s less useful than a map screen would be and more frustrating when the means to get to said items are difficult to discern. Compared to the skill-testing action-game challenges of Arcade Mode, Story Mode’s challenges are frustrating in a far more annoying way. The game quite often just fails to tell you what you’re supposed to be doing, leaving you to wander aimlessly through huge, dangerous maps in the vain hope that you might find something.
Battle Princess Madelyn looks and sounds fantastic. That was never in dispute, it’s just a shame that the games Story Mode just doesn’t hold up. If the Arcade Mode was the main mode I don’t think it would be too much of a problem but the Story Mode is what is presented front and centre and it just drags the other mode down.
There is at least one great game in the Battle Princess Madelyn package, but it’s hard to fully recommend it when half of the game just doesn’t work with the other.
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Stick to Arcade Mode
- There's a good game hiding behind the terrible Story Mode - 7/107/10
At it’s core, Battle Princess Madelyn is a worthy successor to the aforementioned titles, hitting it’s stride early on with challenging action and solid mechanics. It’s a shame then, that the large scale levels and tricky platforming seem to tarnish the overall experience with Story Mode being a huge disappointment to the overall feel of the game.
Hi I was born in the 80’s and raised in the 90’s and I’ve been a fan of gaming all of my life. I live in Kingston Upon Hull with my wife and two daughters. I fit my gaming in around a full time job and full house. I love big and complex stories and a good fluid gameplay. For me gaming is about being entertained and having fun.