Nothing is more beautiful than the love between a parent and a child. As a father of 2 boys, 9 and 2, I understand that there is a lot of hard work and sacrifice that goes into raising children. Now I know what you must be wondering, “Josh, this is supposed to be a video game review, why are you talking about parenting you, idiot?!”, but as much as Battle Princess Madelyn is indeed a video game, it is also a loving gift from Creative Director of CASUAL BIT Games, Christopher Obritsch, to his little girl Madelyn. We, the gamers, happen to be lucky enough to also receive this gift!
If I may, I would like to talk about the studio CASUAL BIT before I talk about the game. “Battle Princess Madelyn” is the second game to be released by the studio, their first game being “Insanity’s Blade The Arcade Experience.” The studio really does focus on taking all of us back in time to the NES era of games. I can certainly appreciate this as a guy in my mid 30’s with a fondness of the late ’80s and early ’90s. They go so far as to boast that Insanity’s Blade could actually be played on the original NES hardware! I could very well see Battle Princess Madelyn being on the Super Nintendo! From the sounds to the visuals and everything in-between, CASUAL BIT knocks IT out of the park. The studio itself consists of only a small handful of individuals if you want to count Madelyn as “Master of All!”
But enough of all that, let’s talk about Battle Princess Madelyn! There is a reason I mentioned that the game is a loving gift and that is because how this game came to be. When Christopher was 9 he lost his first dog Champ, and he wrote a story about it. Players will see this as they start the game, sadly. How did that story turn into the game though?? As fate would happen, he grew up loving the hardest game in the universe “Ghouls’N Ghosts” (Really though, It makes Dark Souls look like a sunny Sunday afternoon at the park!) His daughter Madelyn apparently really likes watching him play the first level because she wants to see him fight “Greenhead”, the Shielder boss at the end of the first stage. In fact, she even wanted to be IN the game! Upon telling her that he couldn’t do that because the game was made by someone else so he would have to make a new game, her reply was that girls can’t be knights, only boys. This game is a loving gift to Madelyn.
To state that the game leans heavily on “Ghouls’N Ghosts” would be an understatement. When you have all your health, you are wearing a full suit of armor, but as you take damage, you will find the Princess running around in nothing but the most basic cloth drab. Not to mention that the main weapon you start with are spears that you chuck at enemies. Thankfully these are infinite otherwise I would be in big trouble at some of the boss fights I went into! I love that you have the ability to also throw directly up, as some of the platforming areas can be tricky with enemies standing on ledges.
Let’s talk about the gameplay itself, as it is easily the focal point of everything the game really excels with. The game has hand drawn 16-bit pixel art that really shines with the amazing lighting job. The anime-esque menu in the game’s intro really sets the tone for a fun adventure. The games story mode is, essentially, a story told by a grandfather to his granddaughter who stayed home from school with sickness. This really opens up the game to do whatever it pleases as we have all changed bits and pieces of stories as we go along! I LOVE that the game has 2 separate soundtracks as well. Feel like you want to really complete the old-school feel?? Turn on the PCM soundtrack and let that nostalgia take you over. However, if you want a more modern feel, you can leave the original orchestral soundtrack on. Don’t worry though, both sound great!
Battle Princess Madelyn features 2 modes of playing the game. The aforementioned story mode has towns you can go into where you can interact with villagers to pick up side quests. If you are a grizzled old school gamer or just someone that really likes a challenge, you can take on the Arcade Mode. No towns, no frills, all thrills! I will admit though, I tried the Arcade Mode out and I was absolutely obliterated pretty quick! This is either a testament to how hard the mode is, or that I need to just “Git Gud”, or a combination of both of those.
I loved Battle Princess Madelyn! It was easy to see the vision the studio had when making the game and I would say that they did a great job with the execution. Sure, the game can be pretty difficult in spots, however, that is part of the charm of making games in the vein of the hardest damn game ever made! The multiple options of optimizing how to play the game were a nice treat. Let’s hope for all our sakes that young Madelyn continues to give her dad good ideas for games so that we see more great games come from CASUAL BIT!
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*