Review - Battle Princess Madelyn (@CausalBitGames @HoundPicked)

Battle Princess Madelyn from Casual Bit Games and Hound Picked Games is a Kickstarter darling, almost quadrupling its original goal. And one of the most charming things about it is that the main character is modeled after the developer's seven-year-old daughter Madelyn. The homage to one's progeny is an inverse of what Battle Princess Madelyn sets out to achieve in terms of its inspiration.

The core of the game apes classics such as Ghouls n' Ghosts with a little bit of Castlevania thrown in for good measure. The story follows along with Madelyn and her ghostly pet dog Fritzy, journeying to save her kingdom and family from an evil wizard. The story is simple enough and clearly wants the player to appreciate the gameplay mechanics more than anything else. And those gameplay mechanics are both simple and complex at the same time.

A lot of games like to evoke nostalgia and offer a throwback vibe, which unfortunately means the controls are extremely rigid. When the NES was in its heyday players only had a four-directional pad that dictated moving in only four directions. That was a necessary evil at the time, but where we are now it's really difficult to enjoy a game that still uses that constricting device as "nostalgia." For instance, Super Meat Boy was a brilliant throwback that maintained the difficulty of games of the past, but gave the player a chance to actually get better and overcome them. Something being difficult for the sake of being difficult is just frustrating as a player.

Controls are pretty loose all things considered. Madelyn moves fairly freely through the levels, giving the player some flexibility in terms of how they handle the stages. Sure, the game is still a 2D side-scroller, but there are tons of collectibles hidden throughout the stages that offer extra rewards and hidden stages. There are also two gameplay modes: Arcade which is more of the fast-paced, traditional version and a Story mode that's more of a full-adventure experience. There are ten levels to start with, each of which includes up to five stages and offers the player plenty of chances to upgrade their weapons.

Graphically and acoustically the game is definitely a great throwback. The art is hand-drawn, pixel art that relies on the Unity Engine and looks just plain gorgeous. There's a wide variety of level designs that ensure the player doesn't feel like the game is just rinsing and repeating on design choices. Enemies also sport a good variety, requiring the playing to adjust their tactics on the fly to get through the difficult levels. There's also two different soundtracks: one that's the Classic Arcade FM/PCM and another which is a more modern orchestrated version by Gryzor87 from Maldita Castilla. Both options give the player some flexibility in how much throwback they want.

Battle Princess Madelyn is a fun side-scroller that pays homage well. That being said, there are some areas where reminiscing isn't always a good thing. The controls feel a little dated despite its intent, but the artwork is gorgeous and the audio is great. The concept of the game is also tried and true; what makes it sweeter is the daughter's inspiration for the main character. There is still some sense of repetition that wears on the player as well as (sometimes) a lack of direction as to what the game is trying to accomplish.

Battle Princess Madelyn is available on all major platforms.