Fat Princess: Fistful of Cake
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment of America
Developer: SuperVillian Studios
Genre: Strategic Action
Release Date: 05/04/2010
After a stellar 2009, the PSP’s library has dried up a tad, but it is still running strong thanks to the launch of PSP Minis and the handheld’s digital delivery platform. As such, it’s still refreshing when we see Sony roll out with a new original company-exclusive series that displays the uniqueness of its freshman portable effort. Tomorrow sees the release of Titan Studio’s Fat Princess on the PSP, under the subtitle Fistful of Cake, this time re-developed by SuperVillian Studios. A few slices had to be taken from this cake in order to accommodate the jump from the Playstation 3, however, the premise and extra content hold up well in the transition, even though there are some annoying caveats to keep in mind if you have an eye on this treat.
Much like the original version, Fistful of Cake oversees two armies – one blue and one red – duking it out in blood-soaked medieval-style combat. The premise is one of capture the flag, however, Fat Princess obviously substitutes a fair damsel in place of a flag. Carrying out your mission could be as simple as running straight through the opposition’s defenses and hiking back to your castle with the princess in tow, however, in video game fashion, of course, there is more to the premise. The princesses can be fattened up with magical cake, temporarily making them much harder to carry. In the meantime, the rest of the map unfolds with strategic warfare that sees players donning hats that assign them classes such as warriors, archers and mages, along with critical workers that gather up wood and stone materials to build barricades, ladders and catapults while also being able to upgrade the various hat machines for more powerful and versatile classes.
Fistful of Cake introduces a single-player “The Legend of the Fat Princess” mode that lays down an overall story. The princesses of the two warring factions used to meet up in gatherings, but upon discovering the magical cake in the forest, their craving for the cake creates a difficult situation for both kingdoms. Not too far into the mode, it is discovered that the craving curse can only be cured by the kiss of a prince and when it is declared Prince Albert (ugh …) will be in the area in the near future, the war between the two kingdoms becomes serious business as each king does everything in his power to make sure their daughter is the one that secures the prince’s affections. The story is hardly amazing, but it does a fair job in a genre that probably in most cases wouldn’t even attempt to craft an expanded narrative. Fortunately, Tom Kane (most notable recently for his work as Mr. Herriman on Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends) provides narration and commentary during the game, and his gruff, gentlemanly voice is a perfect fit for the fairy tale nature of the game, bumping the story’s appeal up quite a bit.
Thankfully, the title gives players quite a few modes to fall back on. Not only can the story mode be played on multiple difficulty settings, but the player can tackle a battle in free mode that allows for a healthy selection of modes that include four modes original to the PSP version. A survival-type mode also allows players to enter an arena and forsake the strategy elements of the main game to fend off enemies for as long as they can stay alive. Ad-Hoc and infrastructure modes allow for multiplayer, although the PSP version cuts the number of players allowed in a game. With features that allow a player to customize their avatars, extra maps and other exclusives, and a large number of different modifiers, there is actually a lot to do and see in Fistful of Cake, definitely giving players their money’s worth.
Even though the game is making a move to the PSP, the title doesn’t suffer too much in its presentation. The audio is still in the player’s face with satisfying combat sound effects and gruesome weapon blows that spill buckets of blood, and each tune is appropriate to the situation or stage, which really drives the action. Tom Kane’s commentary can be repetitive, but not only do the phrases alert players to happenings in the battle, hearing the various internet memes in his voice is sure to give most players a good chuckle.
Visually, the game makes great use of vivid colors, which really bring the environments to life. The menus and storybook sections feature cute-style handrawn art that is quite unique and humorous, and the menus are clean and filled with humorous descriptors of each option. The characters, on the other hand, suffer a little due to the zoomed-out nature of the maps. The soldiers are fairly jaggy around the edges and it is hard to discern much detail in the model or animations, which can really put players’ eyes to the test when groups of soliders meet in combat. In all, though, Fistful of Cake’s presentation really comes through to provide quality visuals and audio for the player to soak in.
The gameplay in Fistful of Cake is pretty straightforward, offering up very responsive controls. Characters control fluidly and most of the time respond as the player would like them to. Occasionally, there will some issues in picking up items, and it is at times a chore to reach up to the d-pad to attempt to control any CPU teammates in the area, but otherwise, the control is scheme is comfortable and makes sense. Likewise, the gameplay is just as straightforward, as while there are numerous modes of play, each one has a simple concept and the player is given a lot of freedom in accomplishing most of the goals.
Unfortunately, the biggest slam against Fistful of Cake is made evident when the player doesn’t have any humans to fill in the slots in their army. I’ll use the term “intelligence” loosely when describing the AI, as your CPU companions will do some downright frustrating things to make your mission two hundred percent more difficult than it should be.
In the mode where players are required to drop a bomb off in the opposing throne room, my AI would carry the bomb all the way to the goal. The bomb must set for about five seconds before going off, but at the last second, one of my CPU soldiers would pick up the bomb and kill everyone in the area with the explosion. Whatever. The final straw, though, came when the CPU did this to me three times in a row. You’ll also be constantly fighting against your CPU worker class for resources. In the mission where players must assemble an altar in the middle of the map, your CPU workers will be far more interested in wasting your resources to build ladders and gates and upgrade various hat machines. Even in the most simplistic of missions, I never know what my CPU teammates are doing because they sure aren’t interested in helping me nab the opposing princess, even when I attempt to utilize the feature to command units to tag along with me. In all, the CPU seems to have its own agenda no matter the goal of the current battle and these instances really grate away at an otherwise fun strategy title.
When you can actually click with your army and get things done, Fistful of Cake is actually quite rewarding, providing players with a satisfying blend of action and strategy. The game’s presentation and unique premise, combined with its humor, craft a very appealing title, and even with its downsides, Fat Princess is still a winner. There are six exclusive maps to provide more value and all of the maps feature quite a variety in environments and throw out some tricky terrain to traverse. There is a good variety of modes even for a single player, though the oafish AI might drive down the replay value and addictiveness the title would otherwise have. With a review copy prior to launch, I wasn’t able to test out the multiplayer, but future players can look forward to four versus four matchups. While this would still leave CPU drones on your teams, at least then you could look forward to up to three other (hopefully) competent soldiers to back you up. Fistful of Cake has the makings of a great title; unfortunately, the AI issues are seriously a big enough of a drag to hold the title back a few notches from “must-buy” territory.
While Fistful of Cake is a port of a PS3 title, you won’t really find anything else like it on the system and a number of refreshing changes have been made to provide exclusive content. If you can find a way to shake off the frustration the AI will no doubt dish out to you, Fistful of Cake is worth every penny. It’s got a lot of charm and solid gameplay to back it up, but players won’t get the most out of their time with the game unless they dive into the online or local multiplayer.
Story/Modes: VERY GOOD
Control and Gameplay: ENJOYABLE
Replayability: ABOVE AVERAGE
Appeal Factor: GREAT
FINAL SCORE: GOOD GAME
Short Attention Span Summary
Fistful of Cake is what the PSP really needs right now – Sony-exclusive titles with a ton of charm and appeal. This Fat Princess remake features a ton of solid gameplay, unique strategy elements, great presentation and exclusive game content that provides great variety. There are a few technical issues, but interested gamers will really have to take some narrow-minded AI into account. Your CPU drones will do things that will make you triple facepalm and these instances really drag the game down a bit. Outside of these issues, Fistful of Cake is fantastic game that will give PSP owners a great distraction for only $19.99.