Inside Pulse 12

Review: Amazing Princess Sarah (Xbox 360)

Amazing Princess SarahAmazing Princess Sarah
Publisher: Haruneko
Developer: Haruneko
Genre: Platformer
Release Date: 7/9/2014

When you look at the cover image for Amazing Princess Sarah, you might be led to think this is just another stupid indie game with fan service to make up for the poor content quality. Normally, I might share your skepticism; after all, it is a picture of a girl with copious cleavage and a distraught look on her face. Sarah, assuming that’s her on the cover, can’t be that amazing, right? However, there isn’t really any fan service in the game at all, unless you count minimal pixellated boob physics (which are more amusing than anything), and it’s the most enjoyable platformer I’ve played in a while. As far as Sarah goes, she is pretty amazing. She can fight, for one, but she can also pick up and carry enemies, hurling them into other enemies for increased damage.

Amazing Princess SarahAmazing Princess Sarah is a roughly five-hour game with five castles and six bosses. The game has fairly straightforward and manageable controls: you can jump (be careful with this one), swing your sword, and pick up certain items (furniture and fallen enemies mostly) and throw them. After you beat the game, there are also seven New Game+ modes to choose from. You play as Princess Sarah, whose father (the king) has been kidnapped by Lilith. You make it your mission to rescue him, of course.

The game toes the line between challenging and cheap, thankfully mostly falling on the former side of the line. There are a few frustrating sections, however, mostly involving disappearing or moving platforms and bats with encounter rates rivaling Pokemon. If you’re expecting to fly through the game, you might be surprised by how difficult it is to do that, and how it doesn’t necessarily help you do to so. You level up as you kill enemies, and should you die (and you will die), you’ll be transported to the last save point you reached, thankfully with all your experience intact. There is the potential for grinding, but I wouldn’t recommend it, as it wouldn’t give you that much in return for the amount of time needed.

Amazing Princess SarahYou’ll quickly find that throwing enemies is a lot better than hitting them with your sword, as some of the enemies explode, others shoot off in straight lines, taking out anything in their path, and some kill everything on the screen, to name a few. The more enemies you manage to kill in combo, the more experience you will rack up, which allows you to do – and, more importantly, take – more damage.

Though there are bosses at the end of each level, though they actually took up less time and effort than getting through the levels themselves. I got stuck a couple times on a few different levels, to the point where I put the game down for a while, but only really had trouble with one boss. The bosses, then, end up not being the focus of the game, which seems a little counter-intuitive to how we normally think about level design. Some might argue that’s unfortunate, but I had a lot more fun trudging through each level than trying to figure out how to kill each boss, some of which had very… interesting… designs.

Amazing Princess SarahThere is a lot that’s reminiscent of older Metroidvania-type platforming games, including but not limited to the graphics, which are appealing for the style they’re in. I’m personally a little tired of 80s- and 90s-era “retro” graphics, but in this case, I could let it slide because it was so well done. Musically, the game has a great soundtrack. My only complaint there is that I could tell when the track repeated. The sound effects were well done, with a few of them being fairly amusing. Taken together, I definitely loved the audiovisual aspects of the game.

I am surprised I have as few and mostly minor complaints as I do with this game, but in all honesty, there isn’t a lot to complain about. I experienced no glitches, enjoyed myself (even when I was dying more than I’d like), and gave up in frustration only a few times. Even when I did give up, it was only temporary, and I found myself right back at the game a little while later. Amazing Princess Sarah doesn’t revolutionize Metroidvania-style games (I’m not even sure what would anymore, to be honest), but it does provide just enough of a fresh look that the game isn’t boring or stereotypical. There are some cute references to other games, if you’re paying attention, and the gameplay is simple and fun. At only $1, I don’t think there’s a lot of risk in getting this game if this is the style of game you enjoy.

Short Attention Span Summary

Amazing Princess Sarah probably doesn’t, at first glance, look like it’d be worth your time, but this is definitely a case of “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” The (mostly) fun level design, interesting gameplay, and strong visuals bring together an experience that will remind you of older Metroidvania games while keeping it fresh. I have very few complaints about the game other than the bats and being able to tell when the tracks are starting over. The game is only $1. It’s practically a steal. If you like these types of games, this is one I wouldn’t recommend passing up on.