GDC 2009: Fat Princess Hands On

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It’s kind of like Left 4 Dead, but with fewer zombies and more cake.

I’ve been dying for the chance to get my hands on Fat Princess, the cartoony multiplayer title coming to the PlayStation Network later this summer. I didn’t know much about it besides that it had aggressively cheerful cartoon styling, a sharp sense of humor and some calorically-challenged royalty. I was pleasantly surprised that there’s some genuine substance backing up that style.

Though there is a single-player mode that works pretty much like a tutorial, the majority of the game is devoted to multiplayer. There’s a death match mode, an arena where you can put your combat skills to the test, and the Capture the Princess mode, which works just like Capture the Flag. Each mode supports up to 32 players, divided into two teams. Each team has several different character types: archers, priests, wizards, workers, and warriors. Each job plays a vital role in the success of the campaign; workers gather resources to upgrade the machines of your castle, priests heal, and warriors beat the stuffing out of the other team.

You can switch your character class by visiting the different hat machines in your castle. When you want to switch classes, just put on a different hat. If you see that you’re running short of resources, you can quickly don a worker’s hat to chop wood or gather ore. Once you’ve got enough materials, you can choose another hat and another job. Upgrading the hat machines creates stronger, more powerful hats, giving you new abilities.

Each mode supports up to 32 players, which turns matches into brightly-colored chaos. Much like Valve’s hit Left 4 Dead, Fat Princess‘s multiplayer emphasizes the importance of teamwork. If you just try to strike out on your own to nab the enemy princess or rescue your own, you’re likely going to die. Repeatedly. This is where the game’s “hidden” character class comes in – the “director.” Hitting Select brings up a real-time map that shows you the placement and type of every player on the map. You can tell at a glance where the archers are, if the princess is well guarded, or if you’re painfully short on healers. A savvy director can oversee the action and give his team the intel they need for a well-organized assault. Coordinated efforts are the recipe for success; fortunately, Fat Princess supports press-to-talk voice chat to make communicating with your team a breeze.

As for the fatness, you feed cake to the enemy princess to make her heavier and harder to spirit away. She slims down very quickly, though, so it takes a steady stream of cake to keep her portly. The cake springs up magically out of the ground, and workers can pick it up and feed it to your captive.

I only got to see the capture the princess game mode, but I was duly impressed. The cartoon graphics are silly and lighthearted – one spell turns enemy players into chickens, for example – but the game has plenty of depth to offer the strategically-minded. You can either just jump right into a game, or create your own, if you’d like to have bit more control over things.

From what I got to sample, Fat Princess is balls out, unrestrained bedlam, that successfully taps into the childlike urge we all have to make mischief. Don’t let its cutesy exterior fool you – this is deep and satisfying multiplayer action. Look for it on the PlayStation Network later this summer.

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