I'm a fan of the Fat Princess franchise. Running around brightly colored, cartoon maps and hacking other players to death with an axe is a blast, and it's rewarding to stuff a woman's face with cake so that she gets so heavy her rescuers can barely carry her hefty heine to safety. But something weird happened while I was playing Fat Princess: Fistful of Cake.
I realized I didn't want to play anymore.
Granted, that realization came while I was playing the single-player "Legend of the Fat Princess" portion of the title, but it's a feeling that permeates the game at times. The problem with Fat Princess: Fistful of Cake is it doesn't play to the PSP's strengths.
If you're just joining us, Fat Princess: Fistful of Cake is a game that pits two teams -- one red, one blue -- against one another in one of several game types. There's stuff like team deathmatch, but the game's calling card is Rescue the Princess. Here, the red team starts with the blue team's princess locked in its dungeon and vice versa. The first team to rescue their princess, get her back on the throne, and keep the prisoner secured wins the match.
PS3 vs. PSP?
You might notice in this review that I go out of my way not to compare Fistful of Cake to last year's PlayStation 3 version of Fat Princess. Basically, I want Fistful of Cake to stand on its own as a PSP game and not be compared to a PS3 game. Of course, if you're wondering, Fistful of Cake is an exact port of the PS3 version (same menus and music) with five news maps, two new modes, and a new story for Legend of the Fat Princess. On the PSP, there's no way to invite your friends to games, block out spots for them, or talk to folks online like there was on the PS3. Plus, the graphics aren't as nice and there isn't as much detail (of course). On the PS3, 32 players can play at once whereas only eight can play in one match on the PSP. So, you're both gaining and losing stuff in a PSP game that costs $5 more than its PS3 counterpart.
Saving and securing comes down to you and your teammates. When you start, you're just plain ol' men, but littered around your castle are hat machines that spit out class caps. Pick one up, and you instantly turn into a warrior, ranger, priest, mage, or worker. Each class comes with its own unique abilities and attacks -- the warrior can use a shield and the ranger can fire arrows -- and you can change classes at anytime by picking up a different hat. Workers are running around gathering lumber and stone to upgrade the hat machines so that the players using said hats become more powerful.
This setup is a blast. There's no denying that I love running around, stabbing enemies, and watching blood spurt onto the ground. There are strategies to master (have a warrior out attacking with a priest behind him to heal the muscle, a team of workers fixing doors and making catapults, and so on), shortcuts on the game's 17 maps to find, and a whole bunch of skin colors and hairstyles to unlock for your character.
But then we run into the PSP version's shortcomings. Fat Princess is a multiplayer game where up to 16 cutesy characters run around the screen, but the PSP can only handle four real players in those 16-player infrastructure matches; the rest are bots, but you can host eight-on-eight ad-hoc matches. Success in Fat Princess comes down to communication and working as a team to manage resources and cross the map, but Fistful of Cake doesn't support voicechat like other PSP games. When you do play a single-player match, sometimes there are specific win conditions that the bots you're working with will blatantly ignore. The PSP isn't 3G, so you can't just jump into an online game whenever you want. Although other games have added clans and such, Fistful of Cake provides you no way to invite friends to games online. Fat Princess can be fun, but it's got so many hang-ups, it's not crazy freakin' fun.
A few nights ago, an IGN team of four entered an ad-hoc Fat Princess: Fistful of Cake tournament Sony set up, and it was so much fun. We huddled together to think up strategies, called out when we needed help, and each had a role to play in our attack plan. Of course, then we had to deal with AI players we couldn't get to follow us and the fact that all the camaraderie we were enjoying could never be shared online. Similarly, we'd have to find another four people with PSPs and Fat Princess if we wanted to replicate the eight-on-eight match we were playing.
When I got home, I jumped back into the single-player mode and was tasked with trying to create a shrine before my opponents could. Trouble was, just when I'd get enough wood to build the next segment of the shrine, my dumbass AI helpers would go and upgrade the mage hat machine. This happened a bunch of times and led to me losing the round a bunch of times. I understood that we needed to build one thing as quickly as possible, but my computer-controlled friends had no idea what to do. In the end, I sat at the shire so that I could build as soon as I had enough resources.
This sucked, and you can expect the bots to make the same bonehead moves with your precious resources when you're playing multiplayer matches. If you want, you can have human-only online matches for two players, four players, six players, and eight players.
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