It’s been well documented by the team at Causal Bit Games that Battle Princess Madelyn is both a love letter and spiritual sequel to Capcom’s Ghouls ‘n Ghosts series. As for the rest of the title, the inspiration comes directly from the mind of a child who happens to be one of the creator’s daughters. As you might have read in our March 2017 interview with Causal Bit’s Creative Director Christopher Obritsch, it’s his daughter – who also stars as the heroine in the game – that has helped select the locations, levels and even devised full-blown battle plans for a number of boss fights. It’s essentially the imagination of a child directly translated into a playable video game experience. So how’s it shaping up? It’s quite promising based on our early playtest – adding just the right amount of nostalgia to the mix while expanding on plenty of original concepts.
Taking control of the young knight in training (aided by her ghostly pup named Fritzy), your task is to save your family (and kingdom) from an evil wizard. If you weren’t already aware, this is actually a universe set within a story being told by Madelyn's Grandfather, while he sits at her bedside. After a lovely retro-style animation sequence sets the scene, the game warps Madelyn from her bed to this fantasy world on the brink of collapse.
As welcoming as it might look from a visual standpoint, if you have a lapse in focus you’ll likely be punished – much like you would in an older game of this variety. This applies to both the platforming and combat aspects of gameplay. The enemies are – for the most part – utterly relentless, and that includes the many oversized bosses. When you’re not taking down a variety of dangerous, ghoulish and undead creatures, you’ll likely be threading the needle between multiple projectiles whilst making a jump across a platform or two. Every challenge you successfully overcome manages to provide a good sense of accomplishment and should satisfy even the most hardened of platform veterans. Even the earlier sections of this game will help you dismiss any concerns you had about the overall difficulty.
In terms of how this game builds upon the foundations of Capcom’s classic series, much effort has gone into advancing beyond the arcade-like conventions. At the beginning, it seems as simple as just moving forward but then, not long after this, you’re told to turn around and go back. It doesn’t completely throw linear design out the door, but there’s a certain sense of freedom as you work your way through multiple interconnected levels. There are even multiple routes that can be taken to access different areas of a level and eventually you can teleport around the map – making tasks like fetch quests assigned by villagers less time-consuming. If the challenges become too much, Madelyn can recruit a companion to fight by her side. There are also different tiers of armour, offering Madelyn more protection in certain scenarios. Then there’s the toy room, where you gather unique items from far and wide. As you can appreciate, there's more depth here than you might initially expect.
When it comes to a title such as this, controls are of utmost importance. While we played a PC version of the game with an Xbox One controller, we’re still pleased to report the controls were responsive in the most frantic of moments and could rarely be blamed when something went wrong; any mistimed jumps are on the player alone. Madelyn also has the ability to perform impressive feats such as being able to double-jump to access different areas in a level – another reference to Capcom's legendary series.
With these responsive controls, the environments are able to push your platforming skills to the limit with steep hills, levitating platforms and even vine-hopping. There are a lot of platform challenges to overcome in-between all the monster slaying, so expect to die again and again until you get it right. The bosses add to this challenge, mostly due to the amount of damage they can take. The patterns aren’t necessarily the most difficult to memorise; it’s just a matter of repeating certain movements until enough damage has been dealt. Once you’ve developed a rhythm, there's a real art to it.
Battle Princess Madelyn is everything you would want a game like this to be. It expands on the core idea fans know and love and continues to honour the source material at the same time. It’s absolutely nailed the minor details that more often than not make or break small but ambitious games like this. The platforming has a good sense of flow to it and the controls are responsive when required. Even in the most frustrating moments, you’ll be enjoying the 'classic' level of challenge on offer – which proves how enjoyable it is.
Keep an eye out for our full review when the game hits Switch soon.