Review: 'Battle Princess Madelyn' (PS4)

Promotional art. Promotional art. CASUAL BIT GAMES

There's something unsaid I'd like to refer as “the nostalgia glass ceiling”. It's where a new version of an older game (or any piece of media, really) puts limits on itself in order to stay more true to the original. For example, reboots of movies that follow the original so closely they can't veer off the path, and end up being essentially the same movie. (Think Escape From New York to Escape From LA, or more recently, the Ghostbusters movies.) With Battle Princess Madelyn, they hit that ceiling hard. How hard? Well...

You are Madelyn. You're just a normal young girl who enjoys talking to her grandparents when you're suddenly zapped to a fantasy world. With your family kidnapped and your dog now dead and a ghost, you set out across the world, throwing spears and traveling with random people to get them back. Honestly, it's an interesting setup with with an old school (though overused) premise. Some games can't do much with the "you stole my family!" plot, but it works well here.

This is a game obviously made for computers/past-generation consoles. The PS4 controls are easy enough to use, but they doesn't get you into the feel of it. This has only a few utilized buttons, and with all the options of the PS4 it feels almost like it's not utilizing enough. The controls still work, it's fine, but it will feel like an Ivy Leaguer taking a class in community college – a lot of unused potential.

Graphically the game is going for that fantasy, Genesis-era look. It still looks a bit blocky, but it's recognizable. And as a side-scroller, it's pretty much nails the mid-90's feel. This lends it charm, and some of the animated cutscenes are pretty good. But it ultimately makes things hard to tell what they are. Characters and backgrounds are colorful ("orange leaves on a purple sky" levels of cool), but it's being paired with low levels of detail. It knows what it's going for and achieves it, but it still could have done better, even within the limits of the era it's trying to evoke.

Gameplay is what you'd expect from a side-scrolling beat-'em-up – limited attack types, poor visuals for said attacks (when she throws spears it's endless repeated animations and clipping, which is bad even for similar games in the 90s), predictable enemies and basically everything you'd expect from the era. In fact, it has all the same pluses and minuses from that era – it's simple and easy to use, but gets bogged down. It's repetitive, yet fun. Really par here.

For sound and music I have to say the same thing I've been saying all review – it's just like those games from the 90s. The music sounded good, but it went into that computer-tone music of the time, like it was being rendered on a Game Boy. It's fun, but at times it's distracting by the virtue of how old it sounds. The same goes for sounds. The charm of old-school games is there, especially during attacks, but it also doesn't sound great. It really hit the nostalgia glass ceiling – it's only as good as the limits you put on it.

There were no glitches and no lag. It played as smoothly as it would on a Genesis. I played through, and unless they didn't purposely put in things like clipping errors like older games of the time had (which I suspect they did), then it's fine.

Battle Princess Madelyn had a lot going for it; special ghost dog attacks, for instance. But despite the pluses the game offered, it was too caught up in looking and being old that they couldn't progress into something great. Battle Princess Madelyn is still a fun game, but it can only get to a certain point until you're stuck in a rut somewhere between the SNES and Genesis era. 

Final Score: 6 out of 10

A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of review.

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