Hands-on Preview: Battle Princess Madelyn – A Classic in the Making
A number of indie developers love to revisit the past when designing games. Wearing their influences on their sleeves, they fuse modern and retro game design for a number of different reasons. Some wish to create spiritual successors to influential games, others try to blend multiple games together, and others attempt to make the games they wanted to experience during the retro era. It’s very rare that a modern retro title becomes an instant classic, but you need only look at games like Shovel Knight and Rogue Legacy to know it is possible.
One game that is currently in Early Access on Steam that’s looking very promising is Battle Princess Madelyn from Causal Bit Games. A love letter to Capcom’s Ghosts n’ Goblins series, Battle Princess Madelyn is an ambitious title that might just become a classic of the modern retro scene.
Battle Princess Madelyn casts players as Princess Madelyn, a brave warrior who defends her kingdom against all manner of monsters. Not much else is known about the plot at this point, but it is certainly engaging. Characters are able to be interacted with upon walking up to them and pressing up on the d-pad, with a retro textbox popping up similar to classic games like Shining Force. The font itself is virtually identical to the font in Ghouls n’ Ghosts, which is definitely a nice touch.
Upon starting the game, Madelyn, her grandfather (also a skillful warrior) and their forces are recovering from a monster attack. After the forces regain their senses, strange magic conjures the spirit of Fritzy, Madelyn’s long-deceased pet dog. Accompanied by Fritzy and her dear gramps, Madelyn sets off through the Old Boneyard and through to the flooded Royal Crypt, in order to quell the undead uprising.
The bulk of BPM’s gameplay will feel immediately familiar to gamers who played action-platformers in the late 80s and early 90s. Players run from left to right on a 2D plane, encountering undead beasties as they go. They can wield a number of weapons including spears and swords, with the majority of weapons being ranged. Again, this is an early access title, but if the game is similar to Ghouls n’ Ghosts (a game that heavily inspires it) we will see a healthy selection of weapons in the full version.
Madelyn can also throw weapons upwards, as well as downwards when she is in mid-air. In true classic platforming style she is also able to double jump, presenting the opportunity for some slick movement puzzles.
Level design takes inspiration from classic platformers, but they aren’t simply clones of haunted graveyards and forests. Each area has a distinct feeling of its own, whether its a bustling town, eery crypt or dangerous swamp. Causal Bit Games have also peppered in more modern design elements, though these don’t feel obtrusive at all. It’s a fine line to walk when trying to compliment retro game design with modern elements, and so far it seems as though Causal know exactly what they’re doing.
The enemy designs compliment the levels quite nicely – everything looks as though it belongs and nothing stands out as a weakness. Like all good retro platformers, the enemies aren’t a threat when faced individually, but in numbers they can overwhelm you, or at least add that tiny amount of stress that causes you to make a crucial error and take damage. The giant skeleton guard in the Royal Crypt was very impressive, though it was difficult to form a strategy as I couldn’t tell when I could safely cross in front of him. Still ticked every box that a boss should: he was intimidating, massive and deadly.
It would be remiss of me at this point to not mention the game’s stellar soundtrack – it truly is fantastic! Better yet, you can listen to a retro 16-bit era soundtrack, or a full orchestral soundtrack. I have no doubt in my mind at this point that the finished game will have even more musical gems in it.
Although there isn’t a staggering amount of content available in the Early Access build of Battle Princess Madelyn, I feel confident in saying that it could very well be the next modern retro classic, joining the likes of Shovel Knight and the Shantae series. So far the game looks and plays great, and the soundtrack sounds like it actually uses the same sound chip as the Sega Genesis.
Battle Princess Madelyn is currently slaying its stretch goals on Kickstarter, reaching double its initial funding goal. You can contribute to it here.