Friday, March 30, 2018

Penny Punching Princess Review

Wow, a Japanese game that isn't an RPG, visual novel or quirky murder mystery. Instead, Penny Punching Princess takes the barest of role-playing elements and mixes it into what looks like a clever little fighting game.

With sparkling visuals and lashings of cash, it feels lively, has a boisterous sense of fun (thanks to the snarky narration) and is well paced, with more focus on the action than endless banter. One thing that's not clear is her name, is she Princess Penny, just Princess? Whatever!

Broke, due to her dad's gambling issues. The time is right for "Penny" to reclaim her crown, largely by raking in cash, bribing all and sundry, helping her avoid unnecessary fights and building up her combat skills.

Penny Pinching Pugilist

Each level sees the Princess set out hunting treasure chests. Every few steps, spikes pop up sealing her into an area where monsters appear. Bash them about a bit, with light or strong attacks, and they drop some loot. Sping the right stick when they are "Break" stunned, and you get even more to boost your overall ranking. Throw in dodges to avoid attacks, and hidden skills or special attacks, and the action gets pretty frenetic.

Other hazards, flames, spikes, cannons, hammers and so on add to the chaos and slow you down. Rather than fight everyone, you can bribe a more powerful beast to your cause, and summon them to do some random damage. The more powerful they are, the more money is needed, and there's a charge meter on the bribe calculator, so you can only toss out the brown envelopes sparingly.

You can also bribe the environmental relics, so a triple-fire cannon can become a useful ally against the bosses. Health portals are few and far between, but you can at least make it through the early levels before the game's issues become apparent.

One useful character, a heart-shaped creature, "Life Man" provides you with a rare source of bonus health, so is well worth paying off. Also, a random feature called Coin Miracle lets you cash in some credits for health, a powerful attack, a brief outbreak of gigantism and other bonuses.

Issues Don't Make This Mint

While PPP looks great fun at first, a few issues soon become apparent. The combat controls are next to useless, and Penny seems to get stuck doing one move repeatedly or refusing to turn around. There's also the fact that one hit can knock you into something else in the smaller battlezones, doing large amounts of damage rather unfairly.

Also, many battles can be won simply be standing in a corner and pummelling away, which surely wasn't the developer's intention. Finally having to do calculator entry, and then trying to tap the right monster (you can use the controls, but it still doesn't help) in a crowded battle is one of the dumber game mechanics I've seen. It can often get you killed and just isn't fun, there's no excuse for it.

Back at the Castle

Between levels, Penny can boost her stats with skill points, improve her armour through collectibles, but none of that really helps make the game better. There's no joy to be had growing a heard of beasts you can't do much with.

Later in the game, Isabella joins the fun as a long-range attacker who's a bit handier in battle, but it doesn't really change the dynamics all that much. With the game rapidly running out of ideas, this is a neat-looking engine that you could make a great Gauntlet-type game out of, but PPP fails to maximise on it.

A shame, as it looks stylish, has a great, sometimes emotive soundtrack, but is hampered by dumb design decisions, and in the end, just isn't all that fun!

Score: 6/10
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Price: £TBC (PSN)
Publisher: NIS America
File size 933MB
Progress: Broke and no interest!

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