The result of a successful kickstarter campaign, Battle Princess Madelyn looks like the spiritual sequel to arcade and NES classic Ghosts N’ Goblins. Looks are deceiving, however, as this action platformer has some glaring flaws and ultimately cannot decide what type of game it wants to be.
Ghost N’ Goblins and Ghouls N’ Ghosts were known for their staggering difficulty, defeating throngs of horror monsters with an arsenal of weaponry, and playing as a knight running around in his underpants. Madelyn goes out of its way to look and sound like these classic games right down the screen filter, double jumps, and onesie-underwear. This is where the consistency and inspiration stops as gameplay is more of a Metroidvania than a standard run-to-the-right action platformer. Branching paths, backtracking, side missions – the developers wanted to add these modern features to classic gameplay but they wind up dragging down the entire experience.
There are two modes of play: Story Mode and Arcade Mode. The story option has Madelyn following the narrative through open-ended levels complete with cutscenes, sidequests, and upgradable equipment through the use of spending money from defeated enemies. Unfortunately, Story Mode is a slog as there is no map which makes exploring each stage a mindless chore. Worse yet, townsfolk will provide side quests but the game doesn’t keep track of them anywhere in the inventory screen; these characters do not repeat themselves either. This means the only way to fulfill a side mission is to wander aimlessly, backtracking most of the time, to randomly complete a task. Most stages are rather big too, focusing on verticality. There were many times I accidentally hit down with the jump button and fell through the floor, falling for several seconds leaving me to ponder my new location and how to get back to where I was. Further, the poor level design constantly has the player making blind jumps which only results in damage, death, and frustration. The gameplay is severely unorganized.
Arcade Mode isn’t much better. While it removes the story elements (which is a recreation of The Princess Bride movie) and makes the platforming more streamlined, item pick-ups and weapon drops are random at best. There are also general housekeeping elements that are misleading such as wondering how many lives/health is remaining and a scoreboard tallies a score but that score doesn’t do anything. The blind jumping issues also become the player’s greatest enemy and monsters randomly appear, often at the worst possible times, to make progression cheap and unfair. Enemies in both modes repeat much too often as well. Once you kill your 100th undead hanging plant that takes too many hits to kill, you will be begging for something else to shoot.
Whether you like it or not, Ghosts N’ Goblins is a classic, stand-out title that made a name for itself through its high difficulty and the kick-you-when-you’re-down ending. Because of this, it is easy to see why a developer would want to make a new game with this style of play especially since there has not been an official sequel or reboot in many, many years (why hasn’t the Maximo series been re-released as an HD compilation?). Unfortunately, everything that made the original game so great is murky here, resulting as a let-down as a spiritual sequel and as a subpar platformer when not comparing it to its source material. Instead of fighting Frankenstein, Battle Princess Madelyn is an unequal mishmash of gameplay elements that ending up being a monster itself.
Also available on PS4, Switch, PC, with Vita and Wii U coming in 2019.
Play It Instead: Ghouls n’ Ghosts on the SNES Classic
Not As Good As: Gargoyle’s Quest (GB)
Also Try: Ultimate Ghosts ‘N Goblins (PSP)