Battle Princess Madelyn is a hardcore throwback platformer that draws much of its inspiration from Capcom’s Ghosts n’ Goblins series. I spent most of my childhood mastering Super Ghouls n’ Ghosts on my SNES, so I was excited when Casual Bit Games announced the game through Kickstarter.
Does this lovingly-crafted throwback game measure up to the old Capcom classics? Read on to find out.
Everything about Battle Princess Madelyn is designed to appeal to gamers who are fond of the Ghosts n’ Goblins series. There are a myriad of different weapons to collect and treasure chests to open with double jumps galore. Fans of those old platformers will find a lot to like here, but there are some frustrating aspects that hold the game back.
Rather than go with a linear, level-based design like its source material, Casual Bit Games (CBG) decided to go with a Metroidvania design. The result is a confusing mish-mash of levels that are often muddled and hard to understand. There’s no clear difference between some foreground and background items, which makes traversal confusing.
Levels are full of enemies that are constantly respawning in the same locations from certain items. Once you’ve recognized each spawn location from unique items in the background, you can pretty well predict where enemies will appear.
There are some light puzzling mechanics in the game, but the game does a very poor job of explaining this. You might not even realize you’re looking at a puzzle that needs solving until you’ve hit a brick wall in progress.
Fritzy the loyal companion can eventually help attack, but the mechanic is explained early on and not mentioned again. He serves as the revival mechanic and helping Madelyn breathe underwater, so he is useful.
His energy in the upper left corner shows how many times he can revive Madelyn before she must respawn at the beginning of the stage.
Finding the double jump boots is a tedious exercise in finding the right hidden area and stops all progression until it can be found. I stopped playing in frustration at least once before I found the well hidden room.
There are a variety of side quests you can do for people in town, but these quests are not handled with any kind of journal feature. Backtracking to find the right NPC involves running around the entire village and talking to everyone. It’s not intuitive at all and could frustrate more casual players.
The story mode is difficult and confusing to follow, especially if you’re attempting to do all the side quests. Thankfully, the developer included an Arcade Mode that feels much closer to what the old Super Ghouls n’ Ghosts experience should be.
It features fast-paced gameplay and button mashing for slaughtering your enemies without any of the annoying aspects found in story mode. It was a pleasure to dink around with arcade mode after feeling frustrated some of the aspects of story mode.
The combat controls for the game are tight for the most part, but the fixed camera really brings the whole experience down. You’d think that a game so lovingly crafted to feel like playing Capcom’s old graveyard romps would remember the fluid camera in Super Ghouls n’ Ghosts.
In that game, players can press up or down to give Arthur a view of what’s coming when traveling in those directions. You have no such camera control for Madelyn, which makes most of the levels much more tedious than they should be. A simple camera glance mapped to the right analog stick would solve a lot of these problems.
Without a way to see ahead of Madelyn as the player gets around, vertical levels become a trying experience of rote memorization. The lack of being able to see where you’re going and the confusing level design make for frustrating experiences while traversing the game.
The 16-bit look of Battle Princess Madelyn is very clearly inspired by Super Ghouls n’ Ghosts. The animations and art style look as though the game was designed to be a direct sequel to that much loved game. Each of the levels has a unique theme with gorgeous pixel art, but more often than not a confusing design.
Some of the items that can be interacted with in the game are indistinguishable from the background.
Despite my nit-picking about the level design, the pixel art featured in the game is absolutely gorgeous. The combat controls are tight enough to make level traversal a breeze and it was fun to experience each new level as I came across it.
Usually I like to include a Bandcamp embed in my reviews to give you an idea of what the music sounds like in-game. Unfortunately, the composer Gryzor87 has not made the music available for listening.
The soundtrack is a modern take on retro game audio. Anyone who has played the old Ghosts n’ Goblins or Castlevania will instantly recognize the orchestrated music. There are 27 different tracks and around 4 hours of unique music for the game.
It’s serviceable and certainly fits the theme of the game, but it doesn’t have the impact that music from Danny Baranowski or Ben Prunty would.
The Not So Good
Publisher provided the key for our review.
Verdict – Wait For A Sale
If you enjoy hardcore platformers, the amazing visual package may be enough to help you get over the controls and camera. Casual platforming fans may get frustrated with the lack of clear level design and confusing foreground distinction.
Support Ninty Gamer
Enjoyed this review and want to see more? Buy your eShop credit through Amazon or Raise and we’ll get a small commission. We use the money to directly fund this site for more reviews and commentary for Switch fans.