Fat Princess: Fistful of Cake Review

No voice chat and an overreliance on stupid bots take away much of the joy in this silly take on capture the flag.

It's one thing to save a princess from the clutches of evil, but how can you hope to save one from herself? In Fat Princess, the queen-in-waiting cannot control her own insatiable appetite, putting untold pressure on the fine stitching that valiantly holds her poor dress onto her ever-expanding body. The original was released last fall for the PlayStation 3, and though the PSP rendition contains the same catapult-slinging, axe-wielding hijinks, it cannot match the level of unbridled fun that made its predecessor so difficult to put down. Your AI allies and foes are still hopelessly incompetent, but you're unfortunately stuck with at least eight in your match if you want to play with a full team on both sides. Furthermore, because voice chat is not an option, it's difficult to work as a cohesive team while online. Local matches are still good fun, but the forgettable single-player campaign and silent online battles strip much of the appeal from Fat Princess: Fistful of Cake.

Fistful of Cake is a team-based competition that pits two willing armies of the king's men against each other. Matches can be as big as eight versus eight and as small as one versus one, with blundering bots filling out teams when there aren't enough players to go around. There are two capture-the-flag match types in which you must steal the princess from your opponent's stronghold, and these serve as the most chaotic and entertaining portions of the game. Cramming cake into the mouth of your princess makes her fatter and subsequently more difficult to steal. This makes for ridiculous matches in which teams are constantly alternating between feeding their own prisoner, slaying enemies, and trying to steal the other team's royalty. Aside from capture-the-princess, the deathmatch and capture-the-outpost modes from the PS3 original return. New in Fistful of Cake are modes in which you must capture jails, bomb the enemy's throne, or don a grim reaper mask and go on a killing spree. None of these new additions can match the joy of stealing an obese princess, making them little more than diversions from the main course.

The single-player campaign is an extended tutorial that runs you through the various skills and objectives you must master for competitive matches. There are six separate classes in Fistful of Cake, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. The villager has little health and no weapon, but he is incredibly fast, as well as capable of knocking items from an opponent's hand. The worker wields an axe that is ideal for harvesting resources but is also good for cutting down the other team in a pinch. As the warrior, you must get up close and personal in battle, going toe-to-toe with your shining sword. There are support classes as well. The life-giving priest, fire-spewing mage, and arrow-shooting ranger aren't very useful on their own, but when teamed up with a blood-thirsty warrior, they can swing battle in their favor. All of these classes (except for the villager) can be upgraded by harvesting resources, which gives them a secondary ability that makes them even more useful in your quest to one-up the other team.

The classes are well balanced for the most part—although the mage’s ice blast that freezes enemies in place is still too powerful—but problems become apparent in competitive matches. As many as 16 competitors can battle it out at one time, but you're limited to just eight real players in that mix. Because of that limitation, you have to choose beforehand to either play without a full complement of challengers or to even out the teams with bots. Neither of these options is ideal. The maps are too big for four-versus-four matches to be any fun and the bots are too dumb to make for worthy adversaries. In fact, the bots frequently appear to have no knowledge of the victory conditions or even the most basic rules. You can gather them in a group to help you, but this doesn't alleviate the problem. They still run off cliffs, stand too far away from outposts to capture them, or refuse to help carry the princess once you've absconded with her. Because they're so helpless, you cannot rely on them at all. This makes playing as the support classes virtually worthless when playing alongside bots because they only thrive when part of a willing team.

When in doubt, axe murder is always a fine option.
When in doubt, axe murder is always a fine option.

Because of the technical limitations, the portable version of Fat Princess is far less entertaining than its console brother, but the problems go deeper than lonely competitive play and aggravating bots. Matches take far too long on a system that is at its best with short, pick-up-and-play sessions. It's not uncommon for games to stretch on for longer than half an hour, and as the time races on, you'll just hope someone steals that darn princess to end the madness. At its best, Fistful of Cake is still crazy, silly fun. The different classes give you a number of unique ways to help your team, while the best maps have catapults, ladders, and secret passageways, which make for an unpredictable experience. Turning your enemies into chickens with a well-thrown potion or bombing a hole in their stronghold is a joy, and the rush of successfully nabbing the royal fattie is still present. But too many of the matches lack these flourishes, creating a feeling of repetition as you dutifully go about your job without any cool moments to break up the action.

The transition from the PS3 to the PSP is impressive from a visual standpoint. Fistful of Cake looks almost identical to its forebear, containing the same cartoony look and whimsical charm that made the first so enticing. But even though the gameplay has also made the transition virtually unchanged, much of the fun has been lost along the way. The bots haven't gotten any stupider, but they play a bigger role now because a player cap has been placed on competitive matches. The absence of voice chat also makes online duals lonely and largely devoid of tactical cooperation. If you can gather up some buddies for local play, it's still fun to take part in this goofy twist on capture the flag, but if you're stuck playing alone or online, there's no icing on this cake.

The Good

  • Combat is fast, exciting, and bloody
  • Chicken potions and giant bombs are loads of fun
  • Planning and executing attacks is satisfying

The Bad

  • Matches stretch on for far too long
  • Aggravatingly incompetent bots
  • Multiplayer is limited to just eight players
  • No voice chat

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