Hey Harvey!

Posted on Feb 17th 2020 at 08:00:00 AM by (slackur)
Posted under Liar Princess and the Blind Prince, Co op, Platforming, puzzle, PS4, Switch, oh shoot the game is bugged oh wait no, the prince is hidden behind a tree


-All images from Nintendo.com-

I have a few friends, including my own Beloved, who enjoy watching certain (usually story-focused) games while I play.  I figured I'd pick one to highlight for Valentine's Day, and it turns out I just finished Liar Princess and the Blind Prince.  While the game does fit into such a mold and might make a great experience for a couple (although the game is not necessarily romantic in theme) there are a handful of caveats that should be highlighted that keep this game from being a perfectly polished hidden gem.



First though, some basics and positives.  Liar Princess is a story-heavy 2D side-scrolling puzzle-platformer released in 2018 in Japan and 2019 worldwide.  Developed and published by Nippon Ichi Software for the Vita, PS4, and Switch, the physical "Storybook Edition" came with a soundtrack and hardback prequel/intro storybook.  The price for this jumped up significantly just after the limited release, and has settled back down a bit (but is still a somewhat pricey.)  While the book is short, the art is excellent, and the soundtrack is wonderful.  Still, the game itself can easily be completed in five or so hours (a touch more to find all of the collectibles) so even with the great extras it may be a tough sell and many a player would be fine with the much cheaper digital version.


While art style is naturally subjective there is a quaint, child-like quality to how Liar Princess is portrayed and it truly sells the experience as that of a lost Brothers Grimm-style fairy tale.  The Wolf, the primary character, has both eyes drawn on one side of her head and an exaggerated hunched back; as a friend remarked, she looks like she was drawn "by a child who was imagining what a wolf that was meant to be scary would look like."  This same art design is throughout the game as the various animals and monsters all tend to have some weird eccentric qualities that imply either a very different world than ours or, more likely, a story a child is drawing and embellishing.  I found it to be one of the highlights of the game.


Another highlight is the music, beautiful and somber.  It too has a dreamlike quality and it reminds me of why I still spring for an OST soundtrack when I can; I'm still a luddite who collects game music CDs but can't make the expensive jump to the recent explosion of video game vinyl.  Another topic for another time.


Finally, the story and writing is perfect for the experience.  I won't give any spoilers, but the game does stay true to the Brothers Grimm template and is, I think, well done because of it.  The entire game is literally framed as though it is being read from a book with thick black borders outside any area of interest and actual animations of pages turning to continue the narrative.  The world wide release is not dubbed and that may turn off some folks; I think it works just fine as a story to be read onscreen.


Thus far you may be sold on this wonderful little underappreciated game, but alas as with all fairy tales, not all is blissful and perfect.  That one thing every gamer wants to be the best and most refined quality, the actual gameplay, seems to be either an afterthought or at least underdeveloped.  There is combat, but it is trivial and more to show how powerful the Wolf is compared to the human characters.  Sadly the clunky character movement, off-feeling hitboxes and imprecise controls are far more a problem because the majority of the actual game is puzzle-platforming.  Jumping arcs feel floaty, fall-height instant deaths are common because of imprecise jump mechanics, and there are leaps-of-faith aplenty. The respawns are frequent and the stages are short so the frustration is somewhat allayed, but if you play this around a loved one they may learn how many swear words you know and a few you made up.  The last area in particular is a cruel gauntlet that requires the use of all of the sloppy controls together and while it is not at all insurmountable, the difficulty spike could easily be the nail in the coffin to any 'casual' player interested in finishing the game.  Don't get me wrong, the game is far from broken and unplayable; perhaps these frustrations simply stand out because of all of the other great qualities in the game.  When gamers are used to the sublime feel of a well-done indie platformer, even ones made by one and two person teams, it sticks out all the more in other games when things are '"off."  That alone isn't a big deal for us gamers who have played through a few games with rough controls.  But this game seems designed around appealing to those who are at least as much into the story as the gameplay.


Perhaps that is the biggest letdown of Liar Princess; a typical gamer can finish it in a long evening, even with the frustrating parts; but the game really seems to be catering to a larger audience who can appreciate the experience it is offering but may be too frustrated to keep at it.  It really is a neat way to tell the story and so many elements of it work in tandem to show the strengths of gaming as a storytelling medium.  If the undoubtedly small team that created Liar Princess had the time and/or technical acumen to get the controls, platforming, and difficulty curve more refined, I think this game would be the very definition of a perfect hidden gem anyone could enjoy.  As it currently stands I'd say it easily gets more than enough right to be worth a play-through, either by yourself or with someone who enjoys a good fairy tale.

Smiley


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Comments
 
Is there a physical version available for Switch other than the collector's version? It looks really good.
 
The only versions I know for certain were the Storybook CE editions (the only edition listed for preorder.) It was that way for both Switch and PS4.  I've seen second-hand sales of just the case and game without CE contents, but I have no evidence a "regular" edition was ever sold at retail.

I'd probably spring for the digital on sale first to make sure you want to drop more on the physical, but personally I found it worth it. I got the Switch version from a preorder and then the PS4 version on eBay at an OK price, both were the CE.

Glad I turned another person on to the game Smiley
 
Seems like the kind of charming experience that might stick with you, despite being short, much like Brothers did for me. I might have to watch out for a digital sale on this, to see if it's up my alley.
 
@MetalFRO: On  sale for Switch right now...

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