Ultra Ghouls n’ Ghosts Super Deluxe

Game Title: Battle Princess Madelyn
Developer: Causal Bit Games (Review code provided courtesy of publisher Hound Picked Games)
Platform: 
PC/PS4/Xbox One/Switch/Wii U/Vita (PC version reviewed)
Price: $19.99 (Out Now for PC/Xbox One, Next week for PS4/Switch, Wii U/Vita 2019)
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p_J_UOo2aS8

What is it?

Battle Princess Madelyn is a 2D action platformer that is inspired by titles from the 16-bit SNES and Genesis era, more specifically Capcom’s Ghouls n’ Ghosts series.  Anyone who has played Super Ghouls n’ Ghosts will notice similarities through gameplay, visuals, and audio, however it does put its own spin on this to push it forward to a point where it feels like a long lost sequel almost.

The tale kicks off with a grandfather telling a bedtime story to his granddaughter, perhaps a reference to the 1987 classic The Princess Bride.  He tells her a tale of a warrior princess who just happens to have the same name as his granddaughter, Madelyn.  The story is pretty typical fantasy, involving a journey to defeat the ultimate evil baddie and save the kingdom from peril.

Taking control of Madelyn you’ll progress through non-linear areas, making it feel somewhat Metroidvania style rather than a straight up linear action platformer.  For those that prefer that more classic style there is Arcade mode which provides that more familiar experience.

On the journey you’ll pick up sidequests, find hidden collectibles, fight massive bosses, learn new abilities to help you further progress, and more.  It’s not always straightforward where exactly you need to go, so plenty of exploration and sometimes backtracking is required to finish the game.

What I Liked:

  • Faithfully emulates the 16-bit era through visuals, sound, and gameplay.
  • Two different modes including a full-fledged story mode which encourages non-linear exploration and the more replayable Arcade mode which plays even more like classics its inspired by.
  • Nice level of difficulty that challenges you further as you progress.
  • Solid and responsive controls, perhaps one of the most important aspects of any 2D action platformer.
  • Large open-world to explore with a variety of areas.  It feels like an evolution of Super Ghouls n’ Ghosts essentially, a game which clearly was one of its biggest inspirations.
  • Brimming with secrets, easter eggs, and random collectibles to find.
  • Decent amount of optional side-quest content from various NPCs you’ll encounter wanting you to kill certain bosses or find a particular item.
  • The game’s resurrection system and lack of Game Overs helps keep the classic gameplay from being too frustrating.  Some may not like this, but I think it is a nice compromise to make the game enjoyable for a wider audience.
  • There is so much charm to the characters and story, you can truly feel the imagination of a child throughout it.
  • Option to choose between Orchestral or Arcade style soundtrack.
  • Solid performance with no hiccups whatsoever.

What I Disliked:

  • There isn’t a lot that Battle Princess Madelyn does wrong, however it also isn’t doing anything very revolutionary either meaning it is mostly an experience for those that still have a soft spot for similar classic titles.
  • There seemed to be no volume settings in the options and I was forced to resort to using the Windows mixer.
  • The speed at which money drops vanish seems a bit too fast and sometimes they would end up in awkward locations such as inside ceilings or walls.
  • When switching to try Arcade mode it seemed to wipe my Story mode save which was frustrating.  Not sure if this was intended or a bug.
  • The ability to look further up and down by holding either direction like some classic platformers allow would have been nice.  Sometimes I found myself blindly jumping down to potential death.

Neutral Thoughts:

  • The knockback when getting hit can be very punishing and frustrating, especially in areas with a lot of verticality and platforming.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing since it its obviously taking a page from its classic inspirations, but will probably turn off some of the more casual crowd out there.
  • A key item which gives your character the ability to double jump is semi-hidden and requires some exploration rather than the game moving you in the right direction.  I initially missed this and was dumbfounded wondering if my game bugged and it was impossible for me to progress anymore.  I also was not totally inclined to consider this a negative as it did feel rewarding when I did discover the item.  Keep this in mind and make sure to carefully explore everywhere in the game rather than just trying to progress further in a linear path.
  • The in-game doll bestiary collection is a neat feature for completionists out there, but the feature possibly seemed bugged in the build I played because I started with several of them already in my collection.  Perhaps this is intended though and you are simply finishing off an already started collection.
  • For those that despise backtracking, there is some amount of that in this game as you’ll initially encounter spots you are unable to access unless you come back later with a certain item.

Verdict: Recommended!

Final Thoughts

Battle Princess Madelyn successfully manages to both emulate and evolve a Capcom classic to where it could truly feel like a sequel we never got if you just mixed around some sprites and story elements.  That isn’t to say I’d want to morph this into Ultra Ghouls n’ Ghosts as I loved the story, characters, and writing that were infused with the imagination of a child and her and her father’s love for fantasy, video games, and most important family.   That was one detail I haven’t mentioned yet, Battle Princess Madelyn was in fact co-designed by a 7-year-old girl, the daughter of one of the game’s creators.

While the game doesn’t really do anything new for action platformers or games in general, its an easy recommendation for anyone that is a fan of games that give their own spin on nostalgic classics.  It’s quite content heavy as well for the type of game and even has the Arcade mode for those that want to keep coming back for more.