Fat Princess: Piece of Cake – Review

Title   Fat Princess: Piece of Cake
Developer  Sony Computer Entertainment
Publisher  One Loop Games
Platform  PlayStation Vita
Genre  Puzzle
Release Date  January 14, 2015

The match-three genre is probably the one that has felt the pain and ignominy of the rise of in-app purchases. Back in the day, these post-Tetris puzzlers were a sure-fire way to lose hours of your life as you chase high scores, but in recent years, the likes of EA and PopCap have found a way to syphon that addictiveness and monetise it. Hence the inexplicable popularity of games like Candy Crush Saga and Bejeweled.

Fat Princess: Piece of Cake at first glance is more of the same. It’s a free-to-play puzzler for the Vita with a host of chances to blow some real cash if you are so inclined. Beyond the now-mandatory cartoon graphics, you’ve got a standard match-three effort here. You know the drill. You tap a coloured gem on the screen, slide it in one of four directions and if it completes a row or column or three or more similarly coloured gems, they all disappear and it’s onto the next one.

In that regard Fat Princess is very typical of the genre, but when you get beyond the obvious gameplay mechanics, there is a layer of strategy that isn’t usually seen in this type of game (except for Puzzle Quest, which tried to inject some rudimentary RPG mechanics). Each level sees your team of warriors ploughing forwards through various battles until you get the titular chunky royal to a throne. This usually means three to five battles where various enemy units will attack you in various ways in between periods of rest where you need to quickly recoup and prepare your next attack.

You attack by matching gems. Red gems allow your warrior unit to attack the nearest enemy only; yellow gems allow your ranger to shoot the first row of enemy units; orange gems allow your worker to throw a bomb that does damage and potentially stuns enemies; blue gems are for healing; and purple ones feed cake to your princess, eventually allowing her to do some massive splash damage in times of need. Additionally, green gems don’t affect gameplay, but earn you diamonds, the in-game currency for upgrading your units.

Picking the right match at the right time is your key to success. If you’ve got one enemy in the front row, you don’t want to waste yellow gems on them. Save them for the gang of bastards behind. Or perhaps a wizard in the back row is about to create some havoc for you. In that case, lob a bomb in there and hope you can stun him long enough to take out the guys in front who are protecting him.

Fat Princess gets the tactical gameplay just right for a long time. Eventually (around stage 45), you’ll start tasting defeat on a much more regular basis and at this time you’ll either be looking at farming diamonds on earlier stages (in order to upgrade your units) or you’ll want to use power-ups to increase your chances of success. The resources for this can be earned slowly, or purchased with coins that are bought with real money. Or you can just fight your way through with a mixture of tactical skill and maybe a bit of luck (after all the board is always random).

Also, that ‘freemium’ staple, the stamina counter, returns. You are allowed six goes at the game before your stamina runs out. One unit of stamina takes twenty minutes to recover so you’ll be taking breaks more regularly than you’ll want.

On the plus side, you will get days of free fun out of this title. It’s brilliant, addictive and pleasantly presented. If you want to chase down the trophies, there will be a little bit of grinding (or spending, if you’re so inclined) and there is no denying that Fat Princess would have been a better game if it simply costed a tenner or something and just let you get on with playing.

I hate IAPs and what they have done to the once-brilliant mobile gaming scene, and I’d rather they weren’t here to mar this otherwise fantastic puzzler, but they don’t do enough to stop me recommending this brilliant little game.

  • Addictive, tactical gameplay that is better than most of its contemporaries.
  • Charmingly presented.
  • Free (sort of).
  • Tarnished with IAP staples.
  • Stamina bar somewhat gets in the way of the addictiveness.
  • Not exactly original.
  • Success can sometimes be dependent on a bit of luck from the board.

Fat Princess is a well-crafted and hugely enjoyable puzzle game that reveals a great level of tactical depth when you get beyond the obvious "it's just Bejeweled" first impressions. The IAPs hurt it a bit and stop the game being a legit classic, but it does enough things well to make it easy to recommend.

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