Fat Princess: Fistful of Cake

Fat Princess, Sony's utterly charming capture-the-flag title for the PS3 via the PSN, has arrived for the PSP in the form of Fat Princess: Fistful of Cake — and the port is as smooth as delicious custard.

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Michelle Starr is the tiger force at the core of all things. She also writes about cool stuff and apps as CNET Australia's Crave editor. But mostly the tiger force thing.

Fat Princess, Sony's utterly charming capture-the-flag title for the PS3 via the PSN, has arrived for the PSP in the form of Fat Princess: Fistful of Cake — and the port is as smooth as delicious custard.

Fat Princess arrived on the scene in July of last year, and, if you're familiar with it all, you'll know it caused a minor ruckus, with several lady gamers getting their hackles up over the game's supposed anti-feminist and fat-hating subtexts. In reality, it's a game that has clearly been made with a great deal of care and attention to detail; it lays no judgements on the princesses because of their size, and the presence of female soldiers among the troops and players (plus the fact that the princesses WANT to eat cake) renders the "men making women helpless" argument invalid. All you need to know about the whole debacle is this: Fat Princess is a blast, and we'll be over here having fun.

Fat Princess: Fistful of Cake builds on the PS3 version's core gameplay. In single-player ("Play With Yourself"), there are three game modes: Legend of the Fat Princess, which is the story mode with 15 levels of gameplay; Mess About, which lets you select and play through a single campaign just for fun; and Gladiate, a sort of endurance test where you'll be pitted against waves of foes to see how long you can last playing as each of the different classes (Mage, Priest, Ranger, Warrior, Worker).

Play With Others allows you to play with up to seven other Real Live Humans (eight players total) in multiplayer campaigns. And Twiddly Knobs is where you get in and, well, twiddle. You can customise your avatar (there are even girl choices!), fiddle with your game settings and look at the tutorial. Actually, the game will ask you if you would like to look at the tutorial before you start playing, and it's not a bad idea: although the game's premise seems simple enough, there are lots of details to take in. In fact, there is a bit of a learning curve, and you might find yourself having to look at the manual or a walkthrough. The tutorial itself is rather long and would have worked better in-game as you go, since most people learn more quickly by performing actions than reading instructions.

Play With Yourself

Once you start playing, you will probably pick up the gameplay quickly enough, though, and the game starts relatively simply — your first objective in story mode is merely to find and bring your team's princess home — enough to give you a feel for the basic controls without the game being too confusing about it.

The gameplay revolves around strategic team-based battles, where two teams — Team Red and Team Blue — are trying to achieve the objective before the other team manages to do so, usually revolving around stealing princesses and feeding them cake to make them larger and heavier and therefore harder for the other team to carry away. It's fast and frenetic, with objectives such as the aforementioned princess-stealing and protection, building resources, capturing key points on the map, wholesale annihilation of the other team's army or winning a soccer match (although unlike any soccer match we've ever seen).

The game makes use of a "hats" mechanic, which allows you to change classes to perform various tasks. It's particularly clever, allowing you to change classes as often as required; for example, you may need to stop being a Ranger for a few seconds in order to upgrade the hat machines as a Worker, or to get out onto the field as a Priest and heal the Warrior who has managed to steal the enemy's princess on his way back to home base. The basic action buttons are the same for each class, simplifying gameplay, and each class earns points for different actions. The Worker earns points for gathering resources, while the Warrior earns points for slaying foes and the Priest earns points for healing allies. This means that playing a Worker won't see you penalised in the points department just because you're not killing enemy d00ds.

Play With Others

Now, the multiplayer is a little confusing. Unlike the original game, where up to 32 players could be in any one single campaign, only eight players can join in a game on A Fistful of Cake. However, there are now eight campaigns compared to the original game's four: Rescue the Princess, Snatch 'n Grab, Team Deathmatch, Invasion, Jailbreak, Demolition, Grim Reaper and Queen's Rules. They're all pretty much what they sound like, except for the last two. Grim Reaper has the player wearing Death's hat; you can one-shot kill everyone, but everyone's trying to kill you; the aim is to get to the target number of souls made harder by the fact that, when you die, the hat re-spawns and everyone makes a beeline for it. Queen's Rules is Fat Princess soccer, and it involves battle-brawling on the soccer field.

We managed to connect fine over an Ad-Hoc connection, with one player setting up the server via Control Freak and other players using "Jump In" to join; but, once we got inside, we were a bit confused as to why we couldn't enter each other's castles to rescue our princesses. (We later figured out how to break the castle's doors down.) A little more instruction would be nice. Also, while two-player was fun, because we're awesome, we can see how getting eight quality players together, all with their own PSPs and copies of the game, might be a little more difficult. Also, while technically you could play with an odd number of players, the AI — while quite good — isn't good enough to replicate a human, so it wouldn't really be fair play, if you're into that sort of thing.

The icing on the cake

As might be expecting from shrinking a full-scale game down for the PSP screen size, there is a little bit of loss of detail and graphical quality. To be honest, it can sometimes be a little hard to see what's happening, particularly when armies get mixed up in a knot of flailing limbs and swords. However, the overall visual feel of the game has been maintained quite well. The cartoony cel-shading is just as appealing on the small screen and the character design is — dare we say it? — adorable.

Where the game shines cosmetically, however, is the audio. The music complements the action with frantic tempos and boisterous tunes, and the squeaky-angry soldier voices are fantastic. The absolute best part, though, is the dry British 1970's kids show-style voice-over making such remarks as '"Om nom nom nom indeed" and "PWNED!"

If you have the PS3 version, is there enough here to justify buying it? Well, the portability of playing it on the PSP is a plus, and a beefed up single-player and more multiplayer campaigns and maps make it worth at least a look. If you have the 50 bucks to spare, there are many worse titles to spend it on. Meanwhile, if you haven't played Fat Princess before, Fistful of Cake is a lovely game that seems to have been made with genuine affection; and, most importantly, it's super addictive and a joy to play.

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