If nothing else, you had to love Fat Princess for its rather unique charm. Titan Studios blended Real Time Strategy and Role Playing elements together and then removed any threat of intimidation by wrapping their creation around a delightfully infectious aesthetic. Literally and figuratively, it was bloody fun. Sure, you had to worry about managing resources and the proper team coordination, but it was all performed under the guise of insane cartoon violence with a glorious helping of obesity by cake. RTS-influenced games are dead last on my list of genres I like to play, but even I couldn't escape Fat Princess' alluring girth. Some early problems plagued the servers and a few matches tended to drag, but the concept and mechanics were both competent and inviting. SuperVillain Studios undertook the seemingly mind bending task of cramming the experience on the PlayStation Portable and rebuilding it as Fat Princess: Fistful of Cake.
Let's get up to speed on the particular brand of insanity offered by Fat Princess. Upon spawning as a goblin/human-thing your base will immediately start pumping hats out of five different hat factories. Each hat represents a different class, and that class can be changed simply by putting on a different hat. The high health Warrior is good for slaying foes with melee attacks, while the Ranger opts for similar work via distance friendly bows and shotguns. The Mage has fire and ice attacks with hints of status effects, and the Priest can either follow and heal members of his team or drain the life of your opponents. The Worker, with the ability to build bridges, fortify walls, break down doors, and harvest the wood and rock resources, is the most utilitarian, thankless, and flat out essential class. Each class, provided you've pumped enough resources into them (thanks again, Worker), can be upgraded once, which translates out to an additional power, weapon, or move for that particular class.
Red Team versus Blue Team class based mayhem is filtered through a variety of game modes. The meat (or should I say, spongy yellow cake) of Fat Princess lies with Rescue the Princess and Snatch 'n Grab. The former involves you rescuing your own princess while simultaneously kidnapping the other team's princess and the latter simply requires you to literally snatch and grab the opposing team's princess three times. Cake is littered about the level, and is used in hilarious fashion to fatten up your princess and thus make her more difficult to carry. It's a simple mechanic, but the hilariously un-PC concept of trying to fatten an a woman exclusively by ramming cake down her throat never failed to crack a smile.
A couple other modes rounded out the PlayStation 3 version. Team Death Match is exactly what it says, dropping the princesses from play and focusing exclusively on bloodlust. Invasion casts its light on controlling territory and defending it from being taken over by the other team. Soccer is actually soccer, which tended to function more like the Mutant League games of the 16-bit era, albeit far less organized. Those modes were fun for a while, but were ultimately appetizers for the main course or maybe served as distractions if one needed a break.
"Hey, I thought this was a review for the PSP game"
Consider it a compliment that, until the two began to noticeably diverge over a few fundamental issues, Fistful of Cake seems like a facsimile of its big brother. A few poly's were removed from the graphical interface, but it’s hard to notice on a smaller screen with a lower resolution. Fistful of Cake looks fantastic and carries the spirit of the original, but the two do manage to wander away from each other, both benefitting and harming Fistful of Cake’s potential.
First, the good; more of everything. Along with Brownie Town, Frost Bite, Candy Mountain and New Pork (DLC from the original), Fistful of Cake offers five brand new levels with Marzipan Meadows, Sweet 'N Sulphur, Edinburger, Guactanamo Bay, and Butterscotch Mesa. New game modes are also present. Demolition replaces the princess with a giant bomb, which must be used to blow up the enemy base and, hopefully, not dropped on the way there. Grim Reaper locks you to an exclusive arena, The Undercaker, and tasks you with either wrecking fools as the overpowered priest/warrior-hybrid Grim Reaper, or assaulting him along with seven others, with points doled out accordingly. Jailbreak didn't seem all that different from Snatch 'N Grab, albeit focusing exclusively on breaking your respective princesses out of the opposing team's dungeon.
The new game modes feel a little half baked. Grim Reaper can be loads of fun, but the others feel like reskinned versions of other modes. The objectives aren't dissimilar from what you're doing with in Rescue the Princess or Snatch 'n Grab, but I suppose a little variety can't be a bad thing. Just don't expect to get a lot of mileage out of these. Fattening a princess is the main course, most of the other stuff feels like an excess of, well, dessert.
Single player has also been slightly restructured, no doubt to accommodate the PSP's on-the-go nature. Legend of the Fat Princess serves as a campaign of sorts. Initially feeling like an extended tutorial, it eventually comes into its own with a variety of odd tasks that do their best to stretch out the game's mechanics. Each of the 15 chapters is also bookended with some voiced text and storybook cut scenes. Mess About is the game's highly customizable, do-anything mode where you can play around with the AI in every game mode and Gladiate returns as well, though it still functions solely as a survival mode arena battle. Having an on screen map at all times would have been nice, but such is the compromise with less screen real estate.
While the A.I. is passable (provided you do most of the essential "work"), Fat Princess was a game conceived with multiplayer mayhem in mind, and it’s in this area where the Fistful of Cake breaks away from the original. The 32 player count has been bumped down to 8 humans (24 with AI), which is understandable given the limitations of the system. It also makes each player’s role a bit more defined and essential, which is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand it adds a sense of purpose, if you're the priest then you know you're needed to back up a warrior, but on the other - what if everyone isn't on the same page? With no voice chat to help coordination, the successful team might not be the most talented, but rather the one that's stacked with players who actually know how to win a match. One could make that argument that anyone savvy enough to buy and play Fistful of Cake online should have this ground covered, but it’s still a highly unknown variable.
Despite community fears, the online matches I did get involved in flowed quite smoothly. One player was the host and he or she determined the game mode. From there matches were carried out, some quite lengthy, without much room for complaint. It was fun on a smaller scale, but it wasn't comprised with bad netcode or random hiccupping. Infrastructure worked great, to be perfectly honest, and ad-hoc is also supported if you chose to go that route. (Note: Media for Fistful of Cake indicated that AI would fill inadditional roles, making matches 8v8 or 12v12 rather than 4v4, but this was absent from any of the matches I played in)