Review: Monsters (Probably) Stole My Princess

Recently featured on episode three of Gamepro's IndieWatch as an excellent pick for 240 MSP, platformer Monsters (Probably) Stole My Princess offers great cartoony visuals with lots of funny animations and fast-paced, vertical platforming action. You control a very narcissistic vampire called "The Duke" and have to hunt down monsters he suspects of having kidnapped "his" princess. The monsters try to flee from the Duke by climbing to the top of the levels, and you chase them down jumping upwards from platform to platform, impeding their escape by hitting them three times with a double jump before they reach the top.

If you don't care for score or medals and are focused only on taking down the monsters and getting back the princess, playing through story mode can be just a matter of roughly 15 minutes. But then you'll miss out on what this game is actually about. You'll need to aquire a gold medal for each story level to unlock a bonus stage, and beating the final level will reveal the entire truth behind the story of the Duke and the princess. This is definitely worth the effort as all of the game's cutscenes are hilarious.

Obtaining gold on all levels requires a different approach than just quickly ascending the levels and taking down your alleged foes, as it's necessary to master the combo system to achieve the target score. If you manage to jump on several platforms in a row without touching a platform twice, your combo meter increases. It's crucial to memorize the level layout to avoid mistakes and landing on the same platform twice, which resets the combo counter and results in a much lower score. During a combo, every ten platforms the Duke will receive a slight speed boost, visualized by a fancy smoke effect trailing the character, who emits a diabolical laughter each time. The higher the combo when taking down a monster, the higher the score bonus for finishing the level will be. There are also different finishing moves according to the height of your combo. Make sure to build a combo beyond 50 to witness the Duke's true awesomeness! There's also a bonus for touching each single platform in a level, which can be really hard with the faster monsters gaining too much distance while your focused on hitting the platforms.

It's easy to get lost in a highscore hunt in this game because most levels are fairly short, which makes "just one more try" an easy option, always aiming for even longer combos. Also, the game teases you after finishing a level with how many platforms you have touched and how many more you could have included in your combos. In score attack mode, three levels of increasing difficulty are supplied for each of the six environments, but you'll have to earn at least a bronze medal to unlock the next level of a stage. Depending on your skill, earning medals for every level can take anything between half an hour and several hours. Unlocking all of the game's 12 awards (in-game achievements) will occupy players even longer with some interesting and challenging tasks to complete.

The controls are simple and spot-on with movement being responsive and jumping as precise as you would expect from a good platformer. You will still miss a platform every now and then, because sometimes a monster or graphics effect will occlude your view, which can be annoying when you've just been working on a huge combo. Especially the effect when reaching a 50x combo regularly made me lose track of the character, but I got used to it after a while. Hitting monsters also makes the Duke recoil from the creature, sometimes dropping into the abyss or on a platform you've already touched, breaking your combo if you're not prepared. But if you pick a less dangerous location for your attack, you can steer clear of such mistakes, which adds a small touch of strategy to the gameplay. The harder levels in score attack also require you to make use of the walljump, as you must cover greater distances between platforms, and doublejumps alone won't take you far enough anymore.

In terms of presentation, M(P)SMP is (probably) one of the most polished (and funniest) titles you can find on XBLIG. Graphics are kept in a simple, colorful cartoon style with great animations for the monsters and particularly the Duke, who always puts a smile on my face whenever he strikes a pose, "convincingly" announcing his awesomeness. All of the in-game text you can read in cutscenes, in the scrapbook, the awards menu or even on the world map, reflects his character and is drenched in a kind of humor that's hard to find in most games these days. Combined with the addictive, fast-paced gameplay, this superb presentation makes Monsters (Probably) Stole My Princess a very enjoyable experience and a definite must buy.

Check out the offical website or download the trial to convince yourself of the Duke's undisputed awesomeness!

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