Its name alone isn't really any clue as to what you should expect from Fat Princess. Initially, we thought we'd be playing as the titular rotund royal herself, snaffling up cake like a plump, portentous Pac-Man. Instead, Fat Princess is a team-based multiplayer game wherein the object is to return your kidnapped princess to her rightful place on your team's throne.
It's a simple enough conceit that's been done plenty of times before - it's basically an elaborate game of capture-the-flag - but never with the same level of quirky, colourful verve. Fat Princess' art style is somewhat reminiscent of XBLA title Castle Crashers, boasting similarly diminutive and chunky characters who are just as handy with a gargantuan sword.
Divided into two kingdoms, each missing a princess, the primary aim of the game is to breach the opposing team's castle walls and take back the abducted damsel. To make life harder for your rivals, you'll want to feed their princess plenty of cake to fatten her up, making her more difficult to carry. Suddenly, that title starts to make perfect sense.
Within your own castles walls are a number of different 'hat machines' that constantly dispense headwear to plonk onto your bonce and adopt a certain class. There are five classes to choose from, each with their own distinct abilities and attributes at your disposal. Not all are built for combat though, so a humble Worker is just as important a gear in the machine as a mighty Warrior.
All five character classes can be upgraded, but it's up to the Worker to go out, chop wood and excavate precious metal to enhance the hat machines. Upgrades significantly improve the abilities of your army, granting the Ranger a musket in place of a bow and arrow or augmenting the Mage's fireballs with a freezing ice spell.
Once upgraded, you can switch between your standard and newly acquired skills by tapping triangle. Particularly handy when playing as the normally vulnerable Priest, who in addition to his stream of healing energy gets to wield a dark, life-sapping force, transforming a weak character class into a genuine threat.
Beneath the brightly coloured, cartoon candyfloss veneer, lies a dark sense of humour where vanquished enemies die in an explosion of messy arterial splatter and you can be turned into a defenceless chicken. Matches are always energetic and buzzing with activity, so there's always something to keep you engaged regardless of which class you choose to play as. And you can always switch classes on the fly just by grabbing another hat.
Singleplayer is a fairly short-lived storybook affair, regaling you with the fairytale of how the two princesses came to be so rotund. There are seven chapters introducing you to each of the four main game types, which serves as more than adequate introduction to the crux of the game awaiting you online.
Fat Princess is an online multiplayer title at heart, so the singleplayer story aspect should be treated as nothing more than a brief tutorial. More substantial solo play can be found in the Gladiate (or should that be Glad-she-ate? Guffaw) mode, where you're presented with wave after wave of enemies to smack around with the business end of your cel-shaded blade, sceptre or bow. You can also play with yourself on any of the game's nine maps, in any mode with up to 31 bots.
Playing with others online is where the long term gameplay lies though, offering mayhem for 32 players divided into two teams. The same singleplayer modes are all present for your delectation, so whether you want to rescue your princess or keep the opposition's imprisoned in your dungeon with a constant supply of cake, the choice is yours.
Rescue and Snatch 'n Grab are just two versions of the game, which provide a compelling twist on the old capture-the-flag formula, but there're also other, more conventional, Fat Princess-free methods of play to enjoy. Team Deathmatch is a self-explanatory red versus blue melee, where the first team to whittle down their enemies' lives is the winner.
Invasion is a long-winded attritional grind to capture rival outposts in a bid to diminish the opposing team's morale. Controlling more than half of the outpost towers leads to the rival's morale steadily dropping, so it's a constant battle to maintain each of the outposts that bear your colour.
Fat Princess is an incredibly appealing little game, that's fantastically accessible yet suitably challenging. Beyond the obvious fun inherent in actually playing the game, there're loads of customisation options to unlock within the Twiddly Knobs menu where you can fiddle with your character's look, encouraging repeated play.
A worthy addition to the growing library of great games on the PlayStation Store, Fat Princess is enormously enjoyable and exceptionally fun to play with friends online. The only thing sadly absent is an offline split-screen option, which would have been thoroughly welcome. Still, it's hard to baulk at what is an immensely entertaining PSN title, well worth the asking price.
Any game starring fat royalty with a penchant for baked treats and a credit sequence set to Sir Mixalot's 'Baby Got Back' is instantly destined for greatness anyway. So why not have your cake and eat it?
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