I had prepared for my first trip to PAX the way I must prepare for everything else: through rigorous research, planning, and incessant pestering of my friends. What kind of water bottle should I bring? Collapsible. Pain killers? More than one kind, just in case someone you’re with is allergic to one. Hand sanitizer? Apply liberally to everything. Even that child? Especially that child. Sneakers? Don’t forget the gel insoles. Zinc and vitamin C? Begin a rigorous course three weeks prior and bring some with you just in case.
When I was twelve years old, I spent weeks playing the Capcom classic Ghouls and Ghosts as part of my seventh grade science fair project. The project was a loosey goosey attempt to determine if fatigue (and time of day) had an impact on one’s performance playing video games. Ghouls and Ghosts went on to become one of my favorite platformers of all time, despite never having the skills to beat the brutally difficult title. My G&G science fair project wasn’t very scientific, but it did give me an awesome excuse to play TONS of Ghouls and Ghosts with no meddling from the parentals…”It’s for SCIENCE, MOM!” Battle Princess Madelyn is very similar to Ghoul’s and Ghosts in both tone and difficulty, and that’s both a good thing and a bad thing. Also, for those wondering, I ended up getting a C- on my science fair project (bite me Mrs.Glass).
The story of Battle Princess Madelyn’s development has been written about before by several other outlets, but as the father of a budding creative myself, I feel compelled to share a bit of what I’ve learned. Developed by Christopher Obritsch and his elementary-age daughter Madelyn, many of the story elements found in the title as well as the game’s overall arch were created by Maddy who worked alongside her father Christopher to bring the game to life. This is both just stinking cute and wonderful. Maddie’s late dog Fritzy also appears in the game as a ghost dog that can assist the in-game Madelyn in a variety of ways. There is SO much love packed into the development of Battle Princess Madelyn that I can’t help but smile when I play the title. That being said, the game is also brutally difficult and hearkens back to a time when platformers required patience, practice, and precision.
Retro platformers have made a huge comeback in recent years and titles such as the Messenger, Dead Cells and Shovel Knight have added a variety of modern sensibilities to the platforming formulas of old which I feel is something that Battle Princess Madelyn is lacking a bit of. Don’t get me wrong, there is something magical about adhering to the Ghouls and Ghosts formula so heavily, but as someone who is now used to more modern takes on classic platforming, I found my time with Madelyn to be exceptionally challenging and downright savage at moments. There were multiple times where I was unsure of where exactly I had to go as many of the stages featured a good deal of verticality, and, with no real map, it led to a good deal of falling and dying as I tried to figure out where exactly I was headed and how I was supposed to get there. Despite my personal issues with stage layout, I found the platforming and combat itself to be quite sound and Madelyn moved and performed with precision. Visually, Battle Princess Madelyn looks fantastic, especially if you’re a fan of SNES era pixel art. There are some beautifully drawn stages as well as truly impressive bosses that take up the entire screen. As a huge fan of the art style I found myself stopping to check out all of the details hidden in the various stages. Oh yeah! It should also be noted that a number of monsters found in-game were doodled by the real Madelyn, which really makes the title the ultimate “Refigerator Art” for the Obritsch family.
Battle Princess Madelyn is love letter to both Ghouls and Ghosts and the brutally challenging platformers of old, that not only didn’t hold your hand, but gnawed it clean off. The tale of this game’s development incredibly endearing and I encourage our readers and listeners to pick up the title if nothing else to help support a family who are doing their best to work and create something fantastic together, which is something I truly feel the world could use more of.
Battle Princess Madelyn is now available on PC, Playstation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch