By Josh Speer / February 20th, 2019
|Title||The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince|
|Developer||Nippon Ichi Software|
|Publisher||Nippon Ichi Software|
|Release Date||February 12th, 2019|
|Platform||PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Vita|
|Age Rating||E for Everyone 10+ – Fantasy Violence, Mild Blood|
As the game industry grows and grows, the most challenging thing is finding something new. While I wouldn’t call myself completely jaded, I definitely throw most games that I play into one familiar category or another. Platformer, RPG, retro, modern, there’s a lot of them. Which is why The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince is such a pleasant surprise. This isn’t a game looking to set the world on fire. Instead, it’s a small and intimate adventure with a ton of heart. It tells a story that wouldn’t be out of place in a Brothers Grimm tale, of an unusual love story between a wolf and a young prince. The question then is, does Liar Princess deliver a fulfilling tale? Or was it a rough draft?
The story starts with our protagonist, a wild female wolf, singing a beautiful song. Sure, most wolves aren’t thought of as singers, but I think this is just the first instance of how the game uses metaphors. Wolves do howl, after all, which may be what NISA is implying here. However, as the story continues, we find there are some aspects of the animals in the game that defy common expectations. Because, while you can assume the wolf’s song is her howling, this young wolf has many other traits. For one, she enjoys an audience. The titular prince is enchanted by the wolf, and comes to listen to her song from afar night after night. Eventually, he musters the courage to scale the peak where the wolf is situated and see who is singing the song, only for the wolf to freak out and accidentally swipe at him, blinding him. The prince crashes down to the earth, and though he survives, his royal parents view him as a disgrace, and lock him away. The wolf goes to find him, and when she comes upon his cell, she discovers his dire state.
Here is where the story takes a turn for the supernatural. The wolf (as well as most every animal in the game, from goats to moles) is somehow able to converse with the prince like a human, and he recognizes her voice as the same one that sang the enchanting song. Due to his blindness, he can’t put the facts together, and is unaware that he is talking with the selfsame creature that horribly wounded him. Feeling responsible, the wolf sets out to visit the powerful witch who rules her forest, and ask for a way to help the prince. The witch agrees to heal the prince if the wolf brings him to her. In the bargain, the wolf is given the ability to transform into a human princess, but loses her singing voice in the process. Nods to The Little Mermaid aside, this is a great way to start the tale, and from here on the gameplay truly begins.
If you don’t like reading in games, then you’ll be very frustrated by the Liar Princess, but everyone else will love the writing. The game is broken up into narrative segments that read like pages from a book, narrated in Japanese. It’s a bittersweet tale that is occasionally uplifted by surprising bouts of humor and heart. These segments frame the gameplay elements, driving the momentum and keeping you eager to see what happens next. As for the gameplay itself, it’s primarily a puzzle platformer. You alternate between human and wolf forms at will with a press of the X button. While a wolf, you can fight dangerous beasts and break obstacles in your path. The only downsides are that you’re large and a bit unwieldy. As a human, you’re able to grab the prince by his hand and lead him about. He’ll pretty much follow your example, walking after you and jumping when you do. Later on, you’ll be able to give him commands from a distance, such as telling him to walk to certain points or picking up or depositing items.
For the most part, the gameplay is pretty enjoyable and intuitive. I only really got stuck in one section about midway through the game. To be fair, this could be due to my own failings, since I’m much better at platforming than math puzzles. All the math puzzles happen in the same part of the game, and require to you translate confusing hints in order to solve them. To put it plainly, I hated these puzzles, as they slowed my momentum to a halt and forced me to find solutions online. There’s even one completely optional section that looked to be full of even more abstract number puzzles, which I gladly avoided. Other than that, I rather enjoyed the puzzle platforming in the game. It gradually gets more and more complex, introducing elements like darkness that can be dispelled by lantern light, flowers that spit seeds to trigger switches and more. While you’re invincible in wolf form, the prince is not, and if he dies (or if you do in human form), you’re forced to restart from the last save. Though that’s not too much of a hurdle, it can be frustrating when you’re stuck on a particularly challenging area. Perhaps the hardest ones are those that require you to lead the prince through dens of wild beasts safely while transforming into a wolf to fend them off.
Where the game truly shines is in the aesthetic design. I honestly love the art in the game, from the 2D models for the prince and princess to the lovely storybook pages. The use of color is especially smart, as they utilize it to signify important objects, while also showcasing the bittersweet aspect of the tale with black and white. The design for the wild creatures of the forest is also inspired. All of them, including the wolf herself, look like deranged Dali-esque interpretations of regular animals. They are all bursting with creativity and personality, from the enormous boar beasts to winged frogs. What I really enjoyed were the subtle touches, such as how the prince will look afraid when you’re not touching his hand, and then smiling the moment you grab it. Likewise, the music was wonderful, with lots of orchestral notes to complement the story. It’s rare that I appreciate the art and music more than the gameplay, but I’d say that’s the case here. Which isn’t to say the gameplay is horrible, just that it feels occasionally more flat than the rest of the game.
For the most part, I’d say I enjoyed The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince. Sure, the gameplay is a bit stilted when compared to the wonderful art and music, but overall, it meshes pretty well. My biggest complaint is how short the game is, as I managed to beat it in 3 and a half hours, only skipping that one section. However, there is some replay value. You get achievements as you play the game and there are also hidden flower petals. By collecting all of them, you can actually unlock a side story where you play as the witch. It’s split into multiple parts and delves into the witch’s personality and motivations. While I didn’t get to experience it myself, since I didn’t find all the petals, it is a good reason to pick the game up again. For $19.99, you get a unique tale that is like nothing else on the Nintendo Switch. If that doesn’t sound appealing, then this isn’t for you. But if you like charming games that are short and sweet, then Liar Princess is an easy recommendation.
Review Copy Provided by Publisher
fairy taleNippon Ichi SoftwareNISAoprainfallPuzzle PlatformerReviewstorybookThe Liar Princess and the Blind Prince