Penny Punching Princess (Switch) Review – Punching Mediocrity
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PS Vita
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Publisher: NIS America
Release: 30th March 2018
Every now and then, some publishers tend to bring rather unusual games to us. This time it´s NIS America with Penny Punching Princess, a game about money and capitalism. Literally, it´s possible to buy enemies, gates or other level structures with the coins you punch out of enemies. A strange concept, that was so weird I just had to check it out, especially since it also comes to Switch.
As the name suggests, the game is all about a princess, the penny punching princess to be exact. Dethroned by evil forces, she´s forced to start all over with assembling an army big enough to both, conquer her lost kingdom and enslave the other races. After all, as long as one has money in this world of capitalism, they can buy anything, from pawns to countries and luckily, that´s exactly what´s her strength.
Unfortunately, besides the interesting world, nothing quite clicks here. The cute, yet, the devilish princess may appeal to some during the first hours but her flat personality, accompanied by her super flat beetle underling. Those two main characters, present in almost every dialogue scene just never caught my interest nor evolved in any significant manner, despite the clichés anyone could´ve guessed. Combined with the different foes they have to battle, which follow the same formula of flatness as well, the whole plotline just never builds tension or becomes appealing. In particular when all jokes rely on capitalism and the world concept, a formula that becomes very boring very fast. There´s nothing truly exceptional, surprising or silly, considering how open the premise is for some deep social criticism.
At the same time, its gameplay can´t impress either, featuring a basic real-time combat system. One limited combo, one dodge move and that´s basically it, not much, obviously. Our princess only has one punch button, which sole combo stun-locks enemies in a super long streak of multiple hits, as well as anyone around them, while her, admittedly cute dodge roll is pretty straightforward too. For the beginning, enough to keep the player entertained but when the whole game nearly relies on it all the time, everything about its restrictions becomes annoying. Even after 30 minutes, I wanted more but Penny Punching Princess forced me to be happy with what it gave me. Honestly, nothing about this is fun nor feels powerful.
The only feature, as you may have guessed, is actually buying your enemies, which sounds hilarious in theory. Each beaten foe drops coins, once acquired enough, the princess’ magic calculator can be used to bribe nearly everything into working for you. If it´s a gate, it will open, if it´s an enemy, it will become a skill which can be used in battles for a limited time. Yes, bribed things won´t fight for you, a huge disappointment for me when I first found out about it. Instead, the limited use skills work more like spells, while buying obstacles isn´t often an optional thing. Since the game forces you to buy many things just to progress through levels, I never could feel a real meaning to all this, everything just seems like a gimmick, rather than a whole new, tightly implemented idea.
Though there´s the option to not use those spells, effectively conserving them over the course of the whole level. As a result, they can be transformed into citizens for the princess’ kingdom, acting both as a resource and base for new upgrades. Similar to Ni No Kuni 2´s system, depending on the amount and type of citizens we collected, we can upgrade the princess, craft or nearly anything else. Probably the only way to actually put those bought enemies to good use, as their limited spell uses and lack of personality basically reduces them to resources just waiting to be put to use. Still, in the end, it´s yet another glorified grind fest for rare creatures, now even requiring you to have sufficient amount of money.
Graphically, Penny Punching Princess’ lack of unique features continues, presenting an almost generic pixel art style, lacking any kind of unique colours or style. While it´s a solid execution, with just the right amount of detail, I wished for so much more in a parody world of capitalism. Besides little coines flying from enemies, stages look like they´re ripped straight from another generic brawler. Enemies are your typical dragons or skeletons and so on … Imagine a 2D fantasy JRPG, you got this game. For some reason, the game also uses quite a lot of the Nintendo Switch´s power, at least according to the quite noisy fan.
Oh, Penny Punching Princess … I wanted to like you, really. I loved the silly concept, weird gameplay and nearly everything else about the trailers. Sadly, in the end, you´re just another slightly different 2D real-time JRPG, lacking any kind of unique humour, style or working gameplay systems. Nearly everything about you ended up as a camouflage for a generic base, with almost nothing special or motivating about.
[A Review Code was provided by NIS America]