Punch your enemies with hate and money in Penny Punching Princess!
We always wish we could have some more money to help us through our lives. A little cash every now and then would really help us, right? In Penny Punching Princess, money is more than just the path to happiness. Just like in real life, it’s the path to survival.
The story of the game is riddled with capitalistic intrigue. The titular character, Penny the punching princess, seeks revenge against the Dragoloans after her father and King lost a lot of money due to a dodgy foreign exchange system that ended badly for him. He died out of shame, leaving Penny to grieve only momentarily before being goaded by the God of Money to defeat the Dragoloans the only way she can comprehend: money!
With her companion (who is most definitely not a cockroach, but a Miyama Stag beetle) Sebastian, both he and Penny hammer home the concept of the rather simple story. Money is everything and without it people are nothing. It’s a harsh, tragic concept that arguably reflects how it is perceived in real life and the game does make it interesting, at first. To see Penny fall prey to the same capitalistic approach that doomed her father, as well as her being lured by various enemies (as well as friends) to consider that money is the reward for any situation is surprisingly hard to watch. Yet it falls prey to repeatability in the worst way: the concept of money and its links to capitalism and living are fine to talk about. In fact, it should be talked about. But after a while, the ongoing discussion about it becomes tiresome and makes the story feel dull and stilted.
The dialogue, however, does make up for the repetitive storyline and the lack of cinematic cutscenes. It’s fun, comical, and the use of different accents and dialect was intriguing. I did wish that there had been a more in-depth story about the Princess and her mental state, which clearly isn’t up to snuff by the way, but perhaps I may have been wanting something that wouldn’t have fit with the tone of the game…
Gameplay is fun, but controls are unwieldy
Despite the wacky nature of Penny Punching Princess, when it comes down to it, it really is just an isometric brawler that has a bit of weird side to it. The basic (non-weird) concept is you go around punching the living crap outta your enemies throughout different environments, turning them into enemy-sized pinatas that rain out cash instead of candy. You’ve got your light attacks, your dodge, heavy attacks and a special attack that shoots fire right out of your hands. All of these are pretty essential to surviving against waves of enemies, getting them to their breakpoint which you can then use to spam money out of them. You’d do well to practice your different techniques as you fight because your enemies can turn the tide against you quickly.
This is where I get to the weird part, but weird in an arguably unique in a way that I really like. As you may have noticed above, there is a calculator. While you can pretty much beat your enemies to death there is another way. You pull up your calculator, see how much the enemy wants and then bribe them to come over and fight for you if you have enough money to buy them. Unfortunately, this isn’t stackable. So if you bribe one enemy, don’t use them and then bribe something else then the previous enemy is gone forever and doesn’t come back.
The calculator sounds perfect, doesn’t it? But that is so very far from the truth. The calculator really can rescue you from tricky situations but it is easy to make a mistake and die in the process. The LZ button can help you quickly input the nearest enemies bribe offer, but often it ends up going dreadfully wrong as you often have to do this while fighting multiple enemies. This can lead to you spamming the number 5 more times than you can count, often meaning you either stand still and get rid of the numbers manually (often leading to instant death) or you say ‘screw it’ and just beat all your enemies up, crying in frustration. Not fun at all.
Flaws and all, Penny Punching Princess looks beautiful on the Switch.
The game’s visuals are stunning, there’s no other way to put it. It looks bright and beautiful, and the environments have been detailed with the most utmost care. I also really love how Penny can interact with the environment, sometimes you’ll need to bribe a gate for it to open a secret doorway and other times it’ll trap you in a certain area until all enemies are cleared. It can be difficult, but in a way that is fun and necessary rather than cheap.
Another thing is that the game runs great. I didn’t run into any framerate issues apart from times when enemies literally decided to dog-pile on me, but even then it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the game as it didn’t become too much of an issue. To some it will frustrate yes, but from my experience I can say that it is a situation easily avoided by rolling away from enemies when there is a large hoard of them. At least that will give you some more time to admire the art around you, right?
There is another problem, however…
You’re probably sitting there thinking, ‘What? Another problem, Aimee?’ But yeah, in all seriousness there is one big problem that doesn’t affect my rating but does affect my opinion on whether or not players should buy this game straight away. Yeah, you’ve guessed it. The pricing.
Now don’t get me wrong, this is a great game and at the end of the day my opinion on this won’t change the pricing at all, but the fact that this game is over $30 is astounding to me as there simply is not enough content to justify that. The game is as long as you make it because most games are, but the story is short and the maps aren’t huge either. Yes, you can build up your skills and that means re-doing dungeons, but to me, that seems as though Penny Punching Princess is trying to fill up time as best as it can. For a game that makes a mockery of capitalism, you would think that it would have considered that. Apparently not.
Overall Penny Punching Princess sets out to do what every isometric brawler does, only with a twist that is awkward and makes gameplay tedious at times. That said, if you are interested in the genre and want a to laugh and have a good time, this game is the one for you!
Available on: Nintendo Switch (Reviewed) and PS Vita; Publisher: NIS America; Developer: NIS America; Players: 1; Released: April 3rd, 2018; ESRB: T; MSRP: $39.99/£40.00
Full disclosure: This review is based on a Nintendo Switch review copy of Penny Punching Princess given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.