What do you bring to an already crowded table? More of the same but of a higher quality or something completely different? How about something from a different culture? Liar Princess & Blind Prince is definitely an interesting idea on paper. Take a storybook tale which has a Japanese narrator, levels of macabre you’d expect from your favourite Japanese animated movie and mix it all up into a solo co-op experience. Is this a brilliant new find in an already busy market or are we looking at something dressed up in fancy clothes to hide how normal it is?
We all know there are plenty of 2D platformer games with physics puzzles where children go into deep dark forests already on the market right now. What Liar Princess & Blind Prince does to set itself apart from the crowd is the need to guide the Prince through the entire tale either by the hand or by command. You can also transform from the helpless Princess into the man eating giant wolf and this makes you not only almost invisible but allows you to attack, jump higher and most importantly take no falling damage. The biggest hurdle in the Liar Princess & Blind Prince isn’t the puzzles, the monsters or the Prince. It’s the falling damage. You’ll find multiple moments where you’ll slip just slightly or misjudge a landing and it’s just another death and back to the start.
Liar Princess & Blind Prince is NES-Hard. All this wonder dressing doesn’t hide the fact that the difficulty slowly curves in a really nice way and then just spikes and darts wildly all over. There are puzzles that are brilliant number crunchers that have you scribbling on paper or using a calculator and there are others that just require multiple trial and error attempts learning what the patterns are. It’s strange a game with some really fascinating ideas for guiding a character along a path can have moments that are so blindly frustrating that the skip stage option in the pause menu seems a necessity rather than an optional extra. There are checkpoints but this only helps dent the difficulty slightly, you’ll still have to manage mechanics that seem to want a very specific placement before working as you first expect them to.
The Prince is both a blessing and the worst curse. When telling him to walk he slowly wanders over and after a while it’s quite cathartic to get him to bop into a wall or fall over as the cute animation of him suffering almost makes up for the 50th time you’ve seen him get eaten, walk off a moving platform or miss a jump and die from falling damage. He does help you narrow your focus and you quickly learn to scout the area before even attempting to lead him through. His deaths aren’t even a result of the controls over him, they are incredibly functional and yet he still will miss a jump because you’ve gone slightly too far, pause a bit too long before falling or just be another reason to backtrack.
Visually Liar Princess & Blind Prince is just incredible. The fact that the storybook style characters are so well animated and still function is a brilliant achievement in itself. You quickly get a feeling for where the hit box for the characters are and despite the extravagance of the wolf you won’t find yourself missing any jumps from that. It’s impressive that it’s so diverse as well, there are only 7 areas as this is a short game but each is stunning and set apart nicely. The only niggle is that some pages of the book are incredibly roughly drawn and there seems to be more of them towards the end of the game than at the start with little obvious reason as to which scenes get well drawn and which don’t.
Cutscenes are beautiful in Liar Princess & Blind Prince and after the initial hour they become your motivation to push on past the harder puzzles. Each cutscene is told with easy to read text as the Japanese narrator tells the story and it’s those moments that really do the game justice. They are still images but they tell the story in a way that flows naturally. Given how well animated every moving object in the world is this all fits together brilliantly. Liar Princess & Blind Prince also has some amazing music and despite the shortness of each section the loop is soothing. Regardless of how frustrating the gameplay can get the visuals and the audio are there to make the whole experience drastically more interesting and enjoyable.
There are two sets of collectables to be found in Liar Princess & Blind Prince, the flowers are set in fields with 1 per stage and need to be handed to the Prince and floating leaves are more like hidden coins with multiple throughout. There is an implication that there is a different ending with all these collected but a large number of them are hidden in areas that you would have really want to masochistically try to collect. If you enjoy combing every stage you’ll find them but it will take a lot of backtracking and guesswork. The standard story itself is definitely enjoyable though, it’s got highs, lows and a really nice conclusion (just be sure to watch it after the credits finish)
Liar Princess & Blind Prince is such a hard recommendation without caveats. It’s visually beautiful and you can stop to stare at its wonder and listen to the music for as long as you like. There are genuinely brilliant gameplay moments with the Prince but these all happen really early on in the game and by the final stage you’ll be swearing, frustrated and itching to use the skip stage option. If you take it as an interactive dark Japanese story book with a really great visual aesthetic and soundtrack then you’ll have a good time. Just don’t feel any shame in skipping some of the puzzles. It really is only for trophy hunters.
4/10 – One step forward, three steps back to get the Prince
The Liar Princess and The Blind Prince launches on the 12th February.
Code provided by EU Partner Relations – NIS America Inc. Check out NIS here