For all its candy-coated sweetness, there’s something vaguely sinister at the core of Fat Princess. The original 32-player strategy title gave players access to six character classes, plunked them down into a cartoon-styled fantasy kingdom, and let them beat each other into bloody pulps. Sure, squeamish players could turn the gore off, but even then, it still felt sort of like watching a Looney Tunes short where the violence suddenly had realistic consequences. According to Chris Miller, Fun Bits studio head and a member of the original Fat Princess development team, that wasn’t an accident.
“We really loved the idea of these kind of cute little characters attacking [each other]… in very violent ways,” Miller says. That was true from the very beginning. During a PlayStation Experience (PSX) panel about game development, Miller showed off the earliest prototype of Fat Princess. There wasn’t any princess and the game’s capture-the-flag-inspired gameplay was nowhere to be seen, but the brutal combat certainly was. He also shared some early concept art, including a drawing of a plucky soldier climbing over a wall with a ladder made from enemy corpses. According to Miller, “that juxtaposition between cute and gory at the same time” was what initially convinced Sony to green-light Fat Princess; without the brutality, the game likely wouldn’t exist.
It was a weird style choice, but it worked. Over time, the eponymous Fat Princess has grown into a PlayStation icon, taking her place alongside the likes of Kratos, Nathan Drake, and Solid Snake. Fat Princess is a valuable franchise for Sony, and a follow-up was inevitable. Miller and the Fun Bits development team are taking a slightly different tact for the franchise’s second outing, Fat Princess Adventures.
For one, the upcoming sequel is a top-down adventure title, not a multiplayer competition. Like the original game, players can switch between character classes (warriors, archers, mages, and engineers) to tackle monsters and other challenges, but this time, they’ll be exploring dungeons and collecting treasure, not trying to beat another team.
While players can still team up, it’s no longer necessary. Miller says that Fat Princess Adventures will allow “people to play by themselves, or they can jump online with four people and do the co-op thing as well.” As he explains it, “there was a group of people that were like, ‘I love Fat Princess, but I’d love to play this game at my own pace.’” And to make single-player more enticing, there’s a real plot this time, too. “This world is just so charming, and something we wanted to expand upon,” Miller says. He’s excited about combining “the charm of the original” with “story and depth.”
To emphasize the different experience, Fun Bits is also changing the original title’s visual style. Fat Princess Adventures presents a more in-depth look at the Fat Princess world, and Miller wants the graphics to indicate that. The 2D, cell-shaded graphics are gone, replaced by “something more rendered-looking. More towards the Pixar space.” The camera’s more dynamic, too. Miller says, “We realized that we can bring the camera in a little lower every once in a while. We really want to get into this world and see a lot more of the world of Fat Princess.” The audio will take on new life too, thanks to Robb Mills’ sound design and music composition work.
Fun Bits is also using Fat Princess Adventures to address some of complaints about the first title. Originally, the Princess herself was an object to be captured and/or rescued, and some critics found this aspect of the game to be “weightist.” This time, the Princess is an active combatant, and Miller promises that Fun Bits will treat her with the respect that such a beloved character deserves.
The demo at PSX didn’t feature any noticeable blood, and Fun Bits has seemingly gone back on its initial, violent vision to re-evaluate what makes Fat Princess special. According to Miller, it’s not the gore that defines the franchise: “You just smile when you’re playing Fat Princess; you just want to have a good laugh with the chaos that happens.”
Insanity over violence isn’t a bad trade, and the demo backed that up. After just a couple of steps through the intro level, Fat Princess Adventures’ heroes are attacked by hordes of up to twenty monsters. Potions turn both players and enemies into chickens. When a character eats cake, they transform into Incredible Hulk-esque behemoths that move slowly but possess incredible strength. On its own, each one of these things feels pretty silly. But when it’s all happening at once, particularly with four players in the mix, the whole experience feels like it’s constantly about to spiral out of control.
A subset of players will miss the blood, and the lack of competitive multiplayer will certainly turn some fans off. But this isn’t just a sequel to Fat Princess; it’s a completely different take on the franchise. So far, it seems to be working. The early gameplay felt like Secret of Mana or the top-down Legend of Zelda titles on steroids, and the PS4 processors admirably handled all of the on-screen chaos. Fun Bits hasn’t announced a release date yet, but take our word for it: Fat Princess Adventures is one to keep an eye on.