Weird, simple, and addictive.
Retro-inspired games are nothing new this generation. Everyone has a pixel platformer that attempts to capitalize on the glory days of simple gaming. However, in the sea of these titles I have yet to see one mix the aesthetic and mindset of classic Castlevania games with the out of left field mechanics of Super Mario Bros. 2. Amazing Princess Sarah might sound like a quintessential generic title, but what it lacks in flair, it makes up for in execution.
The premise is simple. Sarah’s father is kidnapped and she must traverse various castles in order to rescue him. Each stage is a puzzle of platforms that require accurate skill and dedication. There are no items or power-ups to speak of, instead Sarah’s only weapons are her sword, and the ability to pick up and throw any item or defeated enemy. It is simple, and effective. Thrown items do more damage, and certain enemies even have after effects such as arrow projectiles or fire.
Platforms: XB1, PC
Price I’d Pay: $6.49
Sarah also levels up with each kill, and her level is progressive. The game is based on checkpoints, reaching one refills her health and saves progress. Die in between them, and it is back to the last checkpoint. So in essence if I wanted to grind some levels it only takes a few deaths before Sarah’s attacks become more powerful.
Each castle is a puzzle of death. New enemies appear, as do new obstacles such as sliding on ice or water currents. The difficulty progression is great, and while I died a lot, I was never frustrated. The game punishes mistakes and never feels cheap. It also helps that the controls are perfect. The game runs at 60 frames per second, making every jump feel just right. Whenever I died, I knew it was either due to my skills, or a lack of patience.
Every castle ends in a unique boss fight. I loved figuring out their patterns and ways to defeat them. I miss games with giant bosses that require memorization and exploitation.
Once I completed the game a host of modifiers opened up for New Game+. These serve mostly to make the core game more challenging and are certainly novel. Sadly there is little incentive to revisit the game once the castles have been mastered. Sure I had a fun time trying to navigate while being “drunk,” but outside Achievements there was little purpose behind playing through every level a second time.
I love the simplicity of the visuals in Amazing Princess Sarah. Pixel art is certainly a common fad, but the ridiculous animations and dramatic camera zooms really sold me on this one. I love the clean art design, it made every castle feel unique. The real highlight though is the soundtrack. It emits a soothing set of melodies that would have been right at home in the glory days of the Super Nintendo.
Amazing Princess Sarah is a solid action platformer that is fun to blast through, and for $5 it is hard not to recommend it to fans of the genre. Low replay value aside this is an enjoyable romp, granted you have the patience and skills to finish these treacherous castles.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.