Backlog Review: “Monsters (Probably) Stole My Princess” (Xbox 360, Festival of Dread Special)
Welcome back to the Festival of Dread, The Splintering’s month-long celebration of all things creepy and chilling! Today we’re going to look at Monsters (Probably) Stole My Princess, a game from beyond the grave! Why so? Because the game is no longer available to purchase if you have not already done so (at least on Xbox 360).
Developed by MediaTonic in 2010 (-ish), Monsters (Probably) Stole My Princess is a fast-paced platformer released as both an Xbox Live Indie Games (reviewed) and PS3 Mini game. You play as “The Duke”, a bold, brash take on Count Dracula who has discovered that his princess is missing. He naturally assumes that a horrible monster has taken her away, so the Duke begins traversing the land in search of his kidnapped sweetheart.
Don’t call him Orlok
The game itself is a short, five-stage series of boss fights, all of which involve chasing an oversized baddie up a vertical shaft and knocking him down before he escapes. The gameplay is fairly simple: the Duke runs, jumps, double-jumps and jumps off of the walls. You’ll have to collide with each boss three times before defeating him, knocking him to the ground. The oversized monsters include a mutant fish, a Lovecraftian tentacle demon, a skull spider, a phantasm, and a giant robot, each of which has its own pattern of movement. The odd things is, you can’t die, as none of the creatures can actually hurt you. You will only fail if you don’t ascend the platforms quickly enough to catch your enemy without falling too far down or running out of time.
Once you’ve figured the game out, it only takes twenty minutes or so to complete the story mode from beginning to end. The real challenge, however, comes in maximizing your score before you defeat the boss. As you ascend, you build a combo meter by not landing on the same platform twice. You do not receive any bonus points for completing the stage more quickly. At the end of each stage, you’ll get a grade based on your performance. If you have your combo meter sufficiently built up when you deliver the final hit on a boss, the Duke also delivers a special finishing move.
Aside from story mode, there is also a score attack mode which is much more difficult. In score attack, you must achieve a particular score or meet a certain criteria before unlocking the next score attack stage. Working your way through both story and score attack modes will unlock either trophy-like awards or special images in a scrapbook gallery.
Music of the Night
Aesthetically, MPSMP is a sharp looking game. The character designs are fun and the Duke animates smoothly enough. No two stages look the same, though I suppose that isn’t tough given that there are only five stages.
The game has a very upbeat, but still Halloween-ish sound. The soundtrack is mostly made up of fast-paced organ music, with a celebratory Ode to Joy when you complete a level. I found the “clack” sound effect of the Duke’s landing on platforms to be oddly satisfying, and he belts out a hearty, vampiric laugh every time your combo meter reaches a multiple of ten.
Other than the story mode being short, there were a couple of annoying issues that detract from the princess-rescuing fun. Occasionally, your jumps seem to be cut short as though you hit an invisible ceiling. I was never able to recreate it or determine why it would happen, but hoo-boy can it screw you up in a game that demands precision. The platforms in the first half of the final stage were a little tough to see against the similarly-colored backgrounds. I can imagine that this would have been even more annoying on a handheld, but you get used to it after a few failures.
Did those seem like small complaints? They should, because Monsters (Probably) Stole My Princess is a pretty solid game. Yes, it’s not packed with content and you can see most of what the game offers in about half an hour, but at least it was a low buy-in on the now-defunct XBLIG store (I think I paid two dollars for mine). The PS3 version of MPSMP is still available on PSN, but it’s more expensive (five bucks). If you’re looking for a unique, light-hearted game to celebrate the Halloween season, Monsters (Probably) Stole My Princess isn’t a bad way to go. It’s just too bad that you can’t still jump in a bit more cheaply.
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