Penny-Punching Princess is quite a unique title coming from NIS America, combining elements of a beat ’em-up with RPG and even a bit of resource management. Hot on the heels of The Longest Five Minutes, which was another NIS America published game that also had a spin on its genre, Penny-Punching Princess feels like something different yet familiar at the same time. Set in a world where the rich can buy anything, including the opposition mid-battle and the traps set before them and turn them onto the enemies, this is a game about wealth and how the richer you are then the more powerful you become – sound familiar?
However, the game is comical, so whereas there are bribes and you acquire money in a ‘questionable’ manner, it’s all for comedic effect and I feel it pulls it off in most situations as the game is fun and enjoyable for the most part. So, come with me as I boot up my Vita for the first time in a few weeks, and I take a look at Penny-Punching Princess (PPP from now on) and see if it’s worth your money, or if you’re best keeping your money in order to bribe off evil-doers…
(All images are from the press site as I can’t find my Vita cable)
Our Princess’ father, the King, had let his kingdom run into ruin and allowed it to be taken over by the rich Dragoloan family. We must now start penny-less and aim towards restoring our families legacy in the only way that this world runs – with money. However, being penny-less doesn’t help, so in Rivercity ransom style, you must go around punching waves of enemies and collect all the coins which spew from them like blood and sweat.
It’s a simple premise and story and the writing is particularly silly and humorous – especially the English voice over for the narrator – nothing else is voice, only the narrator, makes it stand out but I’m glad they did it as he delivers his lines perfectly. As you collect money, you can use them mid-battle to bribe enemies to join you, take over traps, and open doors – once you finish a level you can also use the captured enemies to craft better gear and upgrade your stats just like an RPG.
The game plays with a lot of different styles and mechanics and some work and some don’t – on the vita you also have the option of touchscreen or button-based (which I’ll come to later) and there are some performance issues. All-in-all though, it’s another quirky little game that is fun to play and available on both PS Vita and the Switch (Kinda wish it was out for PS4 but nevermind).
First things first – the controls on the Vita, as above, PPP has two control methods – Touch Screen and Button Based – but these only affect how you buy/bribe things mid-battle. Above is an image of the game with the calculator on-screen (I’ll explain that below), this is what has alternative controls.
With this mode, you must tap in the amount you wish to pay something, so if you see an enemy with ‘700’ above its head you must tap in 700, then you tap the enemy or trap you wish to buy/bribe – this is all whilst you are trying to avoid the other enemies on screen and attack (which is done with the face buttons). Personally, I wasn’t a fan of this method as you only have two hands and the game feels like this method is best if you have three – so if you have three hands then I recommend this method.
This mode is similar, you still see the calculator on screen, but you must move a selection cursor around the calculator with the D-Pad, whilst trying to move with the left analogue stick and attack with the face buttons – see an issue here? The alternative is to hold down the L-Shoulder button (which must always be held for the calculator), and then tap the R-Shoulder button – this will auto-select the nearest creature/trap and the amount it needs – simply press X and it’s yours!
Now, both methods have clear flaws. With the touch method, you have to hold the L-Shoulder button and tap the screen with your fingers away from attacking. With the button method, you also have to hold the L-Shoulder button whilst using the D-pad so your fingers are away from being able to manoeuvre. With the touch method, you have direct control over what you are buying, whereas with the button method it’s a bit hit-or-miss in terms of what you buy unless you once again take your hands off the movement stick and use the D-pad to select an enemy.
How would I have done it? Possibly allowed the game to slow down or stop once you hit the L-Shoulder button so it gives you time to react and select things without the threat of having your ass kicked whilst trying to pick an amount. Alternatively, maybe allow you to press both shoulder buttons so it locks onto one thing to buy, then use the L and R shoulder buttons to select the creature/item so that you can still freely move whilst doing so. It’s tricky on the Vita as it doesn’t have the double shoulder buttons – if it did then I’m sure it would have been a lot easier. You can use the game on a PSTV device, but it’s the same control scheme only you can only play it in the button method.
In terms of the levels, it reminds me a lot of Pokepark/Pokemon Rumble on the Wii/Wii U – you must traverse through rather big maps (which can sometimes take 20-30 minutes to complete) and every now and again you will be ‘locked in’ by a gate, as enemies spawn in and beat you up. Within these small enclosed areas, you will find traps such as fire pits, falling rocks and spike traps, which are all out to kill you. However, as above, you can ‘buy’ these traps if you have enough money then hit Triangle to use them on the enemy. You only have a certain number of uses but the results are usually devastating if you hit something.
Alternatively, you can just punch your way to victory or even bribe the enemies to join you – if you do this then they also become a limited-use Triangle button attack where you can spawn them in to deal damage. Once you hit the enemies past their ‘breaking point’, they will become stunned and you can rotate the Right-stick in order to shake more money out of them whilst they are stunned. This really helps to keep the combat varied as it can get a bit frustrating getting caught in these mini-areas, one after another, but being able to use the enemies against each other or manipulate the traps is a pretty good mechanic – kind of like Deception (from Koei Tecmo) but you are ‘buying’ the traps instead of laying them.
Each level also contains chests containing coins and secret golden artefacts which you must collect in order to create new items after the level is completed. You also have a few environment items you can ‘buy’ along the way – doors that open with 300 coins and health pads that unlock at 100. The health pads are really handy but they only last a certain amount of time until they power down and you can’t use them anymore. The only other way I’ve found of restoring health is to bribe certain ‘heart-shaped’ creatures and use their ability as they give you a small health boost. This wouldn’t be bad if I wasn’t constantly taking my thumbs off either the controls or the attacks in order to buy things.
Upon completing a level, you are sent back to the menu and you are given a load of things to do at this stage. You can craft your own armour by using coins and the creatures you have captured – each armour set has different skills and health/attack bonuses, so you sometimes have to swap out what you have in order to overcome certain enemies. You can also take a look at all the creatures you have caught, once you have a certain number of enemies in your possession you also unlock new bonuses. Another thing you can do is create Zenigami statues out of the golden artefacts you find and you can take a look at your status screen and upgrade your own abilities based on if you have levelled up.
The game gets quite deep, but not too deep. In regards to the level select screen, you have numerous levels and each of these are split up into chapters all of which increasingly gets more and more difficult with harder enemies, more waves and new traps. I’m glad they have made it so certain enemies are required to create gear as it gives you a reason to go back and search for certain enemies and capture them rather than killing them – I like that it plays on the mechanic of bribing as it’s strength.
In terms of difficulty – the game is pretty tricky. You will soon find yourself overwhelmed with enemies in some areas and if you take your eyes off them for one moment then it could be the difference between life and death – which isn’t helped by the fact that some levels do take about 30 minutes to progress through. The bosses of the stages are also quite tricky – if you die then you are thrown back to the map screen with that whole run (and all of its spoils) lost. This is where the frustration kicked in with me as I replayed various levels numerous times in order to get stronger. The problem here is that it feels like a Rogue-like game in that you are expected to keep playing until you get better stats and armour, but the fact you lost it all if you die kinda defeats that feeling. You have to go back and replay earlier levels, ones you know you can complete, as that way you know that you should be able to finish the level and actually get out with the items you need.
It’s not too hard, but I feel losing all of your items and gold of that run if you die is too harsh – especially with no checkpoints or quicksaves. If you lost half your gold and creatures you obtained then fair enough, it means you can keep trying until you get better – but losing it all quickly got me annoyed and I moved onto other games every time I lost everything I’d just done in the last session.
Graphically, the game looks really cute and delightful – even if underneath it’s a game about corruption, money, and bribery. The avatars in the cutscenes aren’t the best as they are just blown-up versions of the tiny sprites, so they look all blocky (which I guess is the point, but it would have been nice to have some detailed avatars). The audio is also equally as good with the music being really well suited to the game and the narrator’s voice is perfect for the role – it’s a shame other characters aren’t voiced as well, but I’m glad at least one of them is.
In terms of performance, the Vita version has a few slowdowns on both the PSTV and the Vita itself. There isn’t many but they are noticeable once the action is cranking up on the screen. By that I mean when you have about 7+ enemies on screen and a trap either hitting them or hitting you, the game has a brief stutter and a little slowdown – but nothing major as it mainly running at a decent rate.
Penny-Punching Princess is an interesting game that combines various gameplay mechanics in order to deliver a unique gaming experience. Embracing the bribery mechanic, you can spend hours searching for the creatures you need for your armour and convincing them to come with you on your journey whilst also ensuring you obtain the correct traps to help you wipe out the others. The only let-down is having to repeat previous levels due to the ‘you die, you lose everything’ mentality of the death mechanic, this made some levels boring and monotonous due to their length and you usually being OP when you are replaying levels.
This is a great game to play at home or on the go with full PSTV support and I had a lot of fun playing it. Recommended to fans of Beat ’em Ups, Rogue-like games, and simple RPGs – why not give it a try! One thing to be aware of, the game is digital only in the UK with only a physical version on the Switch available in Europe and the USA.
- Cool use of the capitalism mechanics
- Addictive gameplay with satisfying coin collecting
- The narrators voice is perfect
- Works on PSTV
- Both control methods have significant disadvantages
- Being forced to replay previous levels gets a bit monotonous
- Difficult spikes due to the controls and the influx of enemies per wave