Having played and reviewed htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary several years ago, I had a feeling I knew what to expect with The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince. Both games were from Nippon Ichi Software, both featured what appeared like similar gameplay, and even the style was familiar. While there are links between the two games development wise, I found myself enjoying The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince a bit more.
The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince begins with a wolf and its mesmerizing singing voice in a forest of horrors. Unbeknownst to the wolf, it has an audience of one particular prince who grows increasingly curious about who is behind the beautiful voice and one day takes a peek. Upon being discovered and startled, the wolf quickly tries to hide by covering the eyes of the prince only to inadvertently blind him.
Unfortunately for the prince, the king decides to imprison him for this abnormality leaving him to rot in a cell. The wolf, feeling guilty and responsible, decides she will bust the prince out and heal him. In doing so, the wolf seeks out aid from a witch who requires payment The Little Mermaid style by taking the wolfs voice. To get close to the prince, the witch enables the wolf to transform to a princess (also with the ability to shift back) so she can rescue him and go on the journey to help him regain his sight while being in the guise of a human. Thus is the plot of The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince.
I know you may look at the plot and think it’s something out of a story book, and frankly I did too. It was solidified even more by both the appearance and music of the game. Interactions between the characters during cut-scenes and the general feel of the game’s plot is enjoyable and heartfelt. The sepia tone and other muted colors gives it an older rustic look and the scenery in every level screams of foreign lands one might find in old fairy tales. The music plays very well to the melancholy of the game even if certain aspects of it may get a little grating with how often it may repeat in certain levels.
The design of the prince and princess both appear cute and innocent whereas the transformation into the wolf is a bit more jarring. Not necessarily in a bad way, but the scratchiness of the fur mixed with the placement of the eyes gives it a shadow aesthetic that could be something from a nightmare. In this game though, it works in a more light approach. There’s not a lot of creatures to bypass in the game, but the ones in there are both on the cute side (until they reach out to take a bite) and ones a little more intimidating such as the bull rushing monster. The world itself seems safe enough, and far less threatening than the witch originally made it out to be at the beginning of the game, but it doesn’t take much for the prince or princess to meet their end.
The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince plays pretty simply. The player controls the princess who with a press of the button (X on the Nintendo Switch), can change between the wolf form and princess form. The majority of the time will be spent holding the hand of the prince to navigate him through the world (using the Y button). I was originally off-put by the need to hold a button the entire time, but I grew accustomed to it as the game progressed. Traveling the world is done through platforming. Jumping will be the typical way to do that, but environmental factors such as springy mushrooms or large yeti-like creatures will help you get around as well.
When it comes to puzzles, I am a dunce. Most games have me scratching my head or finishing them in frustration after beating my head against the wall or looking up solutions. The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince has its fair share of environmental puzzles to get from one level to the next, but it was never to the point of irritation. Buttons react to weights that cause platforms in the environment to raise or lower, but the weights might not come down to a character but a block or lantern. Using special commands for the prince, that come periodically as the story plays out, will give him the courage to venture a short distance out without the princess to go with him or instruct him to pick up or drop objects that will assist with the puzzles. Enough new ideas are wheeled out every few levels to keep things fresh through the end.
In case there does happen to be a puzzle stumping you, the pause menu provides the ability to skip the level. It does require that a minimum of ten minutes is spent in the level though, so it does try to push you to keep attempting the puzzles. This inclusion is pretty nice as someone who may trip up from puzzles in games.
Throughout the journey, the player must watch out for the creatures (albeit, not as various as one would hope) that roam the lands. It is during these moments that the princess must switch out to the wolf form to defend both herself and the prince. In human form, she is just as susceptible to death as her comrade. However, in wolf form, she can attack the creatures and kill them, paving the way for a safe venture throughout the level. If the player prefers not killing the creatures and trying to make an otherwise easy game more difficult, it would seem possible to get through (at least some) levels by jumping over them or avoiding them altogether in some cases.
I say it would seem possible because while I’m not going that route, the game on the Switch has built in achievements. At least one achievement mentions finishing a level without killing any creatures, but I’m not positive if that’s a possibility that would extend to the remainder of the game.
The checkpointing in the game is pretty respectable, and it’s good because I found myself straying from the prince thinking I could unlock things ahead of time, only to be unable to return to the prince due to the layout of the level. I also died on numerous occasions because I couldn’t switch to my wolf form quick enough after a jump leading one of the creatures to attack with their one-hit kill. So I was thankful for those checkpoints in cases like that too.
This may make me sound like a lunatic, bud I was let down with the kill animations. I loved quite a bit of the animations in the game (face-planting is great), but there is really nothing about a creature attacking and killing either the princess or prince. I was expecting (and hoping) it would be on par with…say…Limbo for instance to really nail home how dangerous this world is supposed to be. Instead the animations have the characters barely react, really negating that fear one should have about these two dying.
Once the game is finished, the player has the ability to go to any section using the stage select. Some stages have flower petals or whole flowers to collect, although at the time of writing, I have not found them all to know what exactly discovering them all would do. It may be worth it. It may not. The option to do so is there though.
Writer Update: I learned that the collection of flowers would ultimately lead to an optional side story while the petals would unlock various artwork from the game along with developer notes about them.
The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince is a well crafted game that nails a style that people will either love or hate. It’s not a challenging game and perhaps plays it safe in a few areas, but there is a mood that reflects the love and care that Nippon Ichi Software provided in this fairytale puzzle platformer. It’s hard to see it stacking up against some of the heavy hitters in the genre, but for those wanting something less stressful but still solid, The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince could satisfy that itch.
Score: 4 out of 5
*A review code for the Nintendo Switch was provided by NIS America*