With all the noise, fanfare and controversy surrounding triple-A games these days, it’s very easy to forget that there’s a whole world of independent games out there just waiting to be discovered and enjoyed. I’ve been diving into this world more and more over the past year or so, and the amount of quality titles I’ve found so far has been a little shocking. I haven’t exactly been picking obscure games, but they definitely belong to their own niches (and have been quite enjoyable as a result). Most recently, I started playing Nippon Ichi’s The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince. It shouldn’t really stand out all that much since it’s basically just a simple puzzle-platformer connected by brief cutscenes, but it still does somehow thanks to its maker’s keen attention to detail.
As I said above, The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince isn’t all that remarkable when it comes to gameplay. As the wolf/princess you alternate between guiding the prince through each level and clearing the way forward in wolf form. Puzzles range from simple to tricky and mostly involve hitting switches and raising/lowering platforms in the right order. It’s enough to keep the game interesting, but not enough to hold it up on its own.
The story is of a somewhat similar quality. I’m not finished with the game yet, but I have a decent idea of where its going thanks to its fairy tale-esque structure. The way I see it, there are only two ways it can end, and I just want to find out which route this game is going to go down. All that said, The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince has still been worth playing so far.
I may not be all that invested in the gameplay or the plot, but I absolutely love these characters, the music, and the world they live in. The art very successfully pulls-off the “living storybook” feel the artist is going for, and the soundtrack does a great job of applying a sense of place to the events. Each location feels distinct from the rest because of this.
The characters themselves are just plain endearing. The game never lets us forget that the “princess” is a kind of monster first and foremost, so she’s always dealing with it in some way or form. She consistently makes mistakes like offering raw meat to the prince or talking about hunting prey in front of him. We also see her struggle with the idea of interacting with him in her true form.
As for the prince, he mostly just comes across as a very sweet and naive kind of person. The dramatic irony surrounding him is terribly palpable since he’s completely unaware of both the princess’ true form and her attempts to cope with the situation. Despite their individual troubles, it’s very clear that they like being together. The animators made to add little details so as to make it unmistakable. If one gets hurt or killed, the other is visibly distraught. Both look unhappy when apart, but are always smiling while hand-in-hand. It’s all in the details when it comes to this game, and that’s something I feel is sorely lacking in the more popular big-budget gaming realm.
The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince is one of those game’s that lives and thrives in the details rather than the broad strokes. If it weren’t all the extra nuance seen in the art, music, character design and writing, this game would be nothing more than an average experience at best. With all of that though, it becomes something very much worth spending some time with. It’s old-fashioned gameplay tied to a classic story freshened up with beautiful visuals, charming characters and expressive detail. Give it a try if you’re in the mood for something a little different.
What do you think of niche games vs. mainstream titles? Would they benefit from more attention, or would they simply become more of the same? What’s a lesser-known game you’re particularly fond of?
Lede image from Nintendo Store page