Monsters (Probably) Stole My Princess

A game by Mediatonic for Xbox 360 and PSP, originally released in 2009.
Monsters (Probably) Stole My Princess was originally released as a PSP Mini title, and has since been released on Xbox Live Indie Games with an HD presentation and updated graphics. In Monsters, you take control of “The Duke”, a purplish vampire in a snappy outfit, who somewhat resembles The Count from Sesame Street. The game seems to open with your standard platforming premise: your princess has been stolen, and it’s up to you to get her back.

However, you as the player don’t actually get to witness her “kidnapping”; you only know that The Duke has awoken to a loud noise and finds that his princess is missing. He storms out to determine what has happened and immediately stumbles across a huge monster. The Duke gives the monster an accusatory point – his arm shaking with the intensity of it – and cocks his head back proclaiming that the monster (probably) stole his princess… because what else would a monster do?

(ed note: screens are a mix of the PSP and XBLIG versions of the game.)

And thus we immediately understand the character of The Duke. He freely admits that he has no evidence whatsoever to support his claim that the monster had anything to do with his missing princess, yet he is confident in the notion that he must punish the monster for his crime. This is all carried off humorously in the dialogue, and the monster in question seems worried that The Duke is going to come after him, which he does.

The monster flees up a vertical shaft attempting to escape the internally-justified wrath of The Duke, and The Duke gives chase. Your goal is to catch up to the fleeing creature and attack it 3 times before it reaches the top of the shaft and escapes to safety… but it’s not as simple as all that.

There’s not much to mastering the controls. You can run to the left and right, jump, wall jump, and double jump. In order to attack the monster, you just need to perform a double jump move on it, at which point he’ll speed ahead and leave you to catch up with him once more. You can also drop yourself down through a platform onto the one beneath it, and you’ll need to do this on occasion if you want to rack up a nice combo. And that’s the tricky part of the game… mastering the combo system.

Each new platform you jump on adds to your combo meter, but jumping on the same platform twice resets the meter to zero. So you’ll want to jump on as many platforms as possible, avoid previous ones, and still make it up the shaft quickly enough to stop the fleeing monster. It’s a delicate balancing act because dawdling too long to get to an out-of-the-way platform could mean that the monster will get too far ahead of you.

Yes, the fastest way to get to the monster is to just jump as quickly as possible without paying heed to where you’re landing, and you can make it through the entire game pretty quickly using this strategy. But the game’s rewards are built around these combos. For one, once you do deliver the third and final blow against the monster, you will unleash a finishing move. The move you use depends on the size of your combo. At the lowest level, you’ll just smash the creature back down to the ground, but on the highest, you’ll fly up into the sky, spread your black wings and dive bomb the hell out of it.

The game tracks your combo score in each level, showing you your score versus the total number of platforms that are actually in the level, and tempting you to do better by rewarding you with medals depending on your combo performance. You can also unlock scrapbook entries as you progress through the game and defeat monsters.

The whole experience plays out like a series of action-heavy boss fights and some serious platforming. Once you do defeat a monster, you’ll charge off into the next level and accuse the next monster of the same crime. The monsters and The Duke are given a lot of personality through their design and animation. And while the monsters are really the sympathetic characters here, it’s hard not to like The Duke and how he throws himself into the situation with all of his might and gusto. His determined look and devilishly happy grin sell the fact that he really loves beating up monsters, even if they don’t (necessarily) deserve it.

You’ll face off against the same monsters more than once, but each of the level layouts is different, as are the monsters’ evasive maneuvers. There are 6 environments, and a total of 24 stages. In addition to the story mode, there’s also a score attack mode, which has 3 different layouts for each area.

Mediatonic is based in London’s West End. It was established in 2005 and primarily creates browser-based social games for other companies, as well as iPhone games. As such, they have a large number of titles, many of which feature recognizable brands.

Their most recent game prior to Monsters Probably Stole My Princess was entitled Must.Eat.Birds, which was one of Mediatonic’s original titles. In this game, you use a slingshot to fire a deranged-looking critter named Normster into the air to eat birds that are parachuting down from the top of the screen with the intention of eating your cake and other treats. The game features 9 missions and 4 challenge levels.

Peu-Peu is another of Mediatonic’s original titles. It is a Flash-based multiplayer arcade shooter that allows between 2-10 players. Each player controls a ship and fights against creatures emerging from wormholes. Players can collect powerups to upgrade their own ship, or to send creatures toward their opponents.

Steamweavers is a human-on-human multiplayer turn-based strategy game available via Flash, Facebook, and iPhone. The titular Steamweavers are giant steam-powered machines that you can send into combat against your opponent. As is typical with games from this genre, you’ll raise revenue, manufacture a number of different unit types, and capture enemy positions on a variety of maps.

Extreme Lawn Bowls is a very odd shuffleboard-style game where you choose 1 of 8 oddball characters to roll balls across a yard to knock other balls around. The game features 4 tournaments, 8 special moves, and up to 6P multiplayer.

As mentioned, Mediatonic’s primary business comes in the way of commissioned titles, of which there are simply too many to go into detail on each. They have created dozens of games in numerous genres, featuring such recognizable brands as Sonic the Hedgehog, Diner Dash, The Fast and the Furious, Bejeweled, and Trivial Pursuit. Their clients have included a number of notable companies, including Nintendo, Sega, Electronic Arts, Disney, Time Warner, Namco Bandai, and Cartoon Network.