Over the past couple of decades 2D platformers have become the favourite genre of both developers and gamers. Bouncing from precarious ledge to precarious ledge has become almost genetic in the evolution of any gamer’s taste. For some, bounding through the Mushroom Kingdom is their first memory of gaming. Some owe their love of 2D platforming to Super Meat Boy or Thomas Was Alone. Everyone in between has that first 2D platformer that nestles within their hearts. If anyone’s first memory of a two-dimensional platformer ends up being Amazing Princess Sarah though, gaming will definitely lose a fan.
Amazing Princess Sarah puts you into the role of a not-so-Amazing Princess, surprisingly called Sarah, who must battle through five different castles in a quest to free her father (the king) who has been captured by the malevolent Lillith. That’s it, story done. There’s nothing more to it: no hidden narrative depths peek around the corners or try to cause any sort of surprise. Not that it really matters though because the game only uses this simple tale to frame the gameplay, and that’s a shame. A real big shame.
From the ground up Amazing Princess Sarah is trying hard to emulate classic 2D platforming, it even tries to give the main character a unique selling point. That selling point is throwing stuff. Doesn’t sound particularly special does it? Well it isn’t. Obvious as Haruneko’s efforts are to make this mechanic interesting enough to support gameplay, lobbing dead enemies at other enemies (which often kicks in special results like arrow rain) to make more dead enemies never becomes any more compelling than throwing a small child or your gamepad across the room; an event which is destined to happen.
The gamepad throwing that is, not launching infants.
After the first castle – which is only slightly less infuriating that the rest – Sarah is thrust into one hair-ripping platform challenge after the next. Enemies sit on precariously small platforms, pacing back and forth so you’re forced to jump in and beat them to a pulp while taking some damage or bouncing to them until they pass away. For the most part this is far from a significant problem. During certain sections though this becomes so irritating that dining upon your own face becomes a more attractive prospect.
A fine example of this involves flame-launching female enemies, who also have eerily active digital chests, who sit on a series of five platforms floating above a floor of spikes. Their flames can be cast in a cascade down platforms, turning this sequence into a waterfall of fire. You can leap over the flames but it requires impeccable timing and luck, because each platform is icy. As a result, carefully timing your actions between each fiery flood pours out of the window. Instead sliding along platforms while avoiding flaming death and the relentless pacing of foes is the name of the game.
This is only made worse by the automatic knockback suffered when you take any damage, combining with the slippery steps to create a whirlwind of fury.