To celebrate the recent news that Sony is changing how PlayStation Plus works and essentially combining it with PS Now, for this week’s indie spotlight we wanted to take a look at some gems from the PS3 era that deserve a second chance now that Sony is finally removing its fingers from its ears when it hears the words backwards compatibility.
This is a much harder task than it first appears. Instantly, games like Journey, Flower, and Noby Noby Boy come to mind as beloved indies, and then you quickly remember that they’ve all seen ports of some kind. Doesn’t feel like they need much of a spotlight, does it?
This is true of many indies from the PS3 era – they’ve practically all been ported or upgraded since. Anything that hasn’t seen some sort of revival or port usually deserves to stay in the nether zone that is the PlayStation Store’s one-star filter, but after searching my brain far and wide for experiences that remain unplayable on anything but the PS3, I’ve finally come up with two, count ‘em two, obscure indies that deserve some love – Fat Princess and Pain.
“Hell yeah, Fat Princess and Pain!” is what I’m sure every single one of you are thinking, and you’re right to do so. If you’re not one of the five paid members of my very cool Fat Princess and Pain appreciation club, let me tell you why.
If either of these games rings even the slightest of bells, I’d bet it was Fat Princess. I’d go even further and bet that it’s not even because of the game itself. For reasons unbeknownst to man, Sony decided to make the titular royal one of the first known characters in PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, which means that it’s now basically the only thing the series is known for despite totalling three games.
As great as All-Stars Battle Royale is (eat it Smash dummies, both can be good), it’s a shame that this became the series’ legacy, because Fat Princess is a ton of fun. The original and its apparently superior PSP port are real-time strategy games that… wait, no, don’t click away I wasn’t done. The word strategy might send a chill down your spine, but Fat Princess is real-time and lets you control units yourself, making it a great entry point into the genre.
Strategy seems like a fancy word for what is essentially capture-the-flag but let’s roll with it. Each player spawns at a castle that acts as their base, either red or blue, which holds the other team’s captive princess in a dungeon. Your objective is to steal back your own princess while keeping the other teams for yourself, which can be made easier by feeding the princess cake to make her heavier and harder to carry away.
It’s up to players to defend the captured princess and find a way into the other team’s castle to steal back their own. They can do this by choosing between six different classes on the fly, all of which have different capabilities like the Warrior who focuses on combat, the Mage who casts spells and can heal, and the Worker who can mine resources to upgrade both the classes themselves for new moves, and arm the castle with traps to keep the other team from capturing the princess.
At its core, it really is just capture-the-flag but the flag is a fat princess. But when played online against real people, there’s such a massive focus on working together that it ends up feeling really wholesome. Every class is essential to victory, so even if you’re playing as a Worker that’s just toiling away chopping trees down and helping upgrade the castle, you’re just as important as the Warrior trying to leap into the castle and steal the princess back. Fat Princess is also robust enough that you can say sod it and decide to be the worker that uses his axe on the enemies and go on the offensive, class purposes be damned.
I was 11 when I first played Fat Princess, so it was one of my first tastes of online multiplayer. And just like the cake, boy was it good. Sadly, you might never get to experience that for yourself as the game has been offline for nearly a decade now and isn’t even available to buy on the PlayStation Store. The PSP version is also offline, leaving the action RPG spin-off Fat Princess Adventures as the only remnant of the series. Let’s hope the new PlayStation Plus changes that.
My second obscure PS3 indie is thankfully a lot simpler – in Pain, you fire idiots out of a massive slingshot to destroy the environment and try to get as high a score as possible. No, really, that’s it. That idiot can be Daxter from Jak and Daxter, Buzz from Buzz, or even David Hasselhoff, but the concept remains the same throughout. Just fire them out of a slingshot, get them in a pose that makes them hit their nuts on a rooftop sign, and giggle to yourself.
I’m willing to admit my love of Pain is mostly nostalgic, but having dug out my PS3 and played it recently, it has some deceptively tough challenges that’ll have you messing around with levels and characters for more than just “who looks funnier hitting their butt on something spiky”. Each stage has a ton of hidden secrets and ways to interact with each other, such as being able to grab a prop bowling ball and roll it around a city area, or smashing into a rollercoaster and holding on for dear life for maximum points. You can even make your own levels, although putting that much brainpower into Pain might be missing the point entirely.
Neither Pain or Fat Princess are works of high art, but they do remain as two of the only PS3 indies that are stuck on the console. Fat Princess truly deserves a second chance as a fun riff on capture-the-flag with gorgeous cartoon graphics, and Pain is just dumb fun that harkens back to a much simpler time – perfect choices for PlayStation Plus if you ask me.
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