While the “beauty and the beast” set-up is one that’s long seen use in storytelling, Nippon Ichi Software’s The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince gives us an interesting twist on that classic idea. Here, our beauty is a delicate, soft-spoken prince of a small kingdom, and our beast a hulking wolf monster who spends her nights singing in the moonlight atop a cliff.
When her beautiful voice captures the ear of the prince, she’s at first amused by the attention she’s receiving from the puny human, but soon ends up coming to enjoy having an audience. That is, until the day that the prince finally decides he wants to meet the voice’s owner, and climbs the rocky hill to do so. The wolf, knowing the prince would be horrified to find out she was in fact a monster, reaches out to cover the prince’s eyes—but, instead, accidentally scratches him across the face, leaving him blind.
Feeling guilt over what she’s done, the wolf visits a witch who holds the power to return the boy’s sight if he’s brought to her. To do so, the wolf receives a second favor: the ability to transform into a human princess so that she won’t frighten the prince. Under the guise of her new form, the wolf convinces the prince that she’s a princess from a nearby kingdom, and that she can help him regain his sight.
Thus kicks off The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince, which plays out as one long escort mission in which you must drag the prince along by the hand through a variety of locations filled with dangers and challenges. At any time, the wolf can transform back into her original self, useful for dispatching threats or getting places that a smaller, weaker human might not be able to access. Meanwhile, the prince will only go along with the wolf when she’s a human, and various elements such as smaller passageways or switches are only usable when in princess form.
While enemies will indeed get in the way at times, the game’s real challenge comes from the environmental puzzles that litter the landscape. At first, I was afraid they’d fall too far on the easier end of the spectrum, but there ended up being a good amount of legitimately enjoyable (though never brain-breaking, outside of one bizarre outlier) situations where I needed to move platforms, remove obstacles, and utilize other elements in just the right way to allow the duo to safely progress. As you get deeper into the forest on the way to the witch’s home, the game adds new gimmicks to help keep things feeling fresh—though I couldn’t shake the feeling that there really could, and should, have been more in that regard.
Really, that’s where The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince most disappoints: It seems content with being a good game versus striving to be a great one. It took me just under four-and-a-half hours to beat The Liar Princess, and while I enjoyed almost all of my time with it, I was also reaching the point where I wasn’t sure if I’d want it to go on for too much longer. Had there just been more variety in how each area of the forest feels, and in what you’re tasked with doing there, I think it could have had the strength to be either a longer, or more impactful, game. The gameplay itself could also have benefited from more polish, such as tighter controls, more chances to cancel out of animations should you do the wrong thing (such as attack as the wolf in the wrong direction), fewer moments of getting stuck on the environment, and clearer understanding of which falls would be lethal and which wouldn’t (by far my biggest annoyance). To be clear, most of the time, The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince works the way it needs to, and neither gameplay nor controlling the wolf ever feel broken or unenjoyable—it’s just a case of a game where some clear improvements could have been made.
I wish that had been the case, as The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince is a wonderful little game in nearly every way otherwise. The story is simple but enjoyable, adorably innocent in one moment, silly in another, before suddenly swinging into surprisingly emotional territory. Our main duo and the other characters you’ll meet along the way help bring life to the world through both their quirky personalities and fantastic designs, and the game’s presentation is visually and audibly top notch. The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince builds off the push for more creative art styles seen in previous Nippon Ichi titles such as htoL#NiQ, Yomawari Night Alone, and A Rose in the Twilight, and I especially liked the “children’s storybook” direction taken here.
I don’t want it to come across as if The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince is an “experience game,” where gameplay takes a backseat to storytelling or atmosphere, because it definitely isn’t that. Instead, it’s simply a game where not all of its elements end up reaching the same level of quality together. I really appreciate Nippon Ichi doing these smaller, more personal projects, as even in their lowest moments they still often offer something that many other titles never do. I just wish their potential could be better realized, because games like this have the potential to be more than just niche hits among pre-established fanbases.
|Publisher: NIS America • Developer: Nippon Ichi Software • ESRB: E10+ • Release Date: 02.12.2019|
The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince continues Nippon Ichi Software’s tradition of visually compelling games that sadly feel a little lacking in the gameplay department. This adventure of a wolf in human form leading a delicate prince through a dangerous forest could have benefitted from a deep level of puzzles and polish—and yet, in the end, it may still win you over due to its style and sentiment.
|The Good||Beautiful visuals and music accompany gameplay that keeps things enjoyable throughout most of the journey.|
|The Bad||An extra level of depth to both the game’s challenges and controls would really have gone a long way.|
|The Ugly||Having to curb the “jump everywhere” habit I’ve learned from so many other games, since it can mean instant death here.|
|The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince is available on PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch. Primary version reviewed was for Switch. Review code was provided by NIS America for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.|