Penny-Punching Princess is the latest release from NISA, who are publishers behind the Disgaea series. It is a brand new IP with a unique concept of a world where cash is considered the most essential form of life and preferred over everything else. The power and rank of the people hardly matter in this world as long as you have the money to sustain your life. Bribing and spending money both play a big role in the gameplay and help shape the overall experience.
The story in Penny-Punching Princess is relatively straightforward. You control a Princess who is on the path of reclaiming her Kingdom after her father was scammed out of his money by the ruthless Dragoloan family. As it is the case with such games, the main draw here is not the story but the gameplay elements and this is one aspect of the game that works decently.
Penny-Punching Princess focuses on 16-bit sprites for its art style. This visual style seems to suit its low-budget look well and works for the context of the game. The presentation is neat with a focus on the combat as an isometric beat-em-up game. The idea here is to present levels that are not overly complicated so you will get almost next to none puzzles in the actual missions. The gameplay is straightforward as you go from point A to B clearing out any enemies along the way. The main charm lies in the concept for the game and its combat system, that can end up offering a fun experience if you can ignore its repetitions.
I never expected Penny-Punching Princess to be good with its combat. The game relies on the mechanics of cash overflow to a great degree by letting you not only bribe other creatures that you fight along your way, you can also use the money that you collect to open your way to new locations e.g. bribing to open a locked door with cash. It is a neat concept that is relatively simple but will take time to grasp over the course of the game. Cash is everything is the game and you will realize it right from the first level. You can use the cash to bribe monsters into joining your party. You will be able to summon them in fights to ask for help as well.
The combat works like a simple brawler but the new addition here comes in the form of a calculator. You can use the calculator to bribe other monsters and you have to manually input the bribe amount in the calculator in order to hire them. Some of the monsters will have a set amount of bribe needed before they can join your party, while others can do it easily without causing much fuss.
While I enjoyed the game despite its simplistic level design and repetitive controls, it is also one of the major flaw of its design. The levels are pretty lackluster and simply require you to navigate through them with the help of compass. You are also limited to just 2 characters one of which is unlocked after a few hours. The combat is fun in the start but the more you play it, the more it starts to show its age. This is why I think the game is best suited for playing in short bursts of time. It can be fun if you ignore its flaws but obviously this is not going to please everyone.
The game also features an upgrade system that works on the basis of the amount of bribes you have made to the enemies. You might need to bribe a certain amount of enemies of a particular type in order to get a specific upgrade for your character. This encourages you to bribe more enemies that you encounter, even down to bribing the traps that are placed in each level. The bribes can also be used to get Zenigami Statues that can be used for upgrading your stats.
The issue with the progression system is that it can often require you to grind in order to progress further in the story. There are certain points during the story when you will hit a wall because of the spike in the difficulty curve and you will be forced to repeat levels to get more bribes or Zenigami Statues that can be used to upgrade your characters.
Penny-Punching Princess is not a game for everyone. It has some glaring flaws that can be seen from the beginning but if you stick with it through the end, it is hard not to appreciate the charming nature of the combat or the uniqueness of the bribe system. The difficulty can also be a problem if you don’t prepare properly before each fight and it can be frustrating to fight with a boss that can easily kill your character and then having to redo the fight again from the beginning because of the terrible checkpoint system.
Penny-Punching Princess Review (Switch)
Game Reviewed on: Switch
Game description: Penny-Punching Princess is an isometric brawler that takes place in a world ruled by capitalism, where cash is king. Fight or bribe your way to reclaiming your kingdom from the greedy Dragoloans.
Penny-Punching Princess is a simple brawler with a unique economy system thrown in the mix. There are some flaws with its level design and the repetitive nature of its gameplay loop is not for everyone, but it is still a good fit for a portable system where it works best when played in short bursts.