Beauty is the Beast
Let me tell you a story. There once was a wolf who sang atop a cliff every night. A young prince heard her voice, and without knowing the singer’s identity, applauded. The wolf appreciated the praise, and she continued singing for him every night. Then one day, the prince climbed the cliff to meet the singer. The wolf, nervous of what the prince would think of her appearance, slashed the prince’s eyes. Feeling remorseful, the wolf, under the disguise of a young princess, set out on a quest to escort the blind prince across a treacherous forest to seek aid from a witch. This is the tale of The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince.
Here’s my Video Review for your viewing pleasure!
I don’t do justice to the game’s beautifully voiced Japanese narration, but I share this story because the fairy tale is as essential to the experience as the gameplay. In this 2D puzzle platformer, you control the princess and guide the prince through 21 levels. Since the prince is blind and helpless, you must hold his hand to lead him. The game is essentially one big escort mission, but don’t let that scare you off. The prince doesn’t actively run into danger, but instead waits patiently for you to take his hand or for instructions.
Although the princess in her human form isn’t strong, she has the ability to transform into a wolf, an invincible creature with increased jump, speed, and a slash attack. Both the wolf transformation and escort mechanics give rise to unique trials. On the cognitive side, there are seesaws, bridges, and switch puzzles that require both characters’ coordination. You must also protect the prince as the wolf. Nearly every challenge considers elements like height and weight, as well as the balance between being a fierce creature that vanquishes foes or a gentle girl who guides the blind prince.
The gameplay’s true strength lies in its thematic connection to the narrative. Every cutscene develops the surprisingly deep personalities of the princess and prince. This is more than a fairy tale romance. Themes of unconditional love, sacrifice, guilt, and beauty lie under the surface. They resonated with me, and I grew sympathetic to the princess’s plight. By witnessing their relationship unfold, I understood the fear of losing the helpless prince, the pain of watching him die, the determination to protect him, and the joy of holding his hand – exemplified by the visual of the two characters immediately smiling when hand-in-hand.
The storybook design is a sight to behold. The princess and prince are utterly adorable, and the wolf’s grotesque appearance is an excellent juxtaposition to her human form. The interface is clean, with nothing but fluid characters moving across an ephemeral background and a stunning silhouetted foreground. Just as the visuals are a fairy tale come to life, the music is a masterful composition of atmospheric Celtic-like tunes and instrumentation. It works great with the fairy tale setting and establishes a soft but adventurous tone.
The game has a few noteworthy downsides. First, it doesn’t actually become difficult until the finale. I don’t mind the plentiful checkpoints for deaths, but the puzzles are too easy. Although each world adds new gimmicks, like moonlight that instantly transforms you into a wolf, most challenges don’t take long to solve. There are two exceptions. The middle world, which is also my least favorite, introduces number riddles that have nothing to do with the main gameplay. In fact, one riddle is so obtuse that a sign outright tells you that you can skip it. On that note, you can actually skip any level from the menu if you wait long enough, but I obviously don’t recommend that. The other exception is the final level, which I won’t spoil. This area encompasses exactly the breed of smart puzzles and cerebrally challenging difficulty I’d been craving the entire game, but it’s too little too late.
The other downside is the game only takes about four to five hours to complete. The asking price is fairly high for an experience that ends as soon as it starts getting exciting. And replayability is limited. There are five collectible flower petals in each stage, but they’re not too well-hidden and mostly lie in plain sight at dead ends. Slightly better are the handful of flowers that you can adorably give the prince, with the catch that you must survive while delivering the flower in human form. They also unlock bonus lore and concept art. I finished my first playthrough with about 80% of the collectibles, so they’re not hard to obtain even with minimal exploration. Finally, there are trophy achievements, such as speedrunning or completing pacifist runs through select levels. This adds some replay value, but not a whole lot.
The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince has an excellent premise, beautiful storybook aesthetics, and a heartfelt narrative that all weave into the gameplay. Unfortunately, the main escort mission and transformation mechanics don’t quite hit their stride until the very end of this short game. If you enjoy puzzle platformers, this fairy tale may prove to be a memorable experience. Otherwise, you may want to wait for a discount. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide whether The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince live happily ever after.
Note: A review copy was used for this article.