Prinny 2 is a platformer with a split-personality, and I mean that in a good way.
It flaunts its nonsensical panty-based plot in its title, but expects a no-nonsense kind of discipline from the player. It places convenience and streamlining above all else, but uses its streamlined design as a means to give you one heck of a challenge. It propagates speed and efficiency, but secretly rewards you for being patient.
We’ll dig down into Prinny 2’s many intricacies in just a bit, but let’s explore the surface of the game first. The very first thing I noted when I booted Prinny 2 up was that it looks fantastic and is artistically far more detailed than you’d typically expect a side-scrolling action-platformer to be.
It took me a few seconds to realize this, but while the game’s characters are all 2D sprites, the stages themselves are constructed using 3D polygons and textures. There’s a very good reason for this, which we’ll get to in just a second. However, if Prinny 2 hadn’t explicitly made its blend of 2D and 3D art obvious a few seconds into the tutorial stage, I might not even have noticed it for another few minutes. The artwork comes together very well indeed, and nothing ever looks out of place.
Unfortunately, you won’t find yourself standing around admiring the scenery very often, because frankly, that will get you killed rather promptly. And almost everything in Prinny 2 is designed for the sole purpose of burning / electrocuting / cutting / shooting / flattening you…or even causing you to explode for no reason upon contact. It’s kill or be killed.
Here’s a short list of the ways I died within my first hour or so of playing the game:
- Death by forgetting to hip pound (butt stomp) a springboard. That’s right, you can’t simply jump on them, or you’ll explode. This will happen to you a lot.
- Death by trying to hip-pound a certain boss twice in a row (penalty!).
- Death by sacrificing lives to obtain unlockables from hard-to-reach spots that you can’t easily get out of without killing yourself.
- Death by the sky raining fire while I jumped across electrically-charged platforms populated by trigger-happy tanks and flying gargoyles dropping bombs on me.
- Death by one of my own power-ups (Break Mode) destroying the bridge of blocks I was standing on.
- Death by pressing L+R+X together. Prinnies can self-destruct if necessary.
As you can probably tell, you die a lot. Luckily, you start Prinny 2 out with 1,000 lives. Within the first hour and a half, I’d already lost about 80. Luckily, Hero Prinny’s a penguin of much resolve. The fact that he can and will willingly self-destruct throughout the course of his noble quest many, many times speaks volumes about his dedication to the cause of retrieving Etna’s underwear. He also comes armed with a helpful arsenal of moves.
Since this a platformer, naturally, you can jump (using X). But there’s catch. Once you’ve taken to the air, you have zero control over yourself. You can’t correct your descent if you’ve overshot a jump, inch away backwards in mid-air if you find you’re too close to an enemy, or jump-cancel. This leaves you with two options: either make sure you calculate the distance you want to leap correctly and get it right when you first take off from the ground…or perform a double-jump — a second jump in mid-air — to try and correct your position.
Misjudging jump distances will be one of the most common ways you’ll find yourself getting killed over and over and over again. It’s also the reason Prinny 2 may not be for everyone. Jumping in Prinny 2 is the most basic of manoeuvres, and is also key to your primary offensive abilities. If you can’t cope with its demanding learning curve, you won’t get very far at all. If you can, however, there’s a lot of fun to be had here.
Jumping ties directly in with the most useful offensive move at your disposal: the Prinny Barrage. This is where you jump into the air and pound the Square button repeatedly as fast as you can, to maintain your position mid-air and unleash a barrage of projectiles diagonally downwards upon enemies. It’s an extremely effective way of attacking from a safe distance, and you can perform it either after a jump or a double jump (or even while simply falling).
The Prinny Barrage is useful for a number of reasons, the first being that it keeps you out of the line of fire of several types of ground-based enemies. The other is that you can use it to keep yourself in the air longer, and — if you’re really willing to put in the effort required — learn to slow your descent with controlled pounding of the Square button. Oh, and it’s also how I quickly learnt the 3D nature of Prinny 2’s stages.
Performing the Prinny Barrage causes the camera to rotate into a 3D view of the stage while you rain holy Prinny fury down upon the poor sod that happens to be in your way. It’s an extremely cool effect the first time you see it, and while you do get used to it, the fact that you can perform it anywhere and at any time means that the entirety of Prinny 2 needed to designed with it in mind, which speaks volumes about the effort the developers put into the game.
The Prinny Barrage, along with your normal ground-based sword swipes (also performed by repeatedly pounding Square), build up your combo gauge in the bottom-right corner of the screen. Once the gauge is filled up, you’ll go into Break Mode, where all of your attacks are considerably stronger until the gauge depletes. This is essential for defeating a lot of the game’s bosses. You can also fill the gauge up by eating desserts scattered throughout the stages.
Other moves include a ballet-like spin (Hero Prinny is quite the graceful chap), performed by holding the Circle button. This turns you invincible briefly after you start spinning. You’ll be able to move through enemies unharmed while spinning, but there are two downsides to the spin move. The first is that the invincibility takes a moment or so to kick in. You’ll need to take this into account if you decide to go into a spin while approaching an enemy. The second is that Hero Prinny gets dizzy after performing a spin, and can’t move for a second or two, which can be very, very bad.
You can also come move right into a dash/sprint while coming out of your spin by releasing Circle while holding a direction. This is useful because it lets you jump farther than usual, which you’ll need to be able to do in later stages. Holding down on the D-pad while dashing will make you slide on your belly. Holding down on the D-pad during a jump will make you do a hip pound (butt stomp) that stuns enemies. The triangle button lets you lift and throw objects, and as mentioned before, L+R+X while cause you to self-destruct. You might wonder why the move exists at all, but trust me, you’ll find yourself using it sooner or later.
Outside of the deliberately uncontrolled jumping, Prinny 2’s controls are fairly simple, and if you’re used to playing games, you won’t have any trouble getting accustomed to them with a little persistence. The real challenge comes from learning to use the moves in tandem with one another to get through the stages themselves, which are almost like obstacle courses. This is where the game starts to let on just how intricate its design really is.
You’ll jump down from a platform, using a Prinny Barrage to slow your descent as an enemy tank passes under you, and blast him with projectiles before you land. You’ll jump over an enemy, go into a brief spin to phase through another, transition into a dash, and leap across a gaping chasm. You’ll Prinny Barrage an enemy from mid-air, timing your descent just right so you land right in front of him and combo straight into your ground-based attacks for the most damage possible. You’ll sacrifice several lives in the process of reaching hard-to-reach spots that have no way out (seriously) in the name of acquiring unlockable bonuses.
It helps immensely to keep track of all the moves you can perform; every single one is useful in its own way, and if you happen to forget any of them, you might find yourself stuck in a tight spot or impossible boss fight because you can’t recall the only move that can aid you. Prinny 2 is almost like learning to dance. It looks fast-paced, but takes a lot of practise and, above all, patience. While the upbeat music and sound will make you want to skip and jump and spin happily across stages, you’ll find that the best approach is to take it nice and slow…at least until you get much better at the game.
For anyone concerned about the game’s difficulty, Prinny 2 comes with three difficulty settings, so you can pick one based on how high you want it to make your blood boil. Better yet, you can toggle between all three difficulty settings from within the game itself at any time.
It also has another really neat feature, which is that you can play the stages of the game in any order you want. The catch here is that the contents of the stages actually change, and the ones you play later rather than sooner are always harder. The bosses you’ll fight are different, too. You’ll probably want to experiment with this feature if the going gets too tough.
Check points are also scattered across stages after nearly every major line of obstacles, which means the game isn’t unfair in the least, and it doesn’t punish you for trial and error. Respawning at a checkpoint is instant and requires zero loading, which is also fantastic. Oh, and if you manage to make it to the end of the game, there’s a whole new, radically different adventure to be unlocked.
Ultimately, for all its fantastic art and music and sound and unforgiving difficulty, the best thing I can say about Prinny 2 is that it’s a lot of fun and it’s one of those rare cases where a game and the platform it’s on come together to create something beautiful and unique, in a way that only they can. The PSP’s screen is the perfect size for the game. Prinny 2’s pick-up-and-play design lends itself incredibly well to a portable system, and the fact that you can put the PSP in sleep mode whenever you need to take a break mid-stage is a real boon.
Food for thought:
1. Etna reveals that the Prinnies’ daily duties include washing her panties.
2. Prinny 2 has a tank-like vehicle you can ride called Gear Metal YAY.
3. Prinny 2 has three different frames for its “hanging off a ledge” animations. You can even move back and forth between each one using the D-pad while you’re hanging off a ledge.