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Tragedy of Prince Rupert

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Action
Publisher: Spytihněv
Developer: Spytihněv
Release Date: July 26, 2017


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PC Review - 'Tragedy of Prince Rupert'

by Cody Medellin on Oct. 24, 2017 @ 1:30 a.m. PDT

Tragedy of Prince Rupert is a fast-paced 2D action arena shooter with a historical hot air balloon (Montgolfiere), which can dive 20,000 leagues under the sea and soar into space.

Some indie titles can entice people with an unusual premise, a mash-up of different game styles, or resurrecting a genre that's been ignored by bigger publishers. The aesthetics are also a big draw, and for the most part, that's the hook that Tragedy of Prince Rupert uses to reel in people. Depending on your expectations, you'll either find something fascinating, frustrating, or a little of both.

You play the role of Prince Rupert, a wealthy man who has caught wind of a Turkish sultan's plan to marry off his daughter to anyone who can arrive in a flying machine. Since you happen to be the owner of a marvelous paper balloon, you make your way to the palace to win the daughter's hand. Instead of greeting you with open arms, however, the sultan unleashes his navy on you. On top of that, other suitors have appeared in their own machines to prevent you from competing. Your job is to survive the onslaught while dishing out some punishment of your own.

For the most part, Tragedy of Prince Rupert is a shooter similar to something like Defender or Luftrausers but with a much wider shooting range. You have some vertical movement and can go as high as the stratosphere if necessary, but your horizontal movement is limitless. Shooting is handled by your right analog stick, so you can cover the full 360 degrees with an unlimited amount of ammo at your disposal. If you destroy certain boats, you can latch on to barrels that you can manually detonate to destroy anything on-screen almost instantly.

When treated as a pure shooter, Tragedy of Prince Rupert is punishing. Your paper balloon isn't that durable, so it only takes a few hits before you burst into flames. You can refill your health by not shooting at anything for a while, but if you're good at hitting enemies, the time you get to refill your health shrinks dramatically since more powerful enemies appear at a faster rate. You also get no power-ups or upgrades beyond what you had at the beginning, so the game becomes more brutal as time passes, and there's no chance of compensating for the increased difficulty.

You'll find out that there's more to the game than provided by initial impressions. You'll likely discover this by accident, but you can reach beyond the stratosphere and dive into the ocean depths. While there's initially not much to see, you'll soon discover different passageways that lead you further into the ocean. Pockets of air prevent you from suffocating, but you'll soon pull up an artifact that leads to an Achievement. That may not seem like much, but you can check out your book to see that there's a list of goals to fulfill in order to uncover more pages in the book.

From a story perspective, those pages open up more of the tale, and unlike most other shooters of this kind, the story becomes more fascinating because it's so odd. Your crew grows in strange ways, from a talking rooster that crows every hour to a mysterious knight who arrives because you were surrounded by some fish. There's a desire to see where the whole thing goes since it takes so many tangents to complete each task.

From a gameplay perspective, exploration and puzzle-solving become the real focus, with the shooting being a means to an end. The book may tell you what it's looking for, but the game is otherwise vague about how you'll find those things. Finding a rooster ship, for example, is akin to finding a needle in a haystack since you're not provided an illustration or information about how to make it appear. It can lead to bouts of confusion as you try to figure things out, but it also yields satisfaction once you stumble on the solution and get confirmation through an Achievement, an extra page in the book, or a new addition to the crew.

The real tragedy, however, is how the shooting mechanics significantly hurt the rest of the game. Aside from your lack of balloon strength, Tragedy of Prince Rupert has a tendency to be unfair with gunfire. You constantly have to deal with enemy fire from unseen sources, which is a good way to locate enemies but terrible when you have to weave through a thick amount of gunfire with a craft that isn't exactly nimble. While you can get hurt by unseen enemies, you can't hurt them since shots land in the void unless the enemy is visible. It can make for a tough-as-nails shooter for those aiming for leaderboards, but those who want to enjoy the game's exploration will be left frustrated by the shooting mechanics.

From an audio perspective, the presentation is sparse. The sound effects are rather muted, and the music is barely there. The only times you get a musical score is on the title screen and if you complete a task, both of which produce pieces that are brief but not exactly memorable. From a visual perspective, the game is absolutely striking. Inspired by the 1958 Czech film "The Fabulous World of Jules Verne," Tragedy of Prince Rupert takes on a black-and-white look with lots of charcoal illustrations for more style. Get to the title screen, and you'll see full-motion video pieces of the prince and his crew, an unnecessary touch that's very much appreciated. The game moves fluidly with no stuttering or hitches, and while it would've been nice to be able to change the resolution, players will be pleased with how it looks.

Tragedy of Prince Rupert is both a surprising and maddening experience. The emphasis on exploration and the solving of rather obtuse puzzles makes this a deeper title than the initial shooting would have suggested. On the other hand, your fragility combined with the steep spike into pure bullet hell territory can quickly yank you out of the experience. It's a distinct enough experience that you should only undertake if you have the patience of a saint combined with inhuman dexterity.

Score: 6.5/10

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