Review: Princess Remedy in a World of Hurt

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Healing is a common feature of the gaming landscape, but rarely ends up being an interesting one. In general it means either pushing a button when a bar gets low or keeping a heal gun glued to the ass of someone who’s actually having fun. But a precious few games have found a way to make healing a treat, and Princess Remedy is chief among them. Healing is all you do, in fact, for it is your quest in this ultra-light adventure. It’s the mix of conventional RPG exploration and shmup action that makes this one special, dolled up in deliciously retro graphics and plenty of charm.

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Our dear Remedy has graduated at the top of her class from the Saturnian school of healing, and already has her first job lined up. Prince Hingst of Hurtland has come down with a catastrophic case of something, and his malaise has spread across the whole of his unfortunately-named domain. Descending to the outskirts of the kingdom, it’s up to Remedy to remedy the situation by healing what ails whomever she can find. Doing so will earn her hearts and other powers that will clear the way to the castle, and might also reveal the fate of the previous healer sent to delivery Hurtland from its hurt.

This is the classic RPG save-the-kingdom trope thoroughly inverted, from the means of salvation all the way down to the gender of the hero. Remedy slays no monsters in her quest, and in fact heals more than a few slimes and skeletons. Each has an absolutely precious description of their malady, from stubbed toes and bitten tongues to faces melted by awesomeness and severe cases of death. There are no shortage of lines that’ll put a smile on your face, and the light-hearted banter is a fine contrast to the grim hellscape of Hurtland and a good fit for a game of such small scope.

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The real draw here is the combat, though, if you can really call it that. Every time Remedy encounters a suffering soul, you’ll be popped into a black void containing the manifestations of their ailments. Sometimes they match up in clever ways, like flame monsters for a sunburn or skeletons for impending death, but there are plenty of stranger things like springs and glitches and grabby hands. Remedy auto-fires her healing doodads in front of her, so you’ve got to maneuver her into position to blast the baddies without getting overwhelmed by their moves or shots. Winning battles and opening treasure chests earns you points for your five stats which cover your health, regeneration, shot power, number of shots, and limit of grenade-like flasks per battle. Progress is gated by your heart stat (literally, there are heart-shaped gates with numbers) but you’ll want to be finding as many upgrades as possible to keep up with the increasing bullet hell healing madness.

Remedy’s adventure will take you across six small regions of Hurtland and beyond, helpfully linked by warps and packed full of secrets to find. You likely won’t find them all on your first time through but I doubt you’ll mind, as the game’s only about 40 minutes long and the ending features a delightfully open-ended choice that I really haven’t seen the equal of in any other game. It’s a great capstone on a stand-out title, though it remains limited by its scope. Designed as a one-button game, the interact button also doubles as the menu button if you’re not looking at something interactable, and for anyone with traditional JRPG searching habits that’s going to get annoying in a hurry. There’s also one secret in the game you can’t get without foreknowledge of, which isn’t a huge deal but feels worth mentioning for the completionists in the audience.

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Honestly my only real complaint about Princess Remedy is that there isn’t more to her adventure to enjoy. Games with unique concepts like this deserve to be lauded whenever they appear, and the retro charms and pleasant themes of this one put it even further ahead. The three difficulties offer a good range of challenges and the secrets will keep you hunting long past your first completion, but still you’re sure to want more. The first time I completed this one I immediately bought the sequel for full price, and for a notoriously thrifty gamer like myself that’s a rare indicator of quality.

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