Review: Princess Remedy 2: In A Heap of Trouble

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Perhaps the most obvious route for a sequel to take is more of the same, and at first glance that’s just what the second installment of Princess Remedy is. Taking much the same mechanics as the first game and presenting a new world of kooky characters and strange locales, you could be forgiven for thinking this to be a simple continuation, an expansion, of the original. That’s what I thought, even as I began to explore the new mechanics and bosses introduced. By the end it had proven itself its own title, with enough setting it apart to show a real evolution of the series, if a modest one. But plumbing the many secrets of the Heap of Trouble revealed something so striking that it’s almost worth playing through just for that singular experience.

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Going the prequel route, Remedy 2 catches up with our favorite little combat medic back in Saturnian healing school. An aptly-named Boss Tower has erupted from the land, sprouting giant tendrils that have lifted parts of the populated world into the sky. It’s also making everyone dreadfully sick, and who better to save the day than a sprightly littel healer? In her quest up the tower, Remedy will encounter all manner of afflicted citizens, collect a variety of powerups, face off against massive bosses, and drag hapless dates along for the ride.

It’s a more interesting setup than the original, with kookier characters and stranger lands to explore. I’ve healed birds with too many thumbs, chronic haters of video game writing, people that don’t exist, and the self-loathing embodiment of hype itself. Traveling the Dragon-Questish lands of opulent Moneyplace, airy Avian Peaks, and the grim Dead Gardens to name a few. The writing and creativity are significantly dialed up here, and complimented with running-gag collectibles to hunt for alongside the many, many hidden treasure chests in the walls of houses and floating in inky voids.

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Combat is much the same as before though, a mix of bullet-hell dodging gauntlets of foes and blasting them away with your auto-firing bandaids or syringes. The mechanics have changed in a few places, though, such as the regen stat being swapped for drain which restores your own health as you damage enemies. Flasks also have dozens of different uses now, from screen-clearing clusters and devastating lasers to speed boosts and land mines. Your flask function is determined by who you’re dating at the moment, a new system that feels like a needed expansion of marriage in the first game, allowing you to bring along any NPC in the game as your little love buddy. They also comment on the bosses you face, taking the form of huge, creepy, screen-filling creatures to blast the weak points of. While they’re more engaging than the old heart gates I must admit they make the game feel more like a traditional battling RPG than the unique healing-centric first title.

There are certainly innovations to be found here, if only incremental ones. Starting out A Heap of Trouble didn’t feel hugely different from World of Hurt, though given how good the first one is more of the same is hardly disappointing. I came to appreciate the new dating and combat mechanics more and more as I progressed, and the writing started to get more and more chuckles from me the closer I got to the end. The final boss will be a familiar presence for fans of the original, and I was delighted to find a secret boss afterwards that presented a significant challenge. That gave me a hint to a special hidden difficulty that, honestly, I’m struggling not to spoil for you. It’s one of the most unique surprises I’ve ever seen in a game, and while it is indeed incredibly hard it’s also so different and so fascinating compared to the base game, you absolutely have to see it for yourself… especially if you’re a fan of the obscure classic Faceball 2000.

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Princess Remedy 2 is already a modest improvement over the original, but its secret difficulty easily pushes it up into the realm of must-have. I came to this one looking for more adorable shmup action and I got it, with enhancements to the combat and punchier writing than ever. I was not looking for the completely new gameplay of its hidden difficulty and now that I’ve experienced it, I long for another game in the series built entirely around what I’ve seen. Few games hide such wonders deep within a quality experience of its own, but Princess Remedy has the benefit of being built upon a rock-solid foundation of creativity and fun. If you enjoyed the first game you absolutely cannot miss this one, as it does just about everything better and tops it with one of the best surprises you’re liable to get from any game.

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