The Tragedy of Prince Rupert is a fight-and-flight action game, which combines various mythologies, historical settings, and imaginary mechanics into one package. With a large emphasis on imagination and visual appeal, Tragedy of Prince Rupert aims to immerse players in its antique and strange world, while challenging them with a fast-paced, bullet-hell style of gameplay. While the game, unfortunately, doesn’t provide a legendary experience and generally lacks in substance, it provides enough entertainment in its visual style and themes to please players.
The story is inspired by old-fashioned tales of a monarchy’s affairs, princes, deceit, and treachery. Taking place in an alternate reality, the main character Prince Rupert, not to be confused with Prince Rupert of the Rhine, has travelled to Constantinople, the capital of the Turkish Ottoman empire, to marry the Sultan’s daughter. Unhappy with his presence, the sultan sends his huge airforce and navy to eliminate the Prince. As Rupert, players must fight off the oncoming hordes in an armed, hot-air balloon and solve a series of tasks and issues to reach the princess.
The plot is told in a significantly different manner in comparison to the story-driven adventures many players are used to following. Instead of exploring the characters through cutscenes or dialogue, the events are recorded in a book known as the Chronicle. Here, the stage and characters are set and the activities and adventures are filled out in the Chronicle as the player completes each activity. This direction of storytelling generally sacrifices the emotional depth of the storyline, as most of what happens is told rather than shown, but it eventually becomes satisfying to fill out each of the blank pages in the Chronicle, to see how the event has been written.
What does ultimately detract from the progression of the game and the Chronicle comes from the core gameplay and how the tasks must be completed. In gameplay, players are given control of the balloon and must fend off increasing numbers of enemies. With the balloon’s cannon, players must sink ships and destroy aeroplanes. For every kill, players gain a number of points, based on the size and strength of the enemy, which can be compared with other players on an online leaderboard. Increasing points and accomplishing tasks also increases the number of enemies players will need to fight. After some time, players will find themselves overwhelmed by enemy planes and ships, which will also come equipped with more cannons. Alongside combat, players could also use the environment to hide from enemy fire. Descending into the ocean or into space slows down cannon balls, but also takes away some of the player’s health, so you are still very much at risk.
It’s satisfying to watch enemies plunge to their death and the watch ships sink into the sea, even though they disappear before they hit the sea floor, but the sheer amount of what is happening around the player eventually replaces a satisfying experience with frustration. You can argue that this is simply an increase in difficulty but the problem with how the difficulty in the game is handled is that it all eventually boils down to everything being thrown at you in the kitchen sink, and dying becomes an absolute possibility. Dying and respawning is extremely quick, but as this happens over and over again, and enemies begin to appear out of nowhere to ambush you, the whole situation becomes monotonous and the fun of combat in the game begins to diminish. This frustration also stems from the fact that you need to explore the area to progress through the story and find items that are rather difficult to find. Items such as barrels, collected from shipwrecks, can be used as bombs, to destroy large numbers of enemies at once, and this adds some variety to the combat mechanics but it isn’t enough to fully breathe life into the gameplay.
Exploration also plays a large role in gameplay, yet this segment unfortunately also contributes to the underwhelming gameplay. While fighting off foes players must explore the sky and ocean for objects to pick up and to search for the large fish or star required to complete a task. Virtually dozens of underwater tunnels are spread around the seabed, and all of them must be explored in order to find secret areas or to find shelter from incoming fire. players must also explore the sky in order to locate enemy airships that pose a serious threat. When you eventually come across a mythical creature or random item that is linked to a task, your heart may leap as you realise you are about to make some progress, but this is mainly due to the amount of time it usually takes to find them. having to search areas multiple time or to skim the ground slowly while avoiding incoming fire quickly becomes a chore that eventually makes you want to stop playing.
Despite some of the shortcomings from the gameplay, what remains a constant pleasure is the game’s antique and entertaining visual style, which takes on a style reminiscent of silent cinema from the early 1900s, along with early-modern age architecture and clothing as well as small elements of aquatic mythology and steampunk. Despite the rather tedious nature of exploration in the game, it’s quite satisfying to come across the different buildings, creatures and vehicles as you ascend and descent from the ground level. The black and white colouring also helps greatly in solidifying the game’s choice of style. In Addition, the use of a live-action character surprisingly doesn’t detract all that much from the experience and even generally works to the game’s own benefit. Prince Rupert appears in front of the balloon and can only be seen clearly when the player is up close on the menu screen. He appears during gameplay as well but here he is so small due to the camera position that it’s easy to miss him due to what is happening. His appearance did seem odd at first, as the presence of live-action characters always tend to distract heavily from the main gameplay for their visual detachment from the game’s look, but you very rarely see Rupert up close and it even becomes rather amusing to see him simply stand at the front of the balloon while chaos erupts all around him.
From a technical standpoint, Tragedy of Prince Rupert is solid, with the game running at a consistent 60 frames per second even in combat, beneath the sear and in the air, and no issues regarding screen tearing, crashes, or lag in textures. The game’s simplistic gameplay also partially helps in making it easier for players to understand how the controls work. The basic control scheme revolves around the directional keys to move and the spacebar to fire the balloon’s cannon. Due to this simplicity, players would have no trouble in getting used to how the overall game controls, with the exception of the controls for the hook protruding from the bottom of the balloon, which are cumbersome. You will very often struggle to pick up objects from the sea, especially while trying to avoid constant bombardment from planes and ships and this became an exceptionally frustrating task in itself on many occasions.
The Tragedy of Prince Rupert is a game that shows excellent potential and qualities for its fabulous visuals. The creators have shown themselves to be keen and talented visual artists and they have done a great job of combining various styles and incorporating the look and feel of an old cinema into a computer game. While there is definite room for improvement in its gameplay, the game provides enough detail in its storytelling and visual design to keep most people interested. Just don’t expect a ground-breaking gameplay experience.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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