Code of Princess is decidedly straightforward. The player will click on the campaign, and the action kicks off almost at once. No beginning tutorials - those are tucked in a different menu if the player cares for such things - simply start killing stuff. The player first meets Princess Solange Blanchefleur de Lux, heir to the Kingdom of Deluxia. She's had a bad go of it, as her kingdom is under assault by monsters and the Distron army uses the situation to initiate a power grab. She thus must spend her time on the road, fighting monsters and making friends while avoiding capture. It's through her and the characters she meets along the way that the player will do all the hacking and slashing.
The player will rely on the bottom screen at first for combat, where a handy reference for the different moves is kept, but these combinations are never too taxing and there aren't very many of them. Double tap down, then A, for example; or perhaps down, right, B for another strike. The joy then lies simply in stringing together satisfactory combos that yield consecutive hits and massive damage.
The campaign is divided up into roughly 30 or so brief episodes that once unlocked can be replayed at any point for better times and more experience points. Beyond just slashing, the game features RPG elements that allow for levelling up various standard categories (attack, defence, speed, and so on), and for the equipping of armour, sword, and other accessories that boost the aforementioned categories.
If it all sounds a bit too simple and straight-forward, well, it is. However, simple isn't necessarily bad, and all these unassuming systems mesh together well to create an enjoyable experience. There's nothing extraordinary about any of these elements on their own, but taken together they allow for gameplay that's surprisingly fun despite its relative shallowness.
The campaign can be maddening in the unevenness of its difficulty, however. Most of the missions can be ploughed through in mere minutes, leaving the player feeling powerful. Then, the next soars 180 degrees towards relentless, requiring grinding in the "free play" mode for extra levels in order to turn the tide. It's a jarring shift that sends the player from feeling God-like to scrub in mere moments. Challenge is a good thing - indeed Code of Princess is in general a bit easier than it should be - but a more refined progression could have alleviated some frustration.
The biggest thing that mixes up the gameplay is the three "rail" system. Due to this, there's (quite literally) a little more depth to the combat. The player isn't stuck in one plane, but can move along three such planes as they scroll from left to right. Reasons for taking advantage of this range from avoiding obstacles to timing strikes on enemies who leap from other rails to engage the player. There's quite a bit of satisfaction in slaying an enemy ninja and then leaping onto a different rail just in time to escape the martyrdom-style bomb his corpse left behind.
This multi-rail system makes the 3D effect quite useful in differentiating the location of foes. The added depth makes it clear both where the player is and where the enemies are in relation to the player. The only flaw then is that the 3D effect seems to tax the system, and with more enemies on screen comes a lower frame-rate - something debilitating in a fighting game of any sort. Ultimately, the player will have to make a choice between the useful clarity provided by the 3D effect or the smoother response that can be had without.
To go along with a solid 3D effect, the game boasts a charming art style that fits its medieval theme. Character designs are unique and expressive, and the animations are solid and give energy to the world. Some of the art decisions, though - like the titular character's revealing attire - raise eyebrows. Is there a reason that Princess Solange's breasts need to be barely covered and so prominently featured? It does make for some humorous dialogue, as the characters all have something to say about her choice in clothing. However, claiming satire doesn't let the designers entirely off the hook for what at times feels like a cynical attempt to fall back on good old fashioned sex appeal for a few extra sales.
Tying everything together is a story that reminds of the Shrek movies to some extent, both in period and style, in that it pokes fun at every trope in the RPG business. It does this with witty dialogue and surprisingly competent voice acting. Like the game mechanics, the plot is shallow but engaging. There's more entertainment here than expected.
The value players get will depend on how well they take to the gameplay. If one can stomach repetition, there's a lot of fun to be had trying out and levelling the different characters and then competing online or with friends. There are several different modes that bring a different slant to the mission levels, but if bountiful content is more to the player's liking, Code of Princess comes up a bit short. There are extra unlockable missions beyond the 30 or so levels of the main campaign, but not much other than that. Mileage will vary greatly from player to player. Here at Cubed3, the team had a lot of fun with Code of Princess and will likely keep coming back to it from time to time when needing to kill a few minutes here and there!