Princess Remedy in a World of Hurt is a game all about curing people of horrible illnesses, such as making sense when talking or having a severe case of death, by tossing magical medical supplies at whatever ails them. Looking like something that fell out of a ZX Spectrum, this freeware offering by Ludosity and Remar Games keeps things short and sweet with plenty of surrealistically whimsical charm and fun gameplay along the way.
Before diving into the combat side of things, let’s take a moment to look at the basic flow of the game. Our silent protagonist, Princess Remedy, is sent to the world of Hurtland to cure Prince Hingst, but her progress across this land is soon halted by the presence of heart barriers. Thus, Princess Remedy must first help the various residents of Hurtland in order to obtain hearts, which serve both as a means of destroying heart barriers and as actual health while in combat. These residents take on quite a number of different forms, including humans, centaurs, flowers, ghosts, slimes, a dark lord, spiders, and even a duck.
This process of healing just about everyone and everything in Hurtland is where combat enters into the mix as Princess Remedy literally fights their ailments. Combat takes place on a single screen and Princess Remedy automatically shoots forth a barrage of bandages, syringes, and other instruments of healing at whatever she is facing. There is neither diagonal movement nor strafing, so paying attention to your surroundings is particularly important as it can be easy to become trapped by bullets or to otherwise become cornered if you’re not careful. In additional to her automatic attack, Princess Remedy can also throw bomb-like flasks a few tiles in front of her with the push of a button to deal a high amount of damage in a 3×3 tile area, though these flasks are limited and require good timing to use well. A single heart is the only reward gained from helping someone, but many chests are hidden (and often not-so-hidden) within the towns, caves, and forests of Hurtland with upgrades to boost Princess Remedy’s damage, the number of projectiles she shoots, the number of flasks she brings into each fight, and even her health regeneration rate.
With several dozen encounters spread throughout the various region of Hurtland, it should come as no surprise that there is a good bit of variety to be had. From spiked homing mines to bats which explode into clusters of bullets once defeated to red bullet-shooting hands, the enemies in these curative encounters are as strange as they are dangerous. Princess Remedy can take a decent number of hits and regenerates health mid-combat at a respectable rate, but she also doesn’t get much in the way of invincibility frames and her entire health bar can plummet down to nothing in the blink of an eye. Each area tends to focus on a new set of enemies and learning the movement and attack patterns of each opponent, as well as which targets to prioritize taking out first, becomes essential. Walls are also present in each combat area and the exact layout of the environment often has even more to do with shaping the difficulty of an encounter than with the enemies themselves. Though battles are fast-paced, the retro aesthetic actually ends up helping a great deal when it comes to keeping track of what is going on in combat as each type of bullet, such as mines and homing projectiles, has a distinct shape and any part of the environment which isn’t white can be destroyed after taking a decent number of hits. Sometimes combat feels like it gets a bit too busy in a few of the later fights with the chance of success largely being determined by which enemies you can take out by spamming explosive flasks in the first few seconds, but this is generally only an issue when playing on the highest difficulty and you can immediately restart a fight upon defeat with no penalty for failure.
As enjoyable as the combat is, it is only half the reason, if that, to play Princess Remedy in a World of Hurt. Beyond anything else, the dialogue is what makes this game work as every line is dripping and oozing with bizarre charm. Though it isn’t necessary to help every single NPC in the game to reach the ending, every encounter has the structure of a three-panel comic with an intro (the NPC states their problem), a setup (Princess Remedy fights off their problem), and a punchline (what curing their problem did for them) – and I always wanted to know the punchline. Much of the humor in the game revolves around playing with expectations, such as a flower which isn’t getting enough sunlight because of the tree next to it becoming cured by gaining the confidence to tell the tree to move away. Other times, the humor comes from the premise itself, like in the case of one NPC whose illness is that he isn’t sure if he’s sick or not. Even visual gags are present and, like with the walls and bullets in combat, often make full use of the simplistic graphics. The humor here probably won’t make most people laugh out loud, but it is varied, clever, and just outright weird enough to provide plenty of smiles and to perhaps elicit a small chuckle or two along the way.
The entire game can be finished in under an hour, but there are a few extra touches to keep people playing and replaying. Three difficulty settings exist and, though the difficulty can only be chosen at the start, enemies gain new attacks on higher difficulties in addition to a substantial boost in their strength and speed. A somewhat hidden ‘Jealous Chest’ also exists about halfway through the game, which adds in a new layer of challenge for completionists as it will refuse to open if you’ve already retrieved the contents of any other treasure chests. There is even a marriage system – it’s about as simplistic and silly as everything else here, but it does serve to add a good amount of additional dialogue to the experience.
With few faults and much to enjoy in both its writing and the combat, Princess Remedy in a World of Hurt is more than worth its free price tag and is bound to cure anyone suffering from boredom.