The puzzle platformer Steal Princess doesn’t take its plot too seriously: It starts off with an Indiana Jones-style sequence, complete with a giant boulder trap. The dialogue and story are downright silly, following a lady thief who’s forced to rescue a prince from demons or stand trial for her crimes, and an overly perky, vapid fairy who keeps telling her she’s actually a great hero.
While they’re framed with amusing fluff, the puzzles can be seriously mean. After a few levels of basic tutorial, the learning curve gets steep, forcing you to keep your eyes glued to the top screen in the hopes of picking out some clue about what you’re supposed to do amid your fairy guide’s random babbling.
While the boards all follow the same basic format (get from the starting point to an open door), they aren’t all created equal. The game is weakest when it overly emphasizes combat by placing a big monster as the only obstacle in a level. Basic and bland attack options make fights repetitive and tedious. Enemy AI quality also seems to vary wildly from level to level, with some bad guys chasing you around the map, while others just stand around waiting for you to kill them.
As a result, you’re much more likely to lose a level by doing something to make it unsolvable than by running out of health. Some levels actually use your life total as an essential resource for victory, a refreshing change from the usual philosophy that if you take damage, you’re doing something wrong. While the game will flash a message if you’ve messed something up so bad that you have to restart, sometimes you’ll want to go back to the beginning anyway, when a misstep or bad timing makes continuing from your current position a nightmare.
Beyond the game: A level editor lets you create and share new maps over a wi-fi connection.
Worth playing for: The moments of inspiration when you finally figure out the trick to a level that’s been holding you back.
Frustration sets in when: The clock keeps ticking while the end-of-level door-opening animation plays, so you fail to get a time bonus.
Final judgment: A great challenge, so long as you don’t mind some headaches.