Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin. Once upon a time there was a game called The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince. When you looked at a screenshot of this game, or perhaps a brief video of it in action, it seemed the fairest Switch game in all the land. Alas, that beauty hid a mortal ailment, for The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince was brittle and cumbersome.

Okay, that’s enough of the storybook conceit. In plain English, The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince is an often beguiling platform puzzler that looks and reads way better than it plays.

You play the role of a ravenous wolf who, while out singing of a night, wins the heart of a meek Prince. The wolf, in turn, comes to fall for the Prince’s appreciative nature. After an unfortunate misunderstanding results in you scratching the Prince’s eyes out (hey, it happens!), you go to see a crafty witch about a transformation. Before you know it, you’re disguised as a feisty Princess and leading the blind prince across a fantasy land filled with hungry monsters, pressure switches, and physics-based conundrums.

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If that all sounds a bit strange and jarring, then the best thing we can say about The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince is that it completely sells its premise. From its expressive hand-drawn art style to its faux-naive fairytale tone, the game is a triumph of world building.

The developer clearly understands that all the best fairytales have a certain darkness at their heart. There’s real bite to this cutesy story of star-crossed not-quite-lovers. For every adolescent blush or heart-warming rescue, there’s a pointed note about prejudice or a person’s struggle with their identity. Elsewhere, the optional flowers and petals that you collect by exploring off the beaten path unlock beautiful artwork and surprisingly twisted snippets of back story. It’s a shame that these bits are somewhat hidden away in the pause menu (which is bizarrely only navigable using the arrow buttons), because they represent the game at its best.

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Which, as positive statements go, has all the implicit flip side of a witch’s bargain. When you get down to the meat of The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince, it lacks seasoning. The core platforming controls feel remote and clumsy. That might make sense when you’re playing a pair of children, one of whom is physically disadvantaged. Indeed, the Prince literally needs to be dragged everywhere by holding the Y button.

But breaking loose of the Prince’s grip and transforming into the Princess’s wolf form with X doesn’t bring about the level of lithe liberation that you might expect. You may well be all but indestructible, capable of leaping large gaps, and able to wail on any beasts with a taste for Prince (not the musician). But you also feel curiously nebulous, with enemies and collectables alike scarcely seem to register upon contact with your body. It’s as if you’re some kind of lupine phantom rather than a primal Donkey Kong-like force of nature.

Back in Princess form (and later in wolf form, too), you’re able to give the blind Prince some basic commands. You can have him trot forward and pick up objects – all extremely handy for solving the basic switch-flipping, fire-lighting puzzles that take up much of your time here. However, even these simple commands feel awkward. Early on in the game, you have to go over and hold the prince’s hand, then press one of the arrow buttons, and then press A to confirm a command. It still didn’t feel natural to us even several hours into the game.

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The world and puzzle layouts, too, fail to live up to the quality of the art and story work. These are basic, monotonous affairs that stick to a single theme for just a fraction too long. With a couple of puzzles we managed to get ourselves stuck, and had to kill ourselves to reset the level. World three, meanwhile, is a shapeless slog of pointless teleporters, bland number puzzles, and ill-fitting Boo-like creatures.

It’s worth emphasising that The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince isn’t a bad game. It’s a delight to look at, and the story it tells is full of charm and surprisingly poignant moments. Plenty of love and artistic skill has gone into the game’s construction, but the mechanical underpinnings just aren’t up to the same level. As an interactive storybook, The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince might have lived happily ever after. In its present game form, however, it’s set for a life of mild disappointment.

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