When I was growing up in the 90s, paper doll cutouts were all the rage.
For the benefit of my younger readers, these were basically booklets containing figures (mostly girls, but sometimes they had boys too), which you could cut out and dress up with outfits. The ‘clothes’ were held in place with folded paper tabs.
Thinking about it now, it’s brilliant how something so simple could provide hours of entertainment – all you needed was a pair of scissors, and a whole lot of imagination. The best part was that they were inexpensive: you could buy them from the stationery shop for a couple of ringgit, or better yet, make your own. It certainly helped me as a child to exercise my creativity, especially when ‘designing’ my doll costumes and coming up with storylines for my doll theatre lol.
As you grow older, you tend to grow out of things too. Your dolls. Your cooking sets and toy soldiers. Your cars and action figurines. Even video games. But once in a while, something comes along that takes you back to simpler times.
So a couple of months ago, out of boredom, I downloaded this mobile game called Time Princess. Yes, I’m fully aware that I’m a 30-year-old playing a dress-up game targeted at tweens and teens. (At my age, my parents were saving up to buy a house and planning for the future lol.) BUT. These are different times, and if there’s one thing I learned over the past 1.5 years of being stuck at home – having to care for a sick, aging parent, taking over the role of breadwinner, being separated from my s/o, worrying about my loved ones getting COVID – it’s that life is short and you should just do whatever you want, and whatever helps you cope. If playing a game helps to keep your sanity intact, so be it.
And to be perfectly candid, despite the childish-sounding title, Time Princess is actually a well-thought out game, with beautifully designed characters and rich plots themed around history and fantasy.
As the heroine, you inherit a magical storybook, which absorbs you into its pages ala The Pagemaster. You’ll get to play historical figures like Queen Marie Antoinette, as well as characters from popular literature such as Christine Daee from the Phantom of the Opera, Jo March from Little Women and Helen of Sparta. There are also stories adapted from fairy tales and folklore, such as the Magic Lamp, Swan Lake, and Romy and Julius (based on Romeo and Juliet).
Like most otome games, you encounter characters that you can romance in each story. Depending on choices you make throughout the story, you’ll get different endings. But what differentiates Time Princess from other games of its kind is the dress up element: in order to clear stages, you’ll have to dress up your character based on the required theme. Clothes can only be crafted by gathering certain items either through mini games or gifts. Think of it like the gacha system for other mobile games like Genshin Impact.
But what I like are the stories. They’re all well written; the dress-up element is woven nicely into the narratives, and the characters are well fleshed out and don’t feel one dimensional. The Queen Marie storyline, for example, has some pretty tragic and bittersweet endings, forcing you to ‘make’ difficult choices.
The stories are also peppered with interesting historical and cultural references; sort of like how you would find historical nuggets in the Assassin’s Creed series. For example, the Gotham Memoirs storyline, where you play a tenacious reporter in 1920s New York, highlights the rampant corruption that was prevalent among politicians and the law enforcement in that era, as well as the mafia and their crimes (drugs, human trafficking, murder) – which imo is pretty dark for an otome game.
Another thing that Time Princess does right is the art. The animations are beautiful and fluid, and the costumes are gorgeous. You can tell a lot of thought has been put into designing each piece, and they’re just really pretty to look at.
The downside? The game is an absolute money sucker. It is designed to make you pay. Actions like gathering resources and reading each chapter require energy, so if you’re impatient like me, and want to read more of the story quickly, you’ll end up spending a lot of money. I’m still waiting to finish reading some stories because I don’t want to spend any more than I have, and it can be a damper/take away from the immersion when you can only unlock one chapter at a time. Still, if you’re patient, it can be a fun experience – there are mini games to keep you occupied, and they have in-game ‘events’ where you can win and collect prizes. While it’s not one of those games that you need to spend days grinding over, it’s a nice 10-15 minute escape that you can pop into every few hours.
So yeah. This was an otome game review by a 30-year-old. And I’m not ashamed to say I play what others may call a ‘childish’ game. Some friends my age talk about being productive, achieving something in life, and chasing their dreams. And if that’s what they want in life, more power to them.
As for me, I’m perfectly content taking on the days one step at a time. The next day will bring me another chapter to look forward to. And that applies both for the game, and life.
You can download Time Princess on the Google Play store for free. In-game purchases apply.