How much of a hardcore gamer would you say you are?
You're reading this, so you more than likely own a PSP, a handheld with a greater number of core gamer-centric titles than any other mobile platform.
If Sony's portable isn't in your collection, you're the kind of person that loves electronic entertainment so much that you're happy to use your free time to read about games for platforms you don't even own.
Hell, the fact you have an interest in a title from Nippon Ichi Software puts you on a plane of hardcore far and above the casual crowd. You likely play more titles in the vein of Kingdom Hearts and God Of War than Cut The Rope and Bejeweled, right?
So: how hardcore a gamer do you think you are?
It's a question Prinny 2: Dawn Of Operation Panties, Dood! asks you almost constantly, with the answer more often than not being "not nearly enough".
Hailing back to an 8-bit era level of difficulty, our titular heroes the Prinnies - a race of penguin-like creatures that wield small swords and little intelligence - are tasked with returning their Master Etna's stolen undergarments.
To do so, you'll need a number of 'rare items' to lure the master thief into an ambush. These items have been scattered across a dozen beautifully animated levels containing some of the most intense 2D platforming on the PSP.
If you're not familiar with the Disgaea universe from which P2:DOOPD is spun, Prinnies are the souls of dead petty criminals, sent to hell in their droves to be punished for their sins. At your disposal are a thousand of these Spheniscidae servants and they, along with you, will be punished.
Though initially this seems like a large number of what are essentially lives, when you lose twenty or more on the first level you begin to fret that this may not be enough to complete your final objective.
Old skool dood!
Reminiscent of Ghosts 'n Goblins in terms of structure and gameplay, the first major hurdle you'll have to leap is... well, leaping, as there is none of the float or after-touch of a Super Mario Bros. or Metal Slug. You look, you jump, you commit, and if you miscalculate? Well that's another Prinny lost.
Combat is fast and strategic with a number of moves at your disposal, including a light slash, a jumping attack that also fires projectiles, a dizzying ground-stomp to paralyze the bad guys and a spin to avoid your enemies.
To excel at Prinny 2 you'll need to have each move burned into your physical memory. You'll also need to know when and how to use such moves against an army of opponents that, in some areas, seem to occupy every inch of ground, ready to take another chunk of your three-hits-and-you're-out health bar and claim the life of one more beaky demon.
Watching replays of some of the game's better players is breathtaking, a near-parkour dance of death, chained combos and pixel-perfect platforming. To see the finish of the game you'll need to be approaching this level of perfection, this level of harmony between human and machine that video games so excel at inspiring.
Cross Header: Pretty funny dood!
What puts Dawn Of Operation Panties, Dood! above similar titles is its humour and spirit. It wants you to get better - “gotta be stronger dood!” - and offers you as much assistance in doing so as possible, from extending the number of hits you can take in the game's easier difficulty option: Baby Mode, to offering the aforementioned replays between levels, to excellent checkpointing.
It wants you to be able to reach the end of the game, unlock the significant amount of extra content, hear the fantastic voice acting and jaunty soundtrack, watch the left-field comedy cutscenes and have the satisfaction of saying that you've conquered it. It just isn't going to hand it to you on a silver platter.
The gargantuan and initially off-putting wall of difficulty will be the barrier to entry for most players, but for those with the patience to persist this is a mechanically immaculate and beautifully designed title loaded with a cruel, quirky sense of humour and shot through with an ultimately rewarding feeling of accomplishment for beating its harder-than-hardcore challenges.