The gameplay is real time and shown from a top-down perspective. In the Fat Princess titles, you control a single character in a sprawling ongoing battlefield. The objective typically consists of capturing the princess in possession of the enemy castle. (a sort of riff on capture the flag, only the flag in this case is a princess) To aid your team in doing this, you can kill enemy teammates, attack fortifications, build up or repair your team's fortifications, or repair or upgrade hat machines which make more classes available. (The hat machines dispense hats, which can be picked up by any player in order to change their character class.) Classes such as priest can heal teammates even as they are fighting. Classes are a major part of the game. Your default class has no abilities, so choosing a hat is basically required and would be the first thing you do every time you respawn.
Death simply results in you respawning at your castle a few seconds later, so simply killing enemies may not be the most effective way to make your team win. But it does hold back that player temporarily, especially in larger maps, since the killed player is sent back to their castle.
- Citizen - The default class. Possesses no abilities other than running the fastest. This also means they are faster when carrying objects such as potions or even the princess. (since carrying objects slows you down, depending on the weight of the object) However the citizen's health is the lowest, making them easy targets if they are trying to make a run with the princess.
- Worker - The only character class that can build and repair structures. Armed only with an axe, the worker is not equipped to face other character classes, although the axe is very effective at damaging barricades.
- Archer - Can attack enemies without having to get near. The archer can even attack enemies while fleeing from them, making it a frustrating class to deal with.
- Warrior - Equipped with a sword and shield, the warrior has superior damage at close range and can even deflect attacks with his shield.
- Priest - Can heal teammates. The priest can gradually heal an individual teammate, or charge up their power and heal all teammates in the vicinity depending on how long it's been charged.
- Mage - Throws fireballs on the enemy and can set enemies on fire.
The 4 main classes can each become a new class once their respective hat machine is upgraded. Each upgraded classes can change back and forth between their normal and upgraded versions, and may have advantages and disadvantages compared to their non-upgraded versions.
- Upgraded worker - Can throw bombs.
- Upgraded archer - Armed with a musket rather than a bow and arrow.
- Upgraded warrior - possesses a massive lance and can perform a dash attack that closes the distance between an enemy in almost an instant.
- Upgraded priest - can "un-heal" enemies, lowering their health. Like the Priest, this attack can be charged up in order to damage enemies in the vicinity.
- Upgraded mage - Can freeze enemies, slowing them down or temporarily rendering them immobile. This can be done repeatedly.
Single player: "The Legend of the Fat Princess"
The single player mode is made up of a number of levels. Each level is preceded by a storybook cutscene read from a book titled "The Legend of the Fat Princess" accompanied by voicework, narration and illustrations.
Each level plays out largely like a multiplayer game but you are the only human player. You can also go up to A.I. teammates and make them follow you.
The objective varies from level to level, and some objectives are unique to the single player mode. (not found in multiplayer) For instance one mission required you to capture 3 sages. Another mission requires you to build a shrine before the opposing team can build theirs. Another mission requires you carry a large bomb toward a dragon and then make a run for the princess while the dragon is distracted.
After playing through the game and seeing the end of the story, you can play again on a harder difficulty. This simply increases the hit points of the enemy team, but nonetheless gives the opposing team a tremendous advantage.
Fistful of Cake has online multiplayer, but it comes with restrictions. The host can choose how many characters will be on each team, but the maximum amount is 8. (for a total of 16) Furthermore, choosing the maximum amount restricts the number of human players to 4, which in other words is only 2 on each team. (The rest will be A.I. controlled.) The maximum amount of human players allowed is 8, or 4 on each team, but choosing this setting means there will be no A.I. players.
There also exists settings in between. (4 humans and 2 A.I. per team, for example, for a total of 12 players)
There is no 'dynamic' setting that automatically adjusts the number of A.I. players depending on the amount of human players in the game. This means that you can start a game with 16 characters only to have the 4 human slots filled up right away -- nobody else can join after that and you're stuck with all the A.I. characters. If you wanted to knock off 4 of the A.I. characters in order to increase the number of humans allowed to 6 without having to exit the game and start over with 0 human opponents, well, there is no way to do this.
Likewise, even if you create a game with only 8 characters, you may find that only 2-3 other humans will join, and no way to change your mind and add A.I. characters afterwards. It is also very unlikely the game will ever have the full 8 players for any real period of time, because when 8 players are in a game it is 8 times as likely someone will exit the game, whereas the chances of someone joining to replace that player is 0 until after that player has already left. (At best the game will fluctuate between 7 and 8 players constantly, making the game unbalanced.)
The multiplayer also suffers from balance issues, as some of the upgraded character classes are overpowered compared to the rest. There is no way for the host to disable classes, disable upgrading, or increase the number of resources required to upgrade or unlock a class.