If one were to take a look at the icon for Prince of Persia Classic in the App Store, they could be easily forgiven for thinking that it is a port of the 2003 console game Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. However, this is not the case; the name alludes to the fact that this is actually a remake of the original Prince of Persia from 1989.
This update to Jordan Mechner’s 1989 original vision, itself made for the Apple II (which sort of means things have come full-circle with this release), was originally released for Xbox LIVE Arcade and the PlayStation Network in 2007 and 2008, respectively. Given its origins in an older title, some fans of the newer PoP games may be unsure of what to expect here.
For starters, Classic is a 2D platforming game, albeit one with 3D-modeled visuals. In the tradition of the original, it features very realistic and fluid movements and animation, while the art style has been updated to be more reflective of the games in the Sands of Time trilogy, despite little to no other direct relation.
A vote for me is a vote for shirtlessness.
Typically, most platformers are fast-paced, action-oriented affairs designed to test a mix of skill and reflexes. Also typically, these often translate to iPhone controls poorly, with it being all too easy to move your thumb off the digital D-pad during all the action. Likewise, it can be a problem when things get hectic, and your own thumbs prevent you from seeing vital parts of the screen.
Prince of Persia Classic, by contrast, tends to be a much slower, more methodical experience. And while this may not be for everyone, the game benefits greatly from it. Unlike some iPhone games, which may give you a D-pad with directions you won’t even use, PoPC’s has only two directions: left and right. Furthermore, how far you move your thumb determines whether the Prince (who’s actually unnamed here) will calmly walk or break into a run.
And while you can run, you’ll find more often than not that speed is your enemy. You’ll need to run in order to help clear some gaps (often with the Prince just barely making it by the tips of his fingers), but more often than not, tragedy will befall you if you try to move quickly. The Prince is not super-human, least of all by video game standards. He is actually quite mortal, and though he has a life meter, that is more for combat than dealing with hazards placed throughout the stages.
Indeed, there are traps all over. Certain areas of floor are designed to give out beneath your feet, and falling off a simple ledge can lead to an abrupt end for your adventure (it’s not the fall that kills you; it’s the sudden stop). Likewise, spike traps are placed all around, the main clue to their presence being the mark of the blood spilled by those who attempted this trek before you. Sometimes you’ll fall on them, but at other times mere careless jogging will net the same end result. But, as noted, patience is a virtue. While trying to clear the spikes with a leap is ill-advised, slowly moving through them will cause the Prince to navigate the metal instruments carefully until he is clear of their danger zone.
Take the plunge.
When you engage an enemy, the buttons change in function for combat, as leaping becomes slashing and ducking becomes guarding. And though hammering the attack button may lead to some measure of success, it is just as likely to leave you vulnerable; expertly guarding against blows and counterattacking is key to success. The slower, measured approach feels more ideal to the iPhone platform, and while the buttons and D-pad still obscure parts of the screen, they rarely (if ever) seem particularly detrimental.
While it all works rather well, there is still some room for improvement. For one thing, the Prince has great difficulty when it comes to multitasking. He can run and jump across large gaps most of the time, but if you run up to a ledge and press the jump button for him to climb, he generally won’t respond unless you let up on the directional pad. It’s not a game-breaker, but can be a bit of a nuisance to someone who is used to just about any other platformer ever.
Likewise, occasionally when we press the Block button during combat, the Prince slashes instead, which is usually followed by him being handily disposed of by the enemy. And rolling can be tricky to pull off, too, when timing is a factor.
To the game’s credit, there is no system of lives here, so you can try as many times as you want. Checkpoints are scattered around, but there could stand to be more to help prevent things from getting repetitious– which they can and do, rather quickly. However, you can’t save the checkpoints, so continuing after a break from the game takes you back to the start of the level. And for a portable game that’s likely to be played in increments, this all-or-nothing approach isn’t especially welcome.
For those able to overcome the game’s Normal mode, two others await: Time Attack, where you must finish the game in 60 minutes, and Survival, where you must not only beat the clock, but you cannot die at all.
Prince of Persia Classic is a very cool, realistic platforming game that in many ways makes an excellent fit for the iPhone. But one could also call the game ‘Prince of Patience,’ as that is what you will need a lot of in order to win the day.