Prince of Persia quickly became a landmark game when it was released for the Apple II back in 1989. It was a breakthrough in terms of both its graphics and gameplay, from the Prince’s dramatic running leaps to his timing-based sword fights. However, Ubisoft’s port to Apple’s latest generation of devices feels like a quick cash-in for what has become a massive franchise. Even at $0.99, it’s hard to recommend buying this classic game.
For those who haven’t played it before, Prince of Persia involves navigating a perilous dungeon by leaping over gaps and fighting sword-wielding bandits across 13 levels. While the game certainly shows its age compared to modern platformers, there is no denying that it was ahead of the curve when it was released over 20 years ago.
Grand Vizier Jaffar, minus the talking parrot.
Like many games from that era, Prince of Persia is relentlessly difficult. Missing a single jump, making one misstep in a fight, or failing to grasp onto a wall means you must restart the level. What make this unbearable in the iPhone version are the terrible controls.
Left and right arrows control your horizontal movement, while up and down arrows allow you to jump and duck. Touching anywhere onscreen activates the “action” button for grabbing ledges and taking single steps, but the game makes no effort to explain complex moves to new players. For example, you have to tap up and then forward to do a standing jump, but if you tap forward first, you might fall to your death.
Prince of Persia Retro doesn’t save when the game is interrupted, either. If you get a call while trying to run through all 13 levels, you can’t pick up where you left off. This is slightly remedied through a level select screen that allows you to play any level from the get-go, but we’d still like to see it save your progress.
Since it’s a universal app, you can play it natively on the iPhone and iPad. This is a nice feature that certainly makes it appear to be worth the $0.99 price tag, but the poor controls across both platforms make it unnecessarily frustrating. Even if you have fond memories of Prince of Persia, this retro rehash will slash them away.