That we have the ability to play a last-generation console game on our cell phones is amazing, so let’s give technology a round of applause. Don’t be modest, technology, you deserve it. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about Prince of Persia: Warrior Within, an entire Playstation 2 game that’s been revamped to fit on your iPhone or iPod Touch. And despite a few problems, it fits surprisingly well.
Warrior Within is the moody middle child of the PS2 Prince of Persia trilogy, and it contains everything that makes the series so fun, primarily its highly polished fighting and platforming. The basic formula of the game is that you enter a cavernous room, the camera circles around to show you all of the ledges, poles, beams, and platforms you’ll need to traverse to reach the exit, and then you’re given control to do it. Once you complete the room, you’ll usually have to fight a group of enemies and traverse a trap-filled hallway before entering another room and starting the process over again. It’s a winning formula because each part is fun and engaging in its own way.
Off with their heads!
Platforming is the series’ trademark, and it’s for good reason. The prince has a wide array of moves available to him, from running up walls and shimmying along ledges to swinging from ropes and slicing his way down curtains. You’ll use all of these moves in increasingly difficult situations as you progress through the game. Falling to your death is always a danger, but the prince gets the ability to rewind time early on, which eases the frustration. However, you can only use it a limited number of times.
Fighting is similarly well done. You can use one or two swords to hack, slash, or perform combos that usually end in gruesome fatalities. You can also roll away from or leap over enemies as you fight. The context-sensitive buttons change depending on whether you have your sword out, which keeps the screen free of clutter and ensures that you won’t accidentally stab when you mean to jump off a ledge.
So Warrior Within is an excellently crafted game. Unfortunately, a few issues were introduced in the PS2-to-iDevice transition. The first is the result of the screen size. When you’re navigating the complex environments, it can be difficult to tell where you’re supposed to go next. You can swipe the screen to move the camera or tap buttons to view the environment from various perspectives, but oftentimes the next ledge or or rope you have to grab is too distant and tiny to make out clearly. Similarly, the camera sometimes moves on its own and won’t let you swipe it to where you’re trying to look.
Look out, Goliath.
Another issue is the controls. Precision is of utmost importance during the platforming parts, and the controls falter a little here. Don’t get us wrong: it’s clear that a lot of work went into making sure the prince does what you want, but we still found ourselves falling into pits when we felt like we should have made the jump. Also, if you’re not using the latest iDevice hardware (second generation iPod Touches and 3G iPhones or older), you’ll experience frequent mid-level loading. Generally it doesn’t last long, but it can happen at very inconvenient times, like in the middle of a jump.
But for every negative in the game, you’ll find several positives to make up for it. The boss battles are epic and exciting. The voice acting and cutscenes come straight from the PS2 version, and they’re top notch. There’s even a prominent female character in a thong, which doesn’t take away from the game’s appeal one bit.
With a little more refinement, Prince of Persia: Warrior Within could have been a Must Have. It looks great and plays better than you might expect. The control and screen size/camera problems are the only things keeping us from giving it our full recommendation. Gameloft is working on an iPad version that might address some of our qualms. As is, Prince of Persia: Warrior Within is a really fun game with occasional unnecessary frustrations. Look on the bright side: It could have been much worse.