PRINCE OF PERSIA / Broderbund / PC

Oh man ... back in the day, on my trusty Tandy 1000 TX, I played this game more than any other game short of maybe the first two Quest For Glory games (then again, this one was probably #1, since it didn't require any disk switching.) I eventually got so familiar with it I could run through it without dying pretty regularly. Of course, we didn't have "speed runs" or "world records" or "Youtubes" or "internets" back then in 1991, otherwise I might actually be famous among a small handful of dorks for being Prince of Prince of Persia! Or not, I dunno.

Anyway, I fired it up in DOSBox for this review, and I've apparently still got enough of it mapped into muscle memory almost 20 years later that I could get up to the fourth level on my first try. That was about it though, and eventually I just started abusing "prince megahit" to skip the levels, see the cutscenes and do the most fun fights.

When people talk about "oldschool hard", they mean a game like this. Prince of Persia is pretty unforgiving. You only get a chance to save the game once every four levels. Each time you die, even if you were right at the end of a level, ya gotta do the whooole thing from the beginning again. Now, you have a sixty minute time limit to get through the entire game, which is great for adding tension and drama, but also a bitch for making mistakes and re-doing levels. So if you screw up too many times in between each four-level save marker, you might as well just quit or restore the game, meaning that you almost have to one-shot each four-level grouping to have enough time overall.

That said, there's only twelve levels overall, and from past experience it is certainly doable. At first, however, I highly recommend "selective cheating" using the aforementioned built-in trainer. Nothing egregious, mind, just maybe kick yourself twenty extra minutes or so, or a little health boost when you really need it. It'll keep you from getting so frustrated with the game that you give up on it before you see the really good bits. Once you've completed one "assisted" run of the game, you're in shape to do it without any help.

Part of the difficulty of the game is that the controls really aren't like anything else that came before it except designer Jordan Mechner's own Karateka (and even that was significantly different.) It shares some other qualities with rotoscoped platformers like Another World/Out of this World, but the feel and design of this game is pretty unique. As such, you have to get used to its little tics, and some stuff that's fundamental knowledge isn't presented to you in any way (like the fact that you can edge through spike pits if you step slowly, and that it's also safe to slowly lower yourself into them.) Perhaps a bit unfair, that, but a little experimentation quickly shows you the limits and particulars of your movement through the Vizier's dungeons.

If you've got the patience and the taste, the game rewards you with a challenging blend of action and logical puzzle-solving. It is also one of those rare dialogue-less games that uses cut scenes and musical cues well enough to actually make you care about the characters and their predicament.

Videos :

* Gameplay Video
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