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Prince of Persia

For: N-Gage

The Prince moves into his opulent new home

Product: Prince of Persia (N-Gage) | Publisher: Gameloft | Format: N-Gage | Genre: Action, Adventure, Conversion, Platform | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
Prince of Persia (N-Gage) N-Gage, thumbnail 1
Much was made of our own Prince Harry’s time spent serving in Afghanistan. It was as if his despairing family was saying to an unbothered nation: “Look! He might dress up as a Nazi, get bladdered and generally behave like a stereotypical dim toff, but he’s got bottle.”

Of course, as soon as his cover was blown he was whisked back to Blighty to resume his day job. Whatever that is.

No such luck for the Prince of Persia. While out and about on his travels, he stumbles into a sandy warzone of his own. Without the luxury of a first class ticket home he sets out to find some help, and stumbles across the ethereal Elika.

Elika has a dark secret that she’s initially unwilling to reveal, but more importantly she has the handy ability to fly. And so you set off as a duo, primarily utilising the Prince’s athleticism and fencing ability, but occasionally switching to control Elika as you use her abilities to activate previously inaccessible switches.

The core of the game sees you darting through side-on levels, scampering up walls, vaulting off poles and generally acting like a 14-year-old Olympic gymnast. It’s your standard platform-adventure, but with a healthy dose of parkour thrown in to spice things up.

Control of the Prince during these sections is remarkably easy - if there’s a wall, he’ll scale it by simply running into it (using the D-pad). If there’s a gap or a jump of any kind to be made, a simple press of 'Up' will prompt the appropriate move.

In fact, little interaction is required from the player in relation to the level of effort exerted by our hero, with a string of smooth screen-spanning moves only ever a few button-prompts away.

This isn’t to say that it’s not fun - far from it. Although you rarely feel completely in control of your actions, the simple exhilaration of watching the prince do his thing combined with just enough player involvement keeps you from getting fidgety. Anyone who’s played a Sonic The Hedgehog game will know the intoxicating feeling of being in control and yet completely out of control.

Of course, it’s a different matter when the theme-park ride approach dumps you into an unforeseeable sudden-death situation. Prince of Persia makes this mistake on a few notable occasions, leading to a bit of unwelcome trial-and-error gameplay.

Another mis-step is the combat, which comes across as half-baked, and a nuisance to be negotiated in order to get to the good stuff.

Each scripted encounter with a handful of bad guys, as well as the occasional and unremarkable boss encounters, calls for nothing more than button mashing and the odd defence-breaking manoeuvre. Even where this varies, with the last boss, it’s just a case of following a painfully simple pattern.

Meanwhile the Elika sections, while not being disastrously bad, add nothing to the overall experience. They’re not executed with any great ingenuity or style, and they only really serve as brief switch-flipping interludes.

Undoubtedly the major slip up in Prince of Persia, though, comes from the new 3D flight sections, which mark your transit from one level to the next.

Here you’re mounted atop a flying dragon, which you have to steer wide of obstacles and dive-bombing enemies. You can attack these enemies with a magical projectile attack when at range, or a good old fashioned sword-swipe when you can see the the whites of their eyes.

Neither attack is particularly satisfying, but the sword attack is particularly hit-and-miss, leading to a great deal of button mashing.

The action in these sections is sluggish and unwieldy, with chunks of scenery popping out of view and frustratingly imprecise collision detection. It really does beg the question why Gameloft included such sections on the first place.

It can’t be to show off the spangly 3D engine, as the main game already does so admirably. While the action is fixed to a decidedly 2D plain, the world is rendered in chunky yet detailed 3D polygons.

As such, the camera will occasionally swoop around to show the Prince pulling off an impressive athletic feat, or to highlight where you should be heading to next. Gameloft uses the effect sparingly, so it adds gravitas without distracting from the action.

Overall, the graphics could possibly be described as a little too detailed, with the screen appearing cluttered and individual characters indistinct at times. But Gameloft deserves a whole lot of credit for ploughing ahead with a full on 31MB experience that makes the most of the N-Gage hardware. This is no lazy mobile port.

The music is especially noteworthy, with a wonderfully atmospheric score combining with the impressive visuals to create one of the richest worlds yet seen on the Nokia platform.

Prince of Persia is a game of admirable technical ambition, and plenty of flair throughout the core platforming sections. It’s the additional elements, including some woeful flying sections, that keep this from anything approaching must-have territory, but as a showpiece for what N-Gage can do it’s well worth a look.
Prince of Persia
Reviewer photo
Jon Mundy | 14 March 2009
Technically impressive and possessing some memorable platforming moments, Prince of Persia only suffers when it steps away from its core strengths
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