Pocket Hound: Prince of Persia Retro on iPhone/iPad

The game already has been rebooted so many, many times. Prince of Persia, originally developed by Jordan Mechner and released in 1989 for the Apple II has since been ported to platforms including Atari ST, the PC (via DOS), Sega CD, NES, SNES, Game Boy Color and Xbox Live Arcade, Playstation Network and most recently as an unlockable in the Wii version of Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands.

So it makes sense that, in conjunction with the release of the Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time movie in May (throughout most of the world in early and mid May, but only in the US this past weekend), Ubisoft would release another version of the retro game for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.

Unlike my last glowing review of Doodle Jump, however, I’m left a bit more conflicted on this one. I was excited to play the classic game that’s been the source of some excellent sequels. But perhaps it remained a bit too loyal to its original incarnate. Read on to find out why.

The main issue at hand comes down to controls. On the touch screen, you see two sets of arrows pop up on screen.  the arrows on the left side allow you to move left and right, while the arrows on the right side of the touch screen are for up (jump) and down (crouch). The controls screen is one single image with another seemingly simple instruction: “Press anywhere on the screen for the <<action button>>.” Seems straight forward enough, except when put into practice.

One single tap of the left/right moves the protagonist several steps. Which is tough for timing when it comes to tapping the up/down just at the right second to successfully jump over a pit of deadly spikes and through the falling gate while in a rush to go save the imprisoned princess. Learning how to use the “action button” is key. While running, hold down anywhere else on screen to slow to a walk. Hold anywhere on screen, also, to perform an action such as thrusting a sword or grasping a ledge.

Generally, I’m not horrible at timing, and have mastered many a rhythm game that is based completely on timing. But for this one, I simply cannot get it down. I’ll take the simple example of jumping to grab a ledge and pull the character up: sometimes, my tactic of pushing the elsewhere on screen while mid-air in a jump accomplishes this task. But most of the time, it doesn’t. Spending several minutes at each simple obstacle is not my idea of fun. While I would probably get a bit better with more practice, I’m already turned off.

I would step back and rethink this logic, clearly acknowledging that I am just not good at this game, if it were not for the dozens of game reviews that have the same complaint. But, then again, it seems to be a mixed bag: about half of the reviews on the app are bad scores from people who say the controls are out of whack. And about the other half are from people rating the game 5/5 who say that the controls have always been hard for this original game, and people just need to learn how to use the action button.

Unfortunately, I did not play the original so I do not have the personal experience to retort back on that. If it’s true, however, you can bet I would not have been playing the original for very long.

But, for you Prince of Persia enthusiasts out there, I would not despair. At only 99 cents in the US, the game is a bargain and certainly worth a gamble. The graphics look great a la iPad, which is how I’ve been playing, and the side scrolling adventure will surely bring back a nostalgic wave of euphoria. Perhaps you will have an easier time mastering the controls than I did – or maybe you won’t even have a hard time at all.

On the flip side, if you, too,  find it just too frustrating to continue on, you’ve only wasted a buck.


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