Many of you may have forgotten already, but before I reviewed this game there was a stub review written by the founder of Abandonia, Kosta. In 5-6 lines of words, he expressed his true feelings about the game and how much he enjoyed it, because Prince of Persia was, in fact, the first game he had ever played. Me on the other hand... I didn't live in that age. Memories – non-existant. Having not heard any hype about the game, I only had the curiosity of an archeologist when discovering a lost civilization.
Despite its soon-to-be 20th anniversary in 2010, you can easily understand the greatness of its simplicity. Far from being flashy, the levels take place in two main settings: the dungeons and the palace. While the dungeons look dark and gritty, with blue bricks on a black background, the palace has more charm and exquisiteness, with sand-yellow bricks on a wall background decorated with oriental ornaments and some Persian carpets scattered around. Floors are formed from slabs, which represent an important element of the gameplay, especially for resolving puzzles and dealing with enemies. There are different types: switch (opens gate), trap (closes gate), loose on the ground (falls down under your feet), loose above (falls on you after hitting it with the head, Mario-style). Other important environment features that you'll meet along the way are the ledges, the doors and the deathtraps (the cutters and the spikes).
The story also isn't complex - it's the basic damsel in distress situation. The Grand Vizier Jaffar has seized power over the country, while the Sultan was fighting a foreign war. You, a guy from a far land (hence the blond hair) has to save the Sultan’s daughter... There is one problem, though. In 60 minutes the princess has to choose between marrying the Vizier or death. So the limited time is a grand detriment for our modern rushed society, and many of you might ditch the game, because it requires a lot of practice at the beginning, just like in a racing simulation. Well, don't! Indeed you will play the same level again and again, just so you can get the best time or find the answer to a puzzle, but the pleasure of opening the green marble door and completing the level is immeasurable.
You start at the bottom, in the dungeon, in some white prisoner clothes (simple, but better than the blasphemous anime look they used in the later versions for SNES and Genesis). Make sure you clear the first two levels with the best time possible because the saving feature is only available when you reach the third, and there is only one saving slot. Also, it doesn't matter where you save, every time you load a game (which is possible only at the start of the game) you will find yourself at the beginning of the level. There are two primary modes of playing: the "free running" and the combat mode. In free running you will search for the switch to the last door, avoiding traps and figuring out puzzles (RightArrow and LeftArrow to run in one of the directions, DownArrow to crouch and UpArrow to jump/grab onto a ledge). An important key is SHIFT. Besides using and taking items, it is important because it allows you to move slowly and with caution. Also, when falling, keeping SHIFT pressed will make you hang from the next ledge.
The combat mode is activated when you have an enemy in front of you. Your only weapon is the sword. If you are stabbed when you don't have the sword in your hand, you will instantly die. Most of the enemies you'll encounter are the palace guards. They all have different clothes and fighting styles, so you won't be bored when fighting, but personally I don't see a crucial difference as most of them are easy to deal with. This is where the guard bosses and special characters make their entrance. Fighting them requires a certain level of skill and you can do up to ten consecutive attack-block combos without even hurting them. You use SHIFT to attack with your sword and UpArrow to block, while DownArrow sheathes your sword. At first, combat is really boring, and you can kill the guards just by following their attack pattern and striking at their weak moment without ever blocking. However, this changes gradually with every level, and the enemies will soon have a greater amount of health and unique styles, to which you'll have to adapt. You don't need to stick only to attack-block combinations though. You can also do more creative things like hit more buttons in a different manner and use your surroundings to dispose of them faster. That's why this game was so popular in the first place - you can play the game again and do it differently than the last time.
Everyone knows that fighting involves losing life, and losing life means healing potions. Yes there is a small selection of potions, but I'll let you discover their purpose on your own. Just remember that not every bottle in a dungeon is filled with holy water.
So basically, this is one of the greatest platform games ever made. At that time, both the graphics and the fluent movement were something special. Sure, now we are not so impressed by some inanimate black walls and some burning torches that we could call "special effects", but that doesn't really matter because you'll be focused exclusively on the puzzles and your character. The small details would have made it worse. You'll be happy to see that every action has a believable and enjoyable sample of sound, and the oriental-themed music is placed appropriately. You may find that some situations are hard to surpass, but when you finally complete your adventure, it will have seemed easy. The puzzles are of course logical (except for one that is totally out of this world), but their solutions are masterfully hidden sometimes.
CTRL+Q - Quit Game
CTRL+A - Restart Level
CTRL+R - Restart Game
CTRL+S - Sound On/Off
CTRL+G – Save Game
CTRL+L – Load Game
ESC - Pause Game
Runs perfectly with the default options.
Start with Prince.exe or with the batch file, it doesn't matter (only if you'd want to cheat, if so use the batch). It runs satisfactorily in XP, but the movement is sluggish and the sound from the system speaker is horrible, and it's 50 times worse than the one that you get with DOSBox. DOSBox is highly recommended.
There is Copy Protection in the game. I only encountered it when I died, beginning with the 3rd level. I found it easier to just exit the game, start a new one, and load the only save file. But if you really want to live the experience it involves finding a potion with a letter inscribed that you must find in the manual, as in the first letter of the word number X, in the Y line of page number Z, and drink it. We don't have the manual at the moment, but check the primitive txt file named "Copy Protection" in the Extras section above.