Monday, July 29, 2013

Prince Of Persia: The Shadow & The Flame

So last Thursday the old-new Prince Of Persia 2: The Shadow & The Flame was released! Just in time for the long weekend.

POP2 on MS-DOS in the 90s was both fun and frustrating but it certainly was memorable for us, so we were rather keen to see how this remake stood up especially since it was stated that the levels were all redesigned.

Logging onto the iTunes App Store, what impressed us first was that the app was under 50MB. Considering how the first remake, Prince Of Persia Classic, is over 200MB (we bought the HD version), and even Prince Of Persia Retro is nearly 80MB, so one that doesn't require any wait to download is rather welcome (also makes us wonder how the content fares compared to the earlier games).

Next thing that made us happy? The app is universal. Great because we find, while it's much more accessible for us to play this on the go on the iPhone, the graphics are best enjoyed on the iPad.

So what can we say about this remake? We, unfortunately, can't help but compare this to the original (but then again, that was the reason why we bought this game).

Visuals are stunning. The Prince does sport his look from the Trilogy, changing depending on how far you've progressed. Only...for the storytelling, we think graphics actually do not present the story well when compared to the storyboard of the older game. Otherwise we like how the perspective means that you don't only see the left wall but not the right like in the old games.

Music could have been better. We were lucky to have played the old POP2 with a Soundblaster sound card, and in addition to sound effect and speech, the stages had background music that reflected the area rather well. Now, there isn't any BGM except for during battles and specific encounters (with a BGM being a throwback to the Rope Bridge encounter!). Oh well, maybe that's why the app size is under 50MB.

Controls work superbly well for swipe controls! We opted for the virtual keypad at first due to habit, thinking buttons would offer slightly more precise controls when it came to timing that jump etc. However, the swipe controls work perfectly for movement, so we never really had those tense moments where we had to time a jump or edge carefully to a ledge. We soon learn that combat has been simplified to a timing game, which sorts of suits the touch interface because button mashing a touchscreen really makes for a lousy gaming experience.

Gameplay was shorter than remembered, possibly because the Prince moves much more fluid than before and because the game isn't as punishing as the old one - the death traps are very visible so you don't accidentally run into a spiked wall or fall into a pit where a wall grinds closer to crush you with no escape. It's less frustrating and more fun, and that's why it's short. The older game had us replaying the stages over and over as we kept dying as we figured out how to get to the exits (often rage quitting too), and it took months (and that was after we got hold of a guidebook, shy) while this new game was done in 3 days (sooner if we weren't concerned at how fast our battery dropped while playing).

Speaking of which, while there are less emphasis for perfect timing and such, there're also less puzzles to figure out in this game. There's only one puzzle and that had to do with what looks like the Chief Priest in the Temple Of The Flame. Other than that, there's not much to figure out although the game has a focus on exploration. Even the 4-Gate puzzle in the Temple because a pretty much linear progression romp in this new version instead of the multistorey maze it used to be. Granted, they've also done away with the more mind-bending ones like the Rope Bridge and what to do when you reach the Sacred Flame...

The storyline is...well, while the story never changed, the presentation this time is rather lacking. The previous one did a great job immersing you into what was going on with the Prince, Jaffar and Princess, so from the start when the Prince jumps out the window you know why and what to do. The 'ooh' moment in the intro when the Prince was magically replaced by Jaffar in disguise is gone. There used to be a sense of accomplishment when you manage to ride the magic carpet/horse, watching the cinematic that follows was rather rewarding, but not this time. Then again, we rather hoped the story could have improved, as Jordan Mechner's POP2 bible had quite a fair bit more info. It's never really been explained how the Temple Of The Flame was involved, though. Well, the gist of the storyline of POP2 is still there but doesn't build any connection to the player, we feel - you don't care about the Prince, nor the Princess dying, or even Jaffar.

Then we remember how the game is under 50MB and we gloss over this fact - we can always replay back the DOS version if we wanted to watch the story.

As for the store where you spend in-game coins...well, just get the combo upgrades. You'll probably get enough to upgrade two out of three in the first run-through of the entire game. The others don't matter unless you're out for achievements.

All in all we found the game fun and think it was good to have re-designed the levels, although the game only lasted 3 days instead of 3 weeks (well, we're still replaying for the sake of getting all the achievements before removing the app!). Perhaps we can also have back the old levels as a separate challenge?

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