obviously Prince of Persia: The Fallen King

Prince of Persia: The Fallen King

There are games that make you love them, there are games that make you hate them, and then there are games that just make you feel sorry for them. Prince of Persia: The Fallen King for the Nintendo DS falls into that last category. The game shows every sign of being a rushed budget title, quickly fired out by Ubisoft for some bygone Christmas of the past. However, unlike many budget titles of this nature that are unremittingly terrible, there are at least the seeds of some good ideas buried here. Unfortunately, they are overwhelmingly drowned out by apathetic execution and truly appalling implementation. If you want to uncover those few good ideas in this mess of a game, you'd better be prepared to dig through a mountain of trash.

Prince of Persia: The Fallen King is a sidescrolling platformer game similar to the earliest entries of the series. Making the Prince of Persia somewhat unique from other platformers is the fact that the Prince cannot freely jump, but can climb, leap from ledges, and execute wall jumps to overcome obstacles. Gone from the formula of the early games, however, is the time limit, and in its place, a higher emphasis on solving puzzles. To add variety to the Prince's acrobatic abilities, he is accompanied by a magic user named Zal, whose magical abilities make for some surprisingly interesting puzzles.

The puzzle design shows a lot of ingenuity, and makes interesting use of the DS's touch-screen. There is a large variety of different objects, platforms, and obstacles, and when combined with the Prince's acrobatic antics and Zal's magic powers, it makes for some interesting brainteasers. It seems as if someone involved with the creation of this game actually put a bit of thought into it, and actually wanted to make a quality product!

Unfortunately, these brief glimpses of good puzzle design are diminished by many other factors that plague the game. As the game goes on, for example, it tries to create the illusion of added difficulty by placing checkpoints farther apart, but the puzzles themselves never actually get any harder. Instead of taking puzzle elements and combining them in more devious ways to create more difficult challenges, all-new elements are added constantly to create the illusion of depth. New elements are literally added every level until the end of the game. While quite a few of these elements are interesting, many are used in the same fashion, ad nauseam, in almost every level. Other good ideas go largely unused after their initial appearance. In short, good elements are either overused or underused throughout the game.

The level design starts out decent, and the puzzles start out unique and interesting, while not exactly challenging, but once you get further in, the game shows more and more signs of being a rushed product. The level layouts become haphazard and the quality of the puzzles begins to deteriorate. Part of the problem is that the game simply goes on far too long. This game has over 50 levels, which is about 30 too many. You are also often forced to return to old levels or backtrack, which hurts what enjoyment could originally been had from some of the game's puzzles. If it ended at around the halfway point, it would have been a decent little game, but they felt the need to pad it out in such unnecessary ways.

The controls, it must be said, are surprisingly decent. That is, they are decent for a game of this type. Prince of Persia: the Fallen King is played exclusively through the touchscreen, like the Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass or other similar titles. Surprisingly enough, the controls are very responsive and sometimes work better than similar setups in higher profile games. Like everything else in this title, though, the controls begin to deteriorate after a certain point in the game. Even early on, there are points when tapping the screen to make the Prince move in one direction will instead make him run in the other direction and leap to his death. This can be annoying, but it doesn't get truly bad until late in the game, where this happens more and more frequently.

The controls are at their worst in the combat segments, which in themselves are largely unremarkable. The biggest problem, unsurprisingly, is poor hit detection. There are bosses, as well, but they are wholly unnecessary and easily the weakest part of the game. They are often presented as puzzles in themselves, but the methods needed to even damage them are often absurdly abstract. You may find that, even if you manage to damage them, you won't know how you accomplished it. Factor in the bad hit detection, and these battles become completely aggravating experiences.

That's not even the worst part, oh no. You see, these bosses cannot kill you. If you lose all your health, you simply respawn, in the spot you died, with full health. This is one of the worst design choices I have ever seen. It robs all sense of peril, suspense, and indeed, purpose from these fights and renders them completely bland, infuriating, and redundant. In fact, with no timer, puzzles that never really get harder, and completely useless bosses, there is basically no challenge to this game whatsoever. Not even the final boss can bring you down, making for a terribly anticlimactic endgame, one that makes the entire game feel like a waste.

Prince of Persia: The Fallen King is not only a waste of time and money, but also ideas. Somebody involved with the production of this title wanted to make something unique and worthwhile, as can be seen from the inventiveness of some of the puzzles. Unfortunately, their vision and talent was squandered here, as everyone else was obviously interested only in one thing: money. This was a product made on the cheap and shoved out for the holiday season to make Ubisoft a quick buck, with the Prince of Persia brand stamped on to give it more push. It's the most cynical type of trash game, doomed to be bad from the very beginning.

However, in some ways Prince of Persia: The Fallen King is even worse than a simply bad game; it's also a disappointing one. At first it raises you up to the promise of unique gameplay and clever puzzles, but then comes crashing down with pointless padding and inexcusably bad design. It's not a game that is obviously broken from the beginning. Instead, it's a game that suddenly breaks down after being quite enjoyable for a short time, leaving the player with a dreadful, empty feeling.