Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Prince of Persia - The Fallen King

Can a 2D platformer work with just the DS stylus? I simply HAD to try that out!
Prince of Persia: The Fallen King takes a pretty bold risk, it attempts to be a platformer for the DS that you control completely with the stylus. Yes, I can feel all the cringing that statement just inspired. This is an idea that could have gone horrible, horribly wrong in the execution. Is it possible to achieve the kind of accuracy required in a 2D platformer with only the stylus? Could such a game manage to be challenging without delving into frustration?

GRAPHICS: Graphically, The Fallen King opts for a much more cartoony look than the console Prince of Persia games. In the artwork and cut scenes the prince is just… um… kind of adorable. His new ally for this game, the Magus, is also pretty darn cute too in a softened up Jack of Blades from Fable (they obviously shop at the same creepy white mask and red robe boutique) kind of way. Unfortunately, the rest of the game is done in 3D. It works, but with the art style I have to conclude that the game, since it is a 2D platformer, would have been much better in 2D with detailed character sprites and backgrounds that maintained the art style.

I also say that the game would have been better in 2D because all of the 3D, especially after the Prince and the Magus team up, can cause some MAJOR slowdown. Performance issues are unquestionably the biggest problem in this game. I never had it become unplayable but it did get close when there were a large number of enemies, moving traps, or magically-glowing objects on the screen.

GAMEPLAY: So, how does The Fallen King hold up to being a platformer controlled with the stylus? The answer is, pretty well. While there is some expected inaccuracy here and there the game does provide the prince with safeguards against too many unwanted deaths and you are able to consistently perform the sorts of moves and jumps that you want to. To give a quick explanation of the controls:

You drag the stylus in the direction you want the prince to move. To jump across a small gap you tap on the other side of it and the prince will make the leap. You tap on a ledge to make the prince grab it and again to climb up. Those are the basics but most everything is done with simple taps of the stylus. The prince also had the foresight to wear a glove with metal claw since he knew he was going to be in a platformer controlled with a stylus. The prince can use the glove to hang onto walls and descend them very slowly, often preventing death and allowing the player to scramble back up after a missed jump. 

The prince also wields a sword to defeat the enemies he encounters. For the most part, all of the enemies, even the bosses are easy. The difficulty in the game comes from the platforming. You will encounter all sorts of traps, blocked paths, and tricky jumps as you work your way through all of the levels in the game. In my opinion, the stylus control works. It also seems to provide a more fluid experience than buttons. However, I think the game would have benefited from an option to use a button-based control scheme for those who would prefer it.

A couple of problems with the stylus controls do stand out and are worth mentioning. Occasionally, you will have to jump up onto a platform you can also go underneath. You have to stand in just the right place or you end up walking or rolling underneath. The game also tends to have a problem with gauging a normal jump from one where the prince needs to grab the ledge and hang. 

This doesn't mean he doesn't end up grabbing ledges but that he will often jump and grab a ledge when it should have just been a simple hop and this can mess up the next jump or occasionally kill you if there are traps involved. Again, these problems weren't game-breaking but they were the main annoyances with the stylus controls.

Fortunately, the prince does not have a limited number of lives and checkpoints are liberally sprinkled throughout the stages. Rarely will the game not place one before a challenge you are likely to fail the first time. If you die the prince simply restarts at the last checkpoint and he can try again as many times as he needs to. This might sound like it would ruin the difficulty but with the stylus controls this system was almost necessary to prevent frustration.

Early in this adventure, the prince teams up with the magus. The magus is actually one of the better partner characters I've ever had to deal with in a game. He really can't die and you don't have to worry about leading him along and opening paths for him except in some stages where the game forces the two characters to work individually. The magus floats so he can't die from a jumping mishap or get stuck anywhere. His real role is to support the prince with his magic. The magic can be used to move platforms, trip switches, and push back enemies… along with several other handy uses. As you progress through the game the levels will contain more and more puzzle-solving elements in addition to platforming that almost always require the magus to use his abilities.

As for how the game is organized, expect to see a very familiar set up for a 2D platformer here. (I had a friend refer to is as Prince of Mario.) You have a map with glowing circles on it that represent individual stages. You complete one to move onto the next. When you get to the end of the map you confront a boss and move on to the next area. Sure it's not an original formula, but it works well. Each 'world' has a slightly different theme as well though I won't argue that the game could use more variety in its environments, especially early on. Boss fights are not overly difficult but you have to figure out what to do first and this can be tricky. They are an excellent addition to the game.

STORY: The Fallen King doesn't focus on its story and it's a pretty basic one to tie everything together. The text is silly to match the cartoon characters of the game and it's probably a good thing in the long run that the game doesn't take itself very seriously. To give you the basic plot, the prince is trying to get help from a king who it turns out has been corrupted, hence the title. The prince must get rid of all the dark magic to save the king from this corruption. Simple, huh? At least it's presented well.

REPLAYABLE: While The Fallen King doesn't have any true replay value, chances are you are going to need to go back and revisit levels you have completed to unlock all of the available secrets especially health power ups. This game is also a platformer and chances are you might come back to play it through again just for fun in the same way you might replay a classic Mario or Sonic game several times just for fun. The genre just lends itself to replay better than others. It isn't exactly a short game the first time through either.

OVERALL: Prince of Persia: The Fallen King is a very fun platformer for the DS. It does suffer from some performance issues and while its stylus controls aren't perfect, they do prove that you can make a traditional platformer controlled with just the stylus and have it actually work. Personally, I really enjoyed this game and think it will appeal to anyone who likes a good platformer or the Prince of Persia series. 

The Fallen King also feels vaguely similar to Assassin's Creed DS (though Fallen King is greatly improved it looks like they were built on the same framework) so if you were one of the people who actually enjoyed that game, there's a good chance you will like this one.

SYSTEM: Nintendo DS


1 comment:

  1. Cool game, cant wait 2 see the other stuff that comes this month.