The 'Prince' is back -- on game console and big screen
Princely challenge spans generations

Prince of Persia --  new game and film reach India

In early 1990 , when the first “IBM”-type desk-top PCs came to India, dealers tended to sweeten the deal for lay customers by throwing in a computer game for free. Chances were it was “Prince of Persia”-- one of the very few graphic games, available for the prevalent MS-DOS system. With the shift and arrow keys of the keyboard (the mouse was not then in use with IBM PCs) one helped the Prince, leap across chasms, jump through fires, avoid beds of knives – and rescue the Princess before the evil Vizier, finished her off.

Twenty years on, “Prince of Persia” lives on -- to entice and challenge a new generation of video game fans – who only know today’s effects-intensive, 3-D graphics-loaded avatars , where the ageless Prince does battle with a whole new array of digital weaponry. After spawning a range of toys, graphic novels and multi player games for all popular consoles that have sold 14 million copies, “Prince of Persia” became a big-screen live-action movie from Disney a few weeks ago, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton and Ben Kingsley. The film tie-in has breathed life afresh into the latest video game in the series, “Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands”. This takes on from the trilogy of games, launched between 2003 and 2008 , called “The Sands of Time” ( this is also the title of the 2010 movie). The Prince visits his elder brother Malik, at the ruins of King Solomon’s palace, just as an invading army attacks. Malik unleashes the mythical army Solomon, consisting of weird sand creatures who turn on the brothers. They each have one half of a medallion which alone can protect them, but Malik’s half is destroyed.

A genie, Razia, steps in to help the Prince embark on an epic adventure, to save his kingdom….

The game, allows players to role-play the Prince, scaling castles towers, combating 100-feet tall foes, and performing other acrobatic feats of derring-do. Many of these gravity-defying stunts are made possible by today’s powerful computer graphics; but older players will find that Prince of Persia remains in its essentials, the same simple-minded game that Jordan Mechler created for the first DOS and Apple-Mac PCs. There are new puzzle-solving challenges that require agile manipulation of objects – a recognition that kids these days have lightning reflexes, compared to their butter-fingered parents who might well be prompted by nostalgia, to give the latest edition a try.

“The Forgotten Sands” costs Rs1499 in India and is available for all popular platforms including XBox 360, Nintendo/Wii and PlayStation.

- Anand Parthasarathy

(Aug 1. 2010).

This review also appears in the latest edition of The Week magazine ( Aug 8 issue)