Thursday, 1 December 2011

Prince of Persia 2: The Shadow and the Flame (MS-DOS)

It might seem like a strange choice for me to go straight into playing Prince of Persia 2 right after getting sick of the first game, but I am suddenly filled with an irresistible and inexplicable curiosity that defies all logic.

Previously, on Prince of Persia...

That's some damn fine pixel art in my opinion. There's a narrator too!

Hey I remember that bit. Though my version of the Prince didn't have the hat.

Apple Macintosh
Oh, so that's what happens at the end of the first game.

Like with Prince of Persia 1, the Mac version of the game has higher resolution graphics than the DOS version. I've doubled the res of the PC screenshots, but this screen is actual size.

And so this is the first game in the Prince of Persia series to actually have a prince in it.

Sadly the marriage only lasts 11 days before everything starts to go wrong.

One and a half weeks later, the Prince turns up at the palace to find his wife no longer recognises him.

And an angry looking prince doppelgänger has taken his place!

Wait, you don't suppose that could be...

It's ex-Grand Vizier Jaffar in a magic disguise! I guess the Prince didn't do a good enough job of striking him down in the first game and now he's paying the price.

With no one realising his true identity, and the palace guards trying to kill him, the Prince is forced to make a daring escape. You'd think he'd know better than to make blind leaps by now.

What, is this Dragon's Lair or something? I'm dead before I can even figure out what the buttons do. I get pushed off the building like 10 times before I finally manage to kill this guy.

Perhaps they figured that anyone buying a sequel has probably already finished the first game, and is looking for more of a challenge. Fortunately there's no time limit this time, so I can fail as many times as I like. And then some.

Okay this is annoying. The prince can only shuffle along slowly with his sword out, but whenever I put it away it seems like I only make it a few steps before I'm in another fight. Fortunately these guys only have one hit point so they go down a lot faster than the prison guards at the start of Prince of Persia 1. I can't see any health potions around for me though.

It looks like I can still make this jump, but if you could look down at this roof from above you'd see that I'm actually half a second away from hitting pavement. The real shame of it is that the fall happens off screen. The best bit of Prince of Persia was when I'd misjudge a jump and got to watch him get him impaled on spikes.

More than one enemy on screen! I never saw that happen in Prince of Persia 1. One enemy was usually more than enough to finish me off.

You know how I said earlier that I'm closer to the edge of buildings than I appear because of the perspective...

... well, I forgot. Back to jumping out of that window then.

Apple Mac
The PC version's not bad looking at times, but I think the higher res Mac version has it beat this time. This background in particular looks great. I'm not sure about the animation though, I remember the characters moving more fluidly in the original.

SNES
The SNES version on the other hand... well, it looks like a SNES game and that's not a criticism. I am going to complain about that timer though. I have no idea what made them decide to go their own way and make the game more difficult than it already is.

Well I've escaped onto a boat. I hope I was supposed to go this way, otherwise I've just abandoned my wife and country to an evil vengeful doppelgänger just to save my own ass.

The evil Vizier in the sky just wrecked my boat! At least he's learned since the first game not to leave his enemies alive.

Well now I'm shipwrecked in the middle of nowhere. I'm reminded of Monkey Island somehow, though despite the art it's still a 2d platformer and I can't go wandering up into the background.

Okay the screen to the right is a dead end, so that just leaves left.

Instakill quicksand? Well where the hell am I supposed to go then?

Eventually I found that if I just stand by the edge of the screen being confused for a while, blocks rise out the quicksand for me to jump on. Then I just had to solve a simple puzzle and the skull door opened.

Hey, it's letting me save my game. Everything's going my way for once! Well, except for being stuck inside an ancient cave system filled with traps on a desert island miles away from home with everyone I know and care about trying to kill me and my arch enemy sleeping with my wife.

Well I'm sure as long as I keep going through these doors the solution to all my problems will eventually present itself.

Wow, these pressure plates are really subtle in this one. I didn't even realise I'd triggered anything until I got a dart in the face.

Yeah, I still haven't quite gotten the hang of how this guy moves. He tends to step forward a little more than I'm expecting, usually into something deadly. I think I'm still thrown off by the way I have to press a button to make him walk, instead of pressing the button to run.

But hey, at least the game's showing him splat now. Hah hah hah.

Well I already have full health, but I might as well drink the potion. It's not like I'll be coming back this way. If this was Prince of Persia I'd be annoyed that I'd just wasted time on a dead end, but infinite time means I'm free to explore at my own pace.

Oh hi! We fighting then?

I guess so.

Well I've found the floor switch that opens the exit door. But that door on bottom right just closed and trapped me in here, and the switch for that is on the floor over on the left.

So I guess I just fucked up.

I wish I could say I figured out the solution to this myself, but to be honest I was just jumping up and down out of a lack of anything else to do. Somehow my stomping was enough to knock a chunk of floor onto the switch and open up my path to the exit!


MEANWHILE.


Oh hang on, it seems that the Princess is onto the Vizier.

But he knows that she knows!

That... little pet thing is weirdly well animated. These cutscenes are mostly made up of still pictures, but that creature squeaks and turns it's head and everything, and I don't even know what the hell it's doing there or where it came from. I feel like I'm playing 'Disney's Prince of Persia 2' all of a sudden.

Maybe Jaffar put it there and it's magically making her sick or something. I'll be sure to stab it when I see it in person just to be safe.

Oh what? No! The Princess only has 74 minutes to live, so that's how long I have now to complete the game. Well... fuck.

I'd actually gone back and played Prince of Persia 1 a bit more after writing it up, and I managed to get all the way to the last jump of level two without a single death, before throwing the would-be prince down that hole again with one stupid slip up. And I didn't think 'wow, I'm getting better, maybe next time I'll manage it'. No, I thought 'I just wasted precious minutes with that failed run, and now I might not have enough time left to win.' And then I turned it off.

There's nothing like the possibility that secretly I've already failed, and everything I'm doing now is pointless, to kill off a guy's enthusiasm.


LATER.


Damn this place is a maze. Well at least I've found an potion to get me an extra hit point. Now I just have to figure out how to get these doors back open so I can get out.

Hmm, the pressure plates all seem to be on the other side of the doors...


EVENTUALLY.


This was the only way out I could find... running head first into wall spikes. Well at least now I know it's possible to get hopelessly stuck.


LATER.


I feel like I should be drawing a map or something. I have no idea where I am or if I've been here before. Everywhere I go looks exactly the same: nondescript rocky walls and pillars.

Prince of Persia was the same, but somehow rising up through those plain grey brick hallways had more charm to it than working my way down through these endless miserable caves.


MUCH LATER.


Hey I found the exit! Well that's good enough for me, I'm turning it off and calling it a win.


It's definitely a true sequel to Prince of Persia. In both games I ended up hopelessly lost and running low on time and patience trying to find a door switch in a maze. The annoying thing is that I'd probably like the damn game if there was an 'easy mode', with no timer, some checkpoints, and a map. That way people born without the ability to feel frustration would still get their challenge, and I'd have some hope of ever seeing if the Prince gets his kingdom back.

Actually I suppose I could just check youtube...

Oh cool, it does have a happy ending! Well, more or less. Next game.

6 comments:

  1. I love your reviews and the fact that you have zero comments. These old-school games are real gems.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks! Though to be honest I think there's room for improvement in both departments. Maybe I should put up a flashing gif at the top of the site saying "COMMENTS WELCOME - POINT OUT EVERYTHING I'M DOING WRONG!"

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  2. This review was great for a laugh. But you were also correct on almost every criticism and observation regarding PoP2. I played the SNES version as part of my research into platformers and I remember the annoying 'jump out the window, turn and get cut down' repetition. Unlike you though, I surrendered when I reached the 'King's Quest' beach and got drowned in quicksand.

    You're right about the mishmash of genres - platform + adventure. It might have gone down in game history as the most brilliant concept were it not for the awful implementation. This game, like its predecessor, is borderline unplayable unless you like endless repetition.

    I appreciate the screenshot comparisons - I never realised that the Mac was so visually superior. Ironic, since I'm using an iMac right now.

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  3. Replies
    1. Can't help you there friend, even if I did know where to get it from.

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  4. you didn't see much of the game, I guess you didn't "get" both pop1 and 2, you are missing out on some great levels with great backgrounds, music, puzzles, both games are great, you just suck at them

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