All Together Then: The Forgotten Prince of Persia
Lesser-known games lost to the sands of time
Jordan Mechner's venerable Prince of Persia series is mostly known for the original Apple II game and its PS2-era Sands of Time trilogy, but as with any franchise of its size and reach there are plenty of lesser-known titles available for your gaming delectation. Do you see where this is going? It's an All Together Then article, so hopefully you've been able to puzzle it out. You only have one hour to read this! Which, honestly, is eminently doable, unlike Prince of Persia which was nails hard.
All Together Then!
Arabian Nights (Dreamcast, 2000)
Actually a port of the oft-maligned PC title Prince of Persia 3D, this lesser-known Dreamcast title is remarkable for being possibly the most complete version of a game that famously had to ship before it could go through bug testing. Truth be told, Prince of Persia 3D is a fun game if you can forgive its somewhat awkward controls, with an exciting sense of urgency throughout and a frankly marvellous villain in cuddly were-tiger Rugnor. The combat is a pretty direct translation of the original Prince of Persia's swordplay into 3D and it works well. Also making the leap are the various different potions carelessly left lying around. Thankfully there's no strict time limit to be found, except in specific set-pieces. It's basically a take on Tomb Raider from what one can only imagine is an aggrieved older franchise, going "look, we did all this stuff in 2D before you". It's quite good. You should give it a squint.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (GBA, 2003)
Naturally the home console version of The Sands of Time is far from forgotten, even celebrated (and playable today on Xbox One and PC). But the tiny little baby Game Boy Advance version isn't, which has always surprised me a little bit. There are so many highly-praised GBA platformers and I rarely see this one get mentioned. It's a metroidvania that retains the wall-running, trap-dodging gameplay of its big brother, but applies to a more methodical pace. It's also the only version where you get to play as the Prince's bow-and-arrow sporting companion, Farah. The two of you must team up to solve puzzle rooms that require her long range shots, as well as stand on pressure plates that require two people. Look, a good video game is still a video game. These things are going to happen.
Prince of Persia: The Fallen King (DS, 2008)
Based on the PS3/360 reboot, The Fallen King is an unusual side-scrolling platformer that is entirely controlled with the stylus. If that sounds unwieldy and imprecise, you are very right. And it's a shame, because The Fallen King is otherwise an interesting, exciting game that falls victim to gimmickery. I have no idea who is responsible for the decision or why they thought controlling a 2D platformer with taps and flicks would work, but they were wrong. Level design is good, combat is fine, the story is an interesting follow-up to the console versions, but the whole thing is rather hamstrung by the silly decision to eschew traditional button controls. Not entirely dissimilar to the reception that Nintendo's DS iterations of The Legend of Zelda received, but you can patch those to use the D-pad. Sadly no enterprising software homebrewer has seen fit to patch Prince of Persia: The Fallen King with such controls yet. Possibly because nobody on the planet has heard of or cares about it.
Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands (PSP, 2010)
That's the PlayStation Portable version, specifically, Nauties. For the love of christ don't accidentally buy the boring, irritating PS3 or 360 games of the same name. Weirdly, the Wii version is a completely different and very good game. But I digress. Forgotten Sands for PSP is a brilliant side-scroller that has only a Prince in common with the other versions. The Prince-iple mechanic (You're fired again. - Ed) is the ability to control the flow of time - both speeding it up and slowing it down. Interestingly, these powers are tied to natural environmental features, for example slowing down a billowing pillar of sand will freeze it and turn it into a solid platform, or speeding up a trap may enable you to manipulate it into being more avoidable. It's a clever system and the bite-sized, challenging rooms make good use of it. Unfortunately there is also combat and it's very, very dull, but outside of this unwelcome intrusion of pugilism, Forgotten Sands is one of the best little hidden gems on Sony's marvellous portable and I cannot recommend it highly enough. You can also play it on the Vita, which is nice.