Version tested iPad
If there were three words I wouldn't object to having etched on my face with a staple-gun to warn me against overuse they would be "mechanics", "delightful" and "charming". Every morning before I come to work I could see them in the mirror and think: "No John, not today. Not any day."
"Delightful" and "charming" in particular have become to mobile games writing what shiny foil is to magpies, and this has been the case ever since Andreas Illiger thrust Tiny Wings onto the stage with its upbeat hero and melancholic soundtrack. "Mechanics" is tricky enough to avoid under any circumstances, and it's only ever magnified by the ever-present touch-controlled elephant in the room. (Some space for "elephant in the room" can probably still be found on my neck.)
Anyway, App of the Day is no place to go into a lengthy explanation of Prince of Persia, so the short version is this: Viziers, Persia, princesses, spikes, warriors, swords, crumbling platforms, crashing ceilings and an OMG animation system created at a time when it would have taken someone six months to blindly work through a dictionary and solve that abbreviation.
This isn't the first outing for the game on iOS devices - I never played 2009's Prince of Persia Retro but by all accounts it was dreadful, with control problems typical of the time. This HD edition not only brings the graphics up to date but also takes advantage of the improvements made in transferring solidly tactile controls to touch-screens.
Essentially, it's an impressive and faithful port of 2007's XBLA outing. Normal mode allows you to work through the game without penalty, Time Attack forces you to complete all 14 levels within an hour, while Survival optimistically pits you against both the clock and your ability to negotiate every spike, crumbling ledge and collapsing ceiling without losing a single life.
I say optimistically but for the most part - given a little acclimatisation - the controls are pleasantly robust. You tease a static virtual joypad left and right to direct the nameless protagonist while on-screen buttons allow for tumbles, drops, climbs and leaps. Still, the game retains an unforgiving edge.
Slide your way into a combat situation and you'll enter the game's basic block-and-retaliate fighting system, with buttons replaced accordingly. It works, but be careful not to slide between attack and defend buttons during combat - only a clean press guarantees the correct response.
I'd have had no truck with the checkpoint system or pathway guide in another age, but as a game grabbed in discrete breaks between work or bus stops, the former is borderline essential and the latter is, if not exactly welcome, pretty inoffensive.
This is a game that's faithful, pretty and slick enough to pay dutiful tribute to the original, while also adding enough spit and polish to be worth throwing your money at again - however many times you may have done so in the past. It is, oh goodness me, still rather delightful.
App of the Day highlights interesting games we're playing on the Android, iPad, iPhone and Windows Phone 7 mobile platforms, including post-release updates. If you want to see a particular app featured, drop us a line or suggest it in the comments.