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Prince of Persia: Rival Swords

Any port in a sandstorm.

I do my bit for the environment. I care for the Earth. I might not throw my potato peelings on the compost heap to mulch the organic vegetable garden, or collect rainwater in a plastic tub to share a bath in, but I like to play my part. Like, for instance, not buying a new pair of shoes until I can feel the painful crunch of gravel on my socks, borrowing somebody else's newspaper when they've finished reading it, buying the heavily discounted, near-its-sell-by-date bread at the local supermarket to stop them senselessly disposing of it, or maybe just not turning the heating on unless it's really, really cold.

Actually, come to think of it, I think I'm confusing environmentalist with skinflint. But, hey, the sentiment's still there.

Ubisoft, however - and here's the inevitable segue - are far more adept than you or I at recycling. Reusing old assets and rehashing popular franchises has become something of a stock in trade for the company lately. Ever since the Wii launched they've been desperate to port across all of their biggest names. And kudos to them for supporting the console wholeheartedly in its early, unfounded days. If we were being nice, we'd applaud their efforts to embrace the new control scheme and use this unique environment to experiment with some of their most beloved franchise titles. Clearly, by establishing a base camp now, they'll be off to a running start when they introduce their later, better works.

No, the game doesn't come with two giant controller icons pasted in the corners. Ubisoft just felt the need to show how to play this strange, new game in their press shots.

If we were being cynical, however, we'd probably say something different, like Jesus, Ubisoft, what are you thinking porting last-gen software to a console that's currently suffering under the weight of lazy PS2/PSP cash-ins as gamers wait patiently for the non-Wii Sports title that actually justifies their technically underpowered yet highly innovative Nintendo machine while you inexplicably waste your time with laughable efforts like Far Cry: Vengeance instead of working on something original for launch although I suppose we have to mention Red Steel since that was alright and oh just do the sequel to Beyond Good & Evil will you.

Anyway... Prince of Persia, Prince of Persia.

[And punctuation, hopefully. -Ed]

If you've been following the ins and outs of everybody's favourite time-rewinding protagonist since Blinx hung up his cat-sized boots, you'll know that Rival Swords was also released on the PSP. You might also know that the handheld version has a few additional bits and pieces bolted onto it: a few extra sections, a bit of multiplayer action, and some chariot race challenges. The Wii version, however, contains nothing. Nothing. As far as I can tell, it's exactly the same game as Two Thrones, making you wonder why it really deserved the Rival Swords moniker. Don't answer that, it's probably to do with something desperately depressing like initiating concurrent brand awareness in the marketplace.

We need a one-liner for this situation. Er, hang around and I'll tell you a choke? No, that's awful. No more.

Still, not to worry: Two Thrones/Rival Swords was/is the return-to-form game; the one where things got back on track after the nu-metal mess of Warrior Within (which actually wasn't that bad, if you're willing to discount the tedious combat and tawdry character design). It's the one where the story matured, and the emphasis placed less on the fighting and more on the vertiginous acrobatics. And now it's on the Wii.

To be honest, I was all set to be horrible about its controls, thinking that the deft platformer couldn't possibly translate well to Nintendo's console. I'd have spent this review griping about how awful and clunky they feel, but the surprising fact is that they're remarkably intuitive. Essentially, you move with the analogue stick and push the A button to jump, your sword is swung with a swish of either remote or nunchuk, and the camera is rotated by tilting the remote left or right to spin in the relevant direction. For the latter, you could technically argue that it's difficult to work precision movements, but it's not really necessary as the game's underlying design cleverly tempers any unworkable viewing angles. Indeed, that's partly PoP's success: that everything is so linear and so well signposted that you're effectively guided through the obstacles without much head-scratching. It sounds like a criticism, but the twists and turns and timed leaps from pillar to post do well to disguise that lack of experimentation. If you also don't worry too much that the game will always extend a helping hand, even on the most precarious ledge, and thus remove some of the adrenaline-soaked fear of scaling large heights, you can get on with the business of vicariously enjoying the prince's death defying stunts.

"Feeling hoarse? That's a drag!" Oh, no, wait. We're not doing one-liners are we?

Unfortunately, we've still got the fights in between the platforming, irritating bane of any PoP game. Yes, they're still much of a chore. On Wii, swinging away with both hands is moderately better than pushing X, yet doesn't really provide the like-for-like feedback you'd desire. Besides, the combos are too complex or unnecessary to faff around with when even the simplest ones work just as well. At least the stealth kills in which you sneak up on the enemy and perform timed swipes to cut him down unawares, are still there, although I'm sure it's just my imagination that says they're easier to perform with the remote than they were on a standard pad.

Apart from that, business as usual. You've got your Dark Prince, popping up at predetermined parts of the game in which you transform and have to run through sections before your health is gradually eaten away. There are a few annoying bosses, a just-passable chariot racing section, and a middle lull featuring some tedious switch and lever puzzles. The time-rewinding mechanic is a brilliant as ever, and while it never reaches Sands of Time glory, it's a respectable comeback.

It's also a two year old game and certainly looks it, with muddy last-gen graphics and some disturbing clipping in the cut-scenes as the Prince's spaghetti hair cuts through his shoulders. Given its age, you can pick it up for next to nothing on the Gamecube or, better yet, buy it as part of a trilogy pack for PS2 or PC. While the Wii version is a good game and takes to its new control scheme well enough to justify the port, it's just not sufficiently different to recommend a purchase, especially if you can source it elsewhere.

6 / 10

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Prince of Persia: Rival Swords

Nintendo Wii, PSP

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About the Author

James Lyon