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There's definitely still room for The Rogue Prince of Persia


Screenshot of The Rogue Prince of Persia trailer showing close up animated Prince character
Image credit: Evil Empire

I love the way this prince runs. I think I could watch it forever. Head thrust forward, whole body pointed forward, hands in fists reaching and punching the air, punching what's coming. He's angled low, like a velociraptor, but he's as sleek and as streamlined as the red sash that billows heroically behind him. Something of a modern sports star in the leggings, with a stripe down the outside of the leg to show you which leg is which as he runs. I can only imagine the fabulous, super-light, super-expensive shoes he's wearing. Not available in the shops yet. A gift from the labs.

The Rogue Prince of Persia leaps into Early Access with a build that's as lithe, and as slim, as its protagonist. Everything works beautifully, but I guess I should note that there also isn't much here yet. What there is, though - a few locations, some powers, a few memorable baddies - is enough to answer a question that has been circling the game for a while: in between Dead Cells and Hades 2, is there room for another combat-driven roguelike? If it's The Rogue Prince of Persia, I think the answer is definitely yes.

This is a lovely game, lovely on the eye and lovely in the controls. And it's very clear that it comes from the custodians of Dead Cells. That platforming action game is everywhere in here, from the way the 2D levels arrange themselves on a handful of levels - in fact, the height of each stage is massively exploded - to the little fast-travel points you unlock as you move. The prince dashes left to right and he has a melee and ranged attack, both of which can be swapped out for more powerful options as you find them. The pleasure, though, comes in the detailing: the kick, which sends unshielded enemies off ledges, or knocks them into shielded enemies, taking their shields away, and the dodge, which sees the prince leaping over his foe, a gentle hand on the shoulder.

Here's the reveal trailer for The Rogue Prince of Persia.Watch on YouTube

All of these things - combat, dodge, kick - can be enlivened with power-up Medallions that are scattered about the world as you move with new versions unlocked back at camp, meaning that the prince of one run is very different from the prince of the next. Power-ups that I like bind enemies in resin, or sludge, or can leave them gasping in toxic gas. The power-ups I love, well, one of them flung knives at foes whenever I successfully dodged, meaning that I could dodge people to death. Another took a ground-pound, a move I always love, and set the ground where I landed on fire. On fire!

The Prince stands in a complex contraption and says "I smell something burning" in this screen from The Rogue Prince of Persia
The Prince faces off against a horn-headed boss in this screen from The Rogue Prince of Persia
The Prince slides down a ramp in front of a smoking city in this screen from The Rogue Prince of Persia
The Rogue Prince of Persia. | Image credit: Evil Empire/Ubisoft

There are bosses and grenade lobbers and archers and raging animals and nasty little foes who sit on ledges and smack you if you get too close. But better than that is the way these things are threaded into environmental challenges. This is Dead Cells, sure, but it's still the Prince of Persia. Wall-running is always a good option as long as there's a wall behind you - the game has tricks in store on that subject - but by the second area you're getting scrambled sections of platforming gauntlets thrown in. Wall-jumps, wall-runs, mantling, then collapsing ground (very Prince of Persia!), spike pits, chugging blades that sing back and forth along their run-lines. The procedural stuff powering the game is excellent: these sections always feel hand-made. Occasionally you'll find a door mid-level and you slip through and there will be an absolute nightmare of platforming ahead of you with a treasure at the end. I love it.

There is plenty of room for this game to grow. More items, more stages, more bosses, but also more of the story that develops back at the camp between runs, more options for flaring power-ups in interesting ways, more systems to add alongside the resin and gas and fire and what-have-you. Crucially, I think it works because the game has a charismatic star. Not charismatic in what he says, perhaps, but in what he does and how he moves. I just love to watch him run.

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