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GF! Archival Version Copyright 1995-2004

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by Red Orb

Ups: Story and graphics worthy successors to previous POP titles. Beautifully rendered levels. Attention to detail makes game visually and conceptually cohesive. Great score.
Downs: Unplayable. Negligible technical support.
System Reqs: P233, 32MB RAM, 4X CD, 200MB HD space, 3D accelerator. 

Sitting down to write this review of Red Orb Entertainment’s Prince of Persia 3D, I feel like Schahrazad, the doomed sultana who must spin a thousand and one yarns over just as many nights in order to keep her head. It would be a pleasure to enumerate and elaborate on all of this title’s excellences, especially its fantastic story, beautiful level design, and evocative score complete with tablas, ouds and flutes (or at least synthesized approximations of these instruments). A single overwhelming flaw, however, casts a foreboding pall over any attempt to enjoy this game. See, Prince of Persia 3D, despite its remarkable visual and aural details—at least a thousand and one in number—is unplayable.

Conceptually and technologically, Prince of Persia 3D is a worthy successor to the original Prince of Persia (released in 1989) and its sequel, Shadow and the Flame (released in 1993). Both predecessors were 2D side-scrolling adventures that allowed players to maneuver the prince through a classic, swashbuckling adventure renowned for its hair-raising and breath-taking feats of derring do. Most players agreed that what made this series so fun to play was its over-the-top exploitation of heroic possibilities: chasms to leap over were wider, ledges to sneak along were narrower, puzzles were more challenging, and demons and jinns were at least twice the size of the modestly proportioned prince. And yet, the prince always prevailed with his graceful gestures and noble carriage. In short, the Prince of Persia games were a sort of antidote to the beefier, bloodier titles that had inspired and continue to garner frenzied fan response.

Appropriately, Prince of Persia 3D continues where Shadow and the Flame concluded, with the prince married to his intended and his kingdom once more in peril. As in previous chapters of the Prince of Persia saga, the plot relies on the tried and true damsel in distress motif. The game opens with a great movie that details the kidnapping of the princess (by hired hands of the prince’s wicked uncle, no less) and the imprisonment of the prince. After the movie, though, players are left to play the game, and that’s when the fun stops.

As mentioned above, this title treats players to an orgy of visual delight from the outset; between the beautifully articulated movies and the richly textured levels, Prince of Persia 3D has got to be one of the prettiest games released this year. Even the menu and loading screens are lavishly detailed elaborations on Islamic manuscript texts and images, replete with convincing illuminations and quasi-Arabic script. The characters, on the other hand, are crudely rendered in comparison and look more like the work of enthusiastically imaginative school boys given to daydreaming of faraway people and places than digital imagists.

But Prince of Persia 3D’s less pleasing graphics aren’t what make this game a failure. Rather, I reserve all my criticism of this game for the crappy camera control.

Other reviewers, apparently sentimental about the previous titles in the Prince of Persia series, seem reluctant to damn too harshly this feature of the game in their discussions of this title. After all, Prince of Persia 3D is the first stab at a three dimensional manifestation of a hugely popular and solid 2D gaming mainstay. So maybe other Prince of Persia fans are and will be more patient with this game than I am or have been. Regardless of this possibility, I find the camera almost impossible to use in this game. In order for players to change the prince’s direction or walk, run or swim with any facility or fluidity of motion, they practically have to take their hands off the controls, allow the prince to stop in his tracks and only then try and manipulate the camera in whatever direction they wish the prince to move. This unresponsive—excruciatingly sluggish, at best—control makes gameplay almost impossible. Players can download a patch from Red Orb’s POP3D website, but upon doing so, this gamer still didn’t notice any significant improvements to gameplay. And this is with the "new, improved" patch! Trying different controls didn’t help, either, although keyboard and gamepad control seem to have their own respective shortcomings. So at least players can choose which playing difficulties they can live with or without.

As for me, I still like the Prince of Persia story enough to give the next installment, whatever it will be, an appreciative try. Until then, though, I’m going to stuff my copy of Prince of Persia 3D in a lamp and bury it.

--Greg Matthews