Old School/New School: The Prince of Inspiration

18 06 2007

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There’s a widely-held opinion within the gaming fellowship that without Jordan Mechner’s classic platformer, Lara Croft wouldn’t have a job. Tomb Raider was the adaptation of Prince of Persia the way Fight Club as a movie was to its literary predecessor—providing dimensions to its characters and gravitas to its themes. Even now as Tomb Raider: Anniversary—Crystal Dynamics’ modern-day remake of the original money maker—hits store shelves, it is still quite obviously influenced by the Sands of Time trilogy’s wall-running defiance of gravity that David Belle’s Parkour made so iconic.

But modern day platforming isn’t the only facet of media that has been amazed and inspired by Mechner’s work. Much like his first game, Karateka—a popular mid-80’s fighting game now completely forgotten—Prince of Persia was considered an outstanding graphical achievement due to Mechner’s use of rotoscoping—having his brother David jump around like a madman to get the animations just right.

Now, after 18 years, Ubisoft has once again re-imagined this poor man’s 1,001 Nights tale, keeping the core game completely intact while updating the graphics, making PoP: Classic the single best looking XLBA game so far—yes, better than Geometry Wars. And while the game is shiny, it’s that core gameplay that make it both addicting as hell and super frustrating. The levels are deep, and actually make much more sense with a graphical upgrade. But the game has to be completed in 60 minutes, or you’re toast—and there’s no Andy Roony to cheer you on or give you a motivational commentary. The time limit is a complete bugger, and sometimes balancing beating the clock, beating traps, and beating foes can become infuriating. But all of that gives it that undefinable je ne sais quoi you feel when you know you’re playing a classic.

Peace

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