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It's love, actually, as you escape from the dungeons to negotiate your way to the princess using deft climbing, jumping and fencing skills, plus a little engagement from the brain in this action puzzler.
The Jewel in the Crown
During the last few ravages of the golden era in 8-bit computing, one game came along that would have made CPC owners believe in the incredulous, and that was Prince of Persia. Whilst most games took you on a journey, this classic had much more of a sense of adventure.
However, with great games comes great dilemmas, said no one ever, in fact, but this great game does deliver a reviewing challenge. Originally, there was only one official 8-bit release of Prince of Persia, which was for the Amstrad CPC. The remaining unofficial versions were not made by Brøderbund and were released years later on the Spectrum (1996), Commodore 64 (2011) and BBC Master (2018). It would, therefore, be unfair to compare these versions, especially when their release dates occurred so long after the wake of the 8-bit revolution.
To put this into some perspective, when the Amstrad CPC version was released, many gamers were playing Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe and eating ice cream. Upon the Spectrum version's release we were more likely to kick ass and chew bubblegum in Duke Nukem 3D, whilst the Commodore interpretation came at a much later time when gamers were having their sweetroll stolen in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. To cap it all, the BBC Master version arrived more recently during the tobacco chewing age of Red Dead Redemption II, almost 30 years on from the original.
There's plenty of intriguing puzzles to solve where you'll need to be bold enough to take a risk or two
I'd never played Prince of Persia when it was released for the Amstrad, due to my shiny new Amiga 500 in the house parallax-scrolling the life out of Shadow of the Beast and curling balls around the goalie in Kick Off 2. It was a bittersweet moment getting that Amiga and replacing my Amstrad, but you have to understand that, at the time, it was like I'd just upgraded to the machine out of Superman III!
The purpose of the game is to rescue a princess kidnapped by some high-exalted fella named Jaffar who's intent on marrying her in a jiffy to claim his seat on the throne. Unfortunately, the princess has the hots for someone else, however Jaffar's chucked him in the dungeons and it's up to him to escape. That person just happens to be you! Not one to have his cake and eat it, Jaffar has a coating of guards to keep you on your toes as you sneak from level to level. Other complications come in the guise of undead skeletons, fragile flooring that gives way under your feet, and a one-hour time limit to complete the mission.
There's plenty of intriguing puzzles to solve, in terms of navigating your way out of the levels, where you'll need to be bold enough to take a risk or two. Guards will be stronger as you pass further between levels, but they can generally be taken down merely by holding down the action key until you've slashed them to death, which subtracts from the skill of the adventure somewhat.
Whilst roaming the corridors you can be struck three times, indicated by three remaining arrows at the bottom of the screen, before you meet your doom. These strikes can either be bolstered by handy red potions usually found in difficult to reach areas, or filched by the blue potion. Dropping from an indecent height, or getting trapped in-between an industrial floor to ceiling shredder, will naturally waste all of your health in one go. If you do die then you'll return straight back to the beginning of the level you were on, however the countdown timer continues unperturbed, thus piling on the pressure to meet your deadline.
The realistic animation of the main protagonist is a delight, and is to be seen to be believed, particularly as it's happening on the Amstrad. Even now, watching our hero hanging off of, or climbing ledges, and just generally running around and taking large leaps across cavernous gaps, looks like it's come from another world.
This is another glorious showcase for the Amstrad but it proves once again how much the CPC's potential was woefully undermined under a deluge of ports during its heyday.
Impossible Mission had fantastic animation on the C64 but, using rotoscope techniques, Prince of Persia is silky-smooth on the CPC. Backdrops feel a little samey, if negatives must be sought.
Very basic effects and tunes that would make an excellent stand-in for "Easy Street" on heavy rotation.
Just pitched at the right level to make things tricky but not overbearingly so. Some leaps of faith are required at certain stages, for the brave amongst us.
One of the best Amstrad games out there, and a nice early foreshadowing of 90's video gaming.
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