911275_largerUbisoft ruined my well-laid plans. I intended to open this review by passing around a box of tissues and regaling you with a sob story about how Ubisoft trampled all over my childhood and by reshaping one of my favorite platformers using shoddy touch-based controls. I thought that's how this would play out, I really did. Well, take a bow, Ubisoft. You proved me wrong.

Prince of Persia: The Shadow and the Flame [$2.99] is a remake of the MS-DOS classic of the same name, minus the "2" in the title of the original. Well, "remake" isn't quite accurate. Prince of Persia Classic was a one-to-one rebirth of its namesake: same level layouts, same traps, same goal, but with new art assets, a few new enemies, and cool new acrobatics for the Prince like wall jumps and backflips.

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Shadow and the Flame is more of a "based on the novel" reimagining. The gist of the game remains the same: Drawing from a repertoire of jumps and swashbuckling, you traverse a series of caves, ruins, and temples on your way to a showdown with your old nemesis Jaffar, who has returned from the dead and usurped your identity and throne. The original Shadow and the Flame enforced a strict time limit to finish the game, just like the original PoP and the Classic remake. For this go-round, Ubisoft did away with the clock and put the spotlight squarely on exploration.

And I'm happy to report that the ambulatory movements required to explore Shadow and the Flame's sprawling environments handle nice and tight. You can use virtual buttons to move around, but why on earth would you? No, the excellent gesture-based controls work much better option. Swipe the left side of the screen to run, swipe up on the right side of the screen to jump while running, and swipe up and down on the right half of your device, while standing still, to climb up and down ledges.

Simple, right? Yes indeedy, and responsive, too. Our fair Prince has kept up his workout regimen since PoP Classic last year. He can flip, roll through tunnels and under scythes that slash out from wall slits, vault from the lip of a ledge to the other side after a short (one step!) running start, and perform new combos that, depending on how you cap off a sequence of strikes, restores life, pushes enemies back, or deals extra damage. Some moves such as walking require you to hold a button while swiping, but it's only one button, so no tissues necessary.

mzl.qxfwzmix.1136x1136-75Ubisoft did slip IAP into the game, as they did the iOS version of PoP Classic. You can buy revival potions to revive near to where you died, elixirs to increase your maximum health, health potions that give you a pick-me-up whenever you may need it, and swords and combo upgrades to give you an edge in combat. Tempting as those treasures sound, I completed the game without opening my wallet once. You'll have to do some digging to unearth all the gold and goodies in each level, but there's no timer ticking away, so take your time and stock up before proceeding to the next stage.

Which brings us to the elephant on the page. Prince of Persia veterans might be wondering, as I did, why Ubisoft stripped out the clock. Doesn't that make Shadow and the Flame a different type of game? The answer is yes, but it's also a game more suited for this generation.

Prince of Persia 2 was a great game, but it was also a difficult game. Like, 1990s difficult. There was a sequence where you had to run across three screens of rickety floorboards that crashed behind you, jumping from ledge to ledge until you landed on the back of a horse that spirited you away to the next area. Screw up, and you had to reload and try again. In the caves, you had to square off against a skeleton on a rickety bridge. At some point, the bridge collapsed, and you had to spin around and grab a nearby ledge to keep from dropping into darkness. And there was a spot late in the game where the Prince had to die to progress, with zero indication that death was the toll you had to pay to continue the quest.

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For Shadow and the Flame iOS, Ubisoft axed those sequences, and honestly, it's for the better. As much as I enjoyed the sense of accomplishment I felt at solving such predicaments, playing the remake drove home the fact that Shadow and the Flame, like so many platformers from that era, was built on a foundation of trial-and-error. Platforming on a smartphone is already enough of a trial without performing a series of picture-perfect jumps that either land me on the back of a horse or required me to reload.

You'll find some of those elements, like the flying horse and the rickety bridge, in Shadow and the Flame. The way you approach them is just a bit different, and not in a bad way. Ubisoft's take on Jordan Mechner's classic platformer is easier than its namesake, and it's a tad on the short side, although you can replay levels via a world map on the main menu. In essence, it's less about besting hazards in one picture-perfect take, and more about taking a more thoughtful approach to tricky traps and exploring the sprawling, gorgeous environments.

That is to say, Shadow and the Flame is a Prince of Persia game in every way that counts: You solve puzzles by pulling off death-defying gymnastics using controls that leap to attention at the slightest touch of your finger, and you have lots of fun doing it. Ubisoft dared to leave the rose-tinted glasses at home and made bold changes that prove the Prince of Persia license has lots of life left in it yet.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • Louis Ace

    Are you guys working on a Bloodmasque review? I can't decide between that or this.

  • octopus

    WTF, this shit is unplayable.
    And then you give Limbo 3 stars. How much were you paid for this PoP trash?

    • http://matt-curtis.me/ Matt Curtis

      That's not a very detailed critique?

    • MrAlbum

      I haven't played the game, so I need to be TOLD HOW unplayable the game may be. How can I get an idea of what to expect before I buy if I don't get clear enough information?

      • octopus

        I'm not going to waste my time writing about this trash. You either believe or not. This game is bad, cheap and poor designed. You have to pay for revival potions. And for the ordinary ones too. If you want a good and smart platformer, get Limbo.

      • MrAlbum

        Blind faith makes for ruinous wars, to use hyperbole. If you want folks to be on your side, then you have to be able to explain your reasoning. After all, you are seeing something everyone else doesn't, and I am curious as to why you see things in that manner. Is it just the revival potions that are cheap and of poor design, and everything else is good? Or is there something specific about the controls themselves beyond the IAP shenanigans that suck balls? If you don't explain your points, we won't understand why you see things the way you do, and we have no choice but to find out for ourselves by buying the game, which I am assuming you don't want us to do, just to understand your viewpoint. Which sucks. A side effect would be writing you off as some kind of troll, which means if you have other important things to say in another comments section, people will be more likely to disagree with you out of prejudice than out of respectful differences. Thus, you will benefit if you explain what you see as best as you can, and you will also benefit others and make far more solid contributions to conversations than your current track record.

      • ImJPaul

        Haha. And believe me. People remember the things you say on this forum. Anytime I've said something shitty someone has called me out on it shortly thereafter.

        Anyways, back on topic. The controls are great, the IAP is optional and the updated everything is a breath of fresh air. I really enjoy it. However, that's just my opinion.

      • Karzay

        Oh, the irony!

      • David Craddock

        You earn revival potions in combat and find them in every levels. I replayed a few levels to track down life upgrades and ended up with over 20 revival potions by the time I got to the 10th level or so.

        As I said in the review, I never had to dip into IAP to complete the game.

    • Wizard_Mike

      You can hate on this review and call the game unplayable all you want, but reality (ie, the majority of everyone else) says you are simply wrong. Check out all the praise this game is getting by players in the forum if you think this review is off key.

      • octopus

        Yep, I’ve heard of coprofilia. Does not change anything.

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        I legitimately laughed out loud in real life.

      • MrAlbum

        From The Princess Bride:

        "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

        The word you use implies sexual satisfaction from feces. To use such a word in this context, you are implying that the entire player base for this game is orgasming right onto its code and/or art assets, and that their satisfaction comes from them recognizing the game as a turd. Kind of how people enjoy Troll 2 fir being such a terrible movie ("OHMYGOOOOOOOOD!!!!") but without the whole sexual satisfaction angle. At least, in theory. >_>

        In any case, there is no delusion implied in the definition of coprophilia. Folks who are like that simply get off by being around poop.

        Folks in the forums really like the game. They see it as a good game, not a bad one. If the forumites saw the game as terrible, but liked it anyway, then coprophilia would have been more relevant to the discussion. Sadly for you, this was not the case.

        You, good sir, have failed epically.

    • Pray For Death

      Wrap it up boys. Octopus has declared the game unplayable. No need to ask way, just move on. It's Octopus, afterall. There's no arguing with his logic.

    • frankocro

      Haha Limbo got 3??? Well it's all clear then.

  • DannyTheElite

    Does this work on iPod 4?

  • toxiccheese

    I have read on several reviews that the combat is terrible and messes with the pacing. Is this true?

    • David Craddock

      I enjoyed the combat. The enemies are dumb but pulling off combos is easy and fun, especially when you learn that finishing a chain with different moves grants different benefits.

      For example, finish with an upward slice and you regain some life. Or, use a middle slice to shove enemies back - and off ledges if they're close enough to the edge of a platform.

    • frankocro

      Yea. And controls are laggy.

  • Bliquid

    I'm gonna buy this, i think it is worth it.
    The only complaint i have (SPOILER:a silly one), is the looks of the prince.
    I wish they went back to the fairy tale, alladin-ish looks of the original Sands of Time.
    I think the latter iterations of the prince are too "cool".
    Just personal taste, ofc.

    • Peter

      As for me, I wish they went back to the alternate prince design from that Prince of Persia game launched in 2008. It was so good! Sad thing they never released a sequel to that game by the way...

      • Peter

        I mean this one

  • Earth Vs. Me

    From my brief time playing this so far, I think this will end up being one of my favorite iOS platformers. The visuals are top notch, and the environments are breathtaking. It reminds me of my first time playing the Sands of Time, and how I kept stopping and gazing in awe at the gorgeous scenery.

    The game handles beautifully, and the control scheme is one of the smartest and most intuitive I've seen in an iOS platformer.

    And doing away with the timer was a great design choice: it encourages players to explore the levels instead of rushing trough them.

  • ScotDamn

    Can someone tell me how well this game performs on an iPhone 4?

    • David Craddock

      I played on an iPhone 4. Runs smooth as butter.

      • ScotDamn

        Thanks a lot for the feedback David! I'll check it out!

  • Alex

    Good review for a good game. Can't wait to pick this up.

    On another note, what the hell happened to Prince of Persia: Warrior Within?
    It's not only been removed from the App Store, but from your Purchased section of the store (and I have been able to download apps removed from the store for sale, but were still in the Purchased section so I could re-download them).

  • Wesley Vercammen

    Dear dude, the intro of this review is just too funny :-) Great writing !

  • mzinn

    Man was i disappointed in this game. Funny how some love a game & others not so much. Just not enjoying it. Its not a bad game by any means. But its like something is missing.

Prince of Persia® The Shadow and the Flame Reviewed by David Craddock on . Rating: 4.5