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Review by: Bob Mandel
Published: October 28, 1999
It does not take much to have a game fail to meet its potential. So much has to be just right to make a critically acclaimed blockbuster — including great graphics and sound, easy to use controls, absorbing gameplay, stable performance, and challenging artificial intelligence — that many strong titles find their success hindered by weaknesses in just a few others. Having a development team that shines in every area is rare, and even if this happens, the pressures of production timetables and release deadlines can easily cause even the best designers to cut corners.
When I wrote a preview feature on Red Orb’s Prince of Persia 3D over a year ago, I was absolutely convinced that it was a classic in the making. Bolstered by the success of Prince of Persia 1 and 2 (released in 1989 and 1993 respectively) and the involvement of original developer, Jordan Mechner, it had a jump-start that few sequels could claim. The mystique of the colorful and sensuous atmosphere in ancient Persia, made famous by the epic Arabian Nights, has not been exploited in recent computer offerings, so this setting seemed ripe for the plucking. Using the latest video technology to convert a two-dimensional platform action title into a full 3D adventure appeared to be just the right move at the right time to be a smashing success. Because the developers had been patient to wait for computer technology to catch up with their enhanced vision of the play experience, the final product should have been superb; when pre-production began in April 1996, three and a half years should have been enough to guarantee a winner.
Unfortunately, despite its long gestation, Prince of Persia 3D was released with numerous bugs. A short time after its release, a patch was issued that addressed such problems as performance sluggishness, autosave inadequacies, defective enemy combat artificial intelligence, and dual Voodoo card SLI crashes. But this was not enough to cure numerous performance problems or silence the cries of outrage and anguish from disappointed buyers. I find on my machine things go haywire with particularly high frequency anytime I run the title at greater than 640×480 resolution. There have been so many different tales of woe that it is really not worth it to fill up space here chronicling all of them.
Prince of Persia 3D’s story fits nicely with the tradition begun by its predecessors. When King Assan, the Sultan’s younger and jealous brother, finds out the Princess has gone off and married the Prince, he is outraged because she was supposed to marry his deformed son, Rugnor. During an outlandish banquet, the royal guard is killed and the Prince is thrown into jail. Meanwhile, Rugnor carries the Princess far away to his stronghold high in the mountains. The Prince must then find a way to escape from prison and succeed in a perilous quest to rescue the Princess from her captors.
There are numerous levels spanning seven different environments. Some of the settings, such as flying in a hot air balloon, are quite imaginative and impressive, while others are just more familiar experiences in running down palace corridors and climbing stone walls. You face over 30 distinct types of enemies, most notable of whom are Guardsmen, Black Market Bandits, Silt Devils, Roustabouts, Demons and Darkhold Assassins. The hundreds of traps you face, including rotating blades, slicer traps, breakaway floor tiles, spikes and wall arrows, are indeed extremely creative. The traps are clearly one of the best-executed components of the title.
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