The Prince of Perisa has so many looks these days you wonder if there isn't some Gok Wan button to go with the Elika button that served the 'next-gen' versions of Ubisoft Montreal's 'illustrative' re-imagination of the critically acclaimed acrobatic platformer so well. In that game he's wearing a stunning cel-shaded oil painting number. In The Fallen King, the DS version of the game, he's sporting a more cartooney, Saturday morning TV get-up.
It's inevitable, of course, that our Prince wouldn't be wearing the same quality of outfit in the DS game as he does for the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC versions. Ubisoft's Casablanca studio, which has to be the most exotically-named developer in the world, hasn't got the kind of graphical horsepower to play with that Ubisoft Montreal enjoyed. But that hasn't prevented it from stamping its own impression on the much-loved series.
It's somewhat ironic that, for a series that has stirred such emotion for reinventing itself, The Fallen King feels like a return to The Prince of Persia's roots. It's a 2D platformer with an emphasis on well-timed wall jumps, pixel perfect leaps and a dash of sword slashing, and rekindles memories of Jordan Mechner's 1989 original. Here's another irony: It would probably have been twice as good if it hadn't forced gamers to use the stylus to control the Prince instead of the d-pad and buttons.
The Fallen King's trouble is this: It can be immensely frustrating because using the stylus to guide the Prince around the various levels isn't an accurate science. By touching the screen ahead of him he'll run, touch close to him and he'll walk. A double tap will make him roll forward. Tap on a wall and he'll jump onto it, then tap just above him to climb a bit higher and then tap on another wall to wall jump. Simple.
When all the game requires of you is this, it works well, and can feel incredibly liberating. But when things start to get complicated, when there are spinning wheels of doom moving about, spike-filled chasms to leap over and sword-wielding Corrupted monsters waiting to slice your belly open, the stylus controls fail to deliver the kind of precision you need. You find yourself rolling when you want to jump, hanging off of a ledge when you want to leap to another one and doing a time-consuming heavy sword attack (triggered by tracing a line on the enemy) when you simply want to run. This is what makes The Fallen King, not all the time but usually when it matters, more of a frustrating game of trial and error than fun platformer.