Feeds

Prince of Persia: Baggy trousers and curvy swords

Jordan Mechner’s animation classic

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Antique Code Show Prince of Persia was surely one of the most ubiquitous Dixons demo titles of the early 1990s. Mesmerised onlookers gazed at the smooth-moving, cartoon-like animation, while bewildered sales drones looked on wondering whether any of these humans would ever manage to get past level one.

Hang around long enough randomly pressing keys and you’d eventually work out how not to get spiked, sliced or fall to your doom. And for many that was enough Persian excitement for one inconsequential afternoon.

Prince of Persia

Prince of Persia debuts on the colour Apple II

Smuggle the game home, though, and you’d discover a title that had been put together with great care and attention to detail. Rather than just quick reactions, developer Jordan Mechner had created a more cerebral platformer, with puzzles, secret passages and alternative routes to explore, alongside some satisfying sword fighting.

The plotline set the action up nicely. Nasty vizier Jaffar has nabbed the sultan’s daughter and locked her up in a tower, while you – her unnamed lover and true hero – get locked away in the labyrinthine dungeon below. You’ve got just an hour to escape and stop Jaffar from getting his wicked way.

Prince of Persia

The graphics got better when it shifted to the Amiga

The Persian setting manifests itself furthermore with magic potions – not all of them safe to drink, so watch out! – Arabian musical touches and showdowns with various beturbaned, cloak-wearing villains with curvy swords.

The time limit prevented time wasting, yet the whole well-produced package exuded a calm, contemplative aura, occasionally punctuated by moments of sheer panic. There was something about that one wrong move you made, frustratingly plunging our hero to his death just before reaching a final exit, that had you grinding teeth yet simultaneously itching to get back to it and have another go.

Prince of Persia

Ditto DOS

Prince of Persia’s ground-breaking animation was based around a technique pioneered by Max Fleischer during the first few decades of the 20th Century. His "rotoscoping" machine would project live-action footage onto frosted glass so that it could be traced over and thus transferred into animation.

For Mechner, this meant filming his brother running, leaping and, occasionally, climbing all over a handy bus-shelter, then painstakingly selecting suitable frames to create workable animation for the main character.

Prince of Persia

But were better still on the Mac release

Ultimately, this led to Prince of Persia’s protagonist gaining plenty more animation frames than your average platform character had, and it was this slower yet more realistic motion that led to the game’s distinctive play mechanics, and why more thoughtful gameplay was always going to work best.

A novice Prince of Persia player soon discovers that, on starting each new level, the ability to experiment by tip-toeing and carefully climbing around is essential to conquering it. Our hero can be positioned on the edge of a ledge, or in front of razor-sharp guillotine jaws, with utmost accuracy, leaping across chasms and grasping hold with fingertips at the last moment.

The essential guide to IT transformation

Next page: Turban sprawl

More from The Register

next story
Apple's iWatch? They cannae do it ... they don't have the POWER
Analyst predicts fanbois will have to wait until next year
Barnes & Noble: Swallow a Samsung Nook tablet, please ... pretty please
Novelslab finally on sale with ($199 - $20) price tag
Apple to build WORLD'S BIGGEST iStore in Dubai
It's not the size of your shiny-shiny...
Just in case? Unverified 'supersize me' iPhone 6 pics in sneak leak peek
Is bigger necessarily better for the fruity firm's flagship phone?
Steve Jobs had BETTER BALLS than Atari, says Apple mouse designer
Xerox? Pff, not even in the same league as His Jobsiness
Apple analyst: fruity firm set to shift 75 million iPhones
We'll have some of whatever he's having please
TV transport tech, part 1: From server to sofa at the touch of a button
You won't believe how much goes into today's telly tech
The agony and ecstasy of SteamOS: WHERE ARE MY GAMES?
And yes it does need a fat HDD (or SSD, it's cool with either)
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
BYOD's dark side: Data protection
An endpoint data protection solution that adds value to the user and the organization so it can protect itself from data loss as well as leverage corporate data.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?