Classic Prince of Persia on Xbox

July 7th, 2011 6:06 PM
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Plenty of Apple II games are getting sequels and reboots or are serving as inspiration for spiritual successors. But, except maybe on the iPhone, fewer games get outright remakes: one-to-one translations that preserve the gameplay and layout of the original while adding modern graphics and controls.

Prince of Persia is a notable exception, having been recrafted for the Xbox 360 four years ago. Available as a $10 downloadable title, it lets today's console gamers experience the classic fun of Jordan Mechner's best-known game.

Steve Melton's review (published just last week — a retro review of a modern classic that's a remake of an original classic? — gives the game a seemingly lukewarm reception, saying that though it's fun and attractive, it boasts no additional content over the Apple II version and thus is overpriced at $10. I'm a bit biased in the matter, as Melton points out that the game is aimed at folks like me — "those wanting to relive their days sitting in front of a DOS PC" (or Apple II, if you want to be authentic). And true, the game runs on a sixty-minute timer before which it's game over. But trying to defeat the evil Jaffar before that clock runs out takes much longer than 60 minutes, courtesy the multiple deaths and wrong turns the challenging game will force you to experience.

IGN's review, also published last month (why all the recent interest in this game?), is a bit friendlier to the game:

The sequel to the original 1989 game, The Shadow and the Flame, was ported to the original Microsoft Xbox, but only as an Easter egg in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, the 2003 reboot of the franchise. Perhaps it too will enjoy a renaissance, as LucasArts' Monkey Island games recently have.

In the meantime, I encourage other retrocomputing enthusiasts to download the free trial, or spring for the full game right off. POP Classic was one of the first games I bought for my Xbox 360 when I got it as a Christmas gift in 2008, and I consider it an investment well-spent.

Best computer games from the '80s

May 30th, 2011 2:45 PM
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Awhile back, TIME.com produced a list of the best computer games from the 1980s. Lists may be quick and easy ways to generate pageviews, but they're also enjoyable opportunities to reminisce and debate.

Time's list, which did not limit itself to the Apple II (see Retro Gamer for that list), consisted of the following apparently unranked one dozen games:

  • • California Games
  • • Ghostbusters
  • • Quest for Glory
  • • SimCity
  • • Prince of Persia
  • • Police Quest

I haven't actually played many of those games, or at least on their native platforms. But it does inspire me to jog my memory by consulting Wikipedia's list of Apple II games and list of Apple IIGS games to see which would make my must-play list. Here are my candidates:

And that's not even counting non-commercial games, such as GShisen or Silvern Castle.

What games top your memories of the Apple II?

Apple II gaming in Retro Gamer

June 17th, 2010 12:07 PM
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As recently mentioned on the Juiced.GS blog, and as first told to me by Andy Molloy, Retro Gamer magazine issue #76 features an eight-page profile of the Apple II as a gaming machine. As not just an Apple II user but a long-time gamer, I enjoyed this retrospective, which featured many of the games I grew up playing. The text focuses on the Apple II and its history and fate, while high-quality pictures of dozens of games capture the unique look of the era and genre.

I especially enjoyed reading quotes from Jordan Mechner (Prince of Persia), Bill Budge (Pinball Construction Set), and John Romero (Wolfenstein 3D) reminiscing about developing for the Apple II. As luminaries who acknowledge their origin, they're in good company. In my role as KansasFest marketing director, I'm often the first contact with potential keynote speakers. Everyone we've approached has always been kind enough to respond to our invitation, and of those who did not accept, each has cited scheduling or personal conflicts. Never have I heard anything akin to "Sorry, but the Apple II doesn't interest me anymore." The gentlemen interviewed in Retro Gamer are proof of the magnanimous spirit of those whom the Apple II made famous.

The article includes a Top Ten list of the best Apple II games, all of which I believe are 8-bit:

Retro Gamer #76

How many games do you recognize?

  1. The Bard's Tale
  2. Pinball Construction Set
  3. The Oregon Trail
  4. Karateka
  5. Choplifter
  6. Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness
  7. Lode Runner
  8. Prince of Persia
  9. Beyond Castle Wolfenstein
  10. Taipan!

Seven of the games spawned sequels and franchises, some of which exist to this day. That's a powerful legacy. The article's last two pages consist of a collage of 56 different Apple II games, many of which I've never played but am now desperate to. Apparently, I'm not the only one, given how popular the trend is to port Apple II games to the iPhone.

What are your memories of growing up gaming on the Apple II? How did it compare with other computers of the era?

Jordan Mechner's Prince of Persia

May 27th, 2010 11:27 AM
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Tomorrow sees the release of the film Prince of Persia, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and starring Jake Gyllenhaal. Although the latest of many video-game-to-movie adaptations, it marks perhaps the first time an Apple II game has been translated to the silver screen — an honor not yet bestowed upon Choplifter, Lode Runner, or even Castle Wolfenstein.

Despite not all video games making for great movie material, I've been encouraged by the constant presence of the original game's creator, Jordan Mechner, throughout this project. When interviewed in the December 2008 issue of Game Informer magazine, he reflected:

With Prince of Persia, I've had the opportunity and the challenge of recreating the character and story anew, not just once but several times, since the first Apple II version 20 years ago… Each of these projects gave me the chance to work with a great creative team in a new medium—a triple opportunity that in my Apple II days I could have only dreamed of.

Around that time, Mr. Mechner published a wealth of historical data about the evolution of his original vision and game. For a game designer to extensively document his creative process, retain that information for decades, and then make it available to the masses is ever historian's dream. In addition to his handwritten notes from the era, he also uploaded several videos of his younger brother David that he rotoscoped to serve as the animation for the titular prince. Observe this source material:



Now compare it to an early draft of the art that would appear in the final game:



For the Apple II to have played host to such a early depiction of realistic motion is an honor. It warrants at least a cameo by Jordan or David Mechner in the film. What better an Easter Egg could there be?

(Hat tip to Juiced.GS Volume 13, Issue 4 [Mar 2008], pages 18–19)

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