March 8, 2007 - Ubisoft's Prince of Persia swung onto the PS2 in 2003, bringing an acrobatic flair to adventure games that had long been missing. His follow up adventures, Warrior Within and Two Thrones, further cemented his hold on the genre. But now the prince is leaving the consoles for the portable realm with Prince of Persia: Rival Swords. We had a chance to play the game at GDC, and came away with new impressions of the upcoming title.
While the noise in the expo hall prohibited us from overhearing the plot, we noticed that the game opens with the prince on a boat, reflecting on his life and the various events of the previous games. His ship comes under attack by flaming arrows and catapults from a keep overlooking the sea, which eventually shatters the deck of the vessel. Barely escaping with his life, the prince grabs hold of flotsam and drifts towards the nearby shore. Seeking some amount of vengeance for the attempt on his life, the prince enters the keep looking for blood.
Like the console versions of the game, the prince retains his gymnastic rolls, flips and mantling abilities. In fact, the game throws you into immediately leaping over gaps, shimmying across ledges and sliding down ladders within the first thirty seconds of play. The sense of verticality is back as well, as you'll climb columns and bounce back and forth between pillars, or use your dagger to cut a path down tapestries. The dagger isn't only for breaking your fall, since you'll be able to use it to perform stealth kills or pair it with a secondary weapon to increase your combos in battle.
Of course, with the split second timing that Prince of Persia games require during puzzle sections or some battle sequences, players really need a solid camera. Fortunately, the camera in Rival Swords is responsive, with the ability to use the L button and the directional pad to move the camera around at any time. You won't have to constantly adjust the camera, because it will intelligently place itself during certain moments, like making jumps between pillars. Players will also have landscape moments where you can get a bird's eye view of an area, including any possible threats that may await you, like guards or traps.
Depending on the amount of sand you collect, you'll be able to unlock various artwork and illustrations in two different galleries. However, there's much more to the game than the single player story. Players can launch into chariot races at any time and run horses around three separate tracks: a ruined city, an underground sewer and a desert area. Players will also be able to engage other people in multiplayer matchups. Since there was only one PSP running the title at the conference, we couldn't try it out or see how many people would be able to fight each other. We'll have more on Rival Swords as soon as possible.