When they're photographed drunk in Chelsea or linked 'by friends' with another blondly bland social climber, you can't help feeling sorry for our princes, William and Harry. Being born into the highest ranks of an outmoded feudal relic means responsibilities: to keep your face fit for a first class stamp, to avoid marrying anyone with a regional accent, and to sell more copies of the Daily Mail.
For a real tough luck blue-blood story though, meet the Prince of Persia. Once a dashing Persian buck in pastel pinks and blues, his recent stint involving saving a royal palace by resorting to time travel has set a dark creature, known as the Dahaka, on his tail. And the stress has transformed him into an unkempt extra from a heavy metal video. Doomed to die, the Prince's only hope is to destroy the Sands of Time that originally enabled his time-shifting antics.
The stage is thus set for action and adventure, and here all the world is a stage - well, almost. Like many games, the basic gameplay consists of running about, jumping over obstacles, and whacking whatever gets in your way. But 'running' and 'jumping' mean more here. You can run up walls as well as along paths and springboard off them to grab distant ledges. You can shimmy up columns to execute aerial leaps towards just-in-reach flagpoles. You can inch yourself by your fingertips past fallen obstacles, dangling over chasms.
Naturally, this freedom is ultimately an illusion: there are still paths to take, and finding them is the main attraction here. Bar the fighting, playing Revelations consists of reaching a new environment, zooming out to get your head around the layout, and then figuring out the right runs, jumps and drops to get from A-Z without falling to your death. At its best, it's a fabulous combination of brain-teasing exploration and joyous platform action.
Turning to the fighting, you'll face everything from two-a-penny undead warriors to end-of-level boss characters. Like many royals down the ages, the Prince is fairly handy in a scrap and is as acrobatic as he is when vaulting walls. Theoretically, Revelations boasts a freeform fighting system enabling you to chain together various combinations of rolls, leaps, blocks and thrusts to attack your foes like a demented ninja on a bungee cord. In practice, while it does introduce a welcome change of pace, fighting is less convincing than Revelations' fluid exploring and adventuring. Despite the potential variety, you'll find yourself using the same moves over and over - never more so than when fighting the bosses, who are often rather tedious to overcome.
On a brighter note, the Prince has a last trump card: those time-twisting powers. Killing your foes yields 'sand clouds' that restore your ability to rewind time, slow it down, or attack multiple enemies at once. These powers are doled out as Revelations progresses, the 'recall' rewinding option being especially welcome.
And you'll be glad you can tamper with time because Revelations features some of the PSP's most infuriating loading times. Rarely has the crunching of a UMD sounded this baleful. Loading problems continue with the music: streamed rock chops in and out, which is the sort of bug you rarely encounter these days. What's more, we found that the game would occasionally lock up completely, too.
These glitches detract from the excellent graphics (and reduce our score accordingly). But beware: Revelations is not a game for the beach. Gloomy environments mean you'll need to play with the lights off and, in zoomed-out mode, the game's murky spaces will still challenge the keenest eyes. It's worth noting, too, that 'motion blur' visual effects are turned up to 11 here: some at Pocket Gamer HQ found the result 'unpleasantly drunken', others atmospheric.
Prince of Persia Revelations does get more right than it does wrong, however. Fans of the original may lament the Prince's lurch to the generically bloodthirsty, and console owners who've tackled Prince of Persia: Warrior Within should note there's only a few new levels added here.
But most will find Revelations a solid, lengthy game offering attractions unavailable elsewhere, and that, ultimately, aren't fatally crippled by those unattractive quirks. Rather like being The Prince of Wales, then.Prince of Persia Revelations is on sale now.