Prince of Persia: The Fallen King

They say the pen is mightier than the sword. Well, at least that's what journalists say. Unless you're actually holding a sword. Then they say, 'Yes, sir'.

Of course, the reality is that sharp metal objects are more fascinating than slightly chewed biros. And when it comes to reviewing the stylus-based Prince of Persia: The Fallen King, there are plenty of occasions when even the most pacifist scribe would prefer to swap their writing implement - and the DS's little plastic pointer - and cleave their DS in two with a dirty great scimitar.

Because, surprisingly for Ubisoft's Casablanca studio it seems, a fast-moving, acrobatic action game that consists of manoeuvring a character across dangerous precipices, avoiding spiky traps and onto moving platforms, doesn't work that well with a ponderous touchscreen/stylus-based control system.

Frankly, it isn't very satisfying to tap above a ledge to get the prince to leap up to it. Nor is it much fun to poke at the far side of the screen to get him to run there. Or to double tap on the floor to make him roll.

You feel divorced from the action, like you're pre-programming the prince to perform his actions ahead of time. And if you marginally miss-time your double tap or point to the wrong pixel, it all ends in tears with a crumpled body on the floor.

It's a shame, because The Fallen King contains some good ideas and the production values in terms of visuals and animations are high. A lot of care and attention has clearly been lavished, although the childish anime art style is a bit of an odd decision.

The plot is absolute tosh too, involving as it does an ancient deity spreading a substance called Corruption around the land and attempting to turn innocents into dark, fearful creatures.

Still, the Corruption motif does give rise to the game's best feature: a comic sidekick character - a magus called Zal - who can control corrupted creatures and items with his magical abilities. These generally take the form of puzzles involving dark coloured blocks and tendrils which can be manipulated by clicking on them with the stylus while pressing the DS' shoulder button.

A good example of how this works in practice is a series of platforms that Zal moves, enabling the prince to leap to previously unreachable locations. It's also a hoot manipulating the sticky tendrils to pick up enemies and then fling them out of the way. Maybe tendrils are mightier than the pen?

In addition, these puzzle elements are a blessed relief as the niggling stylus-based platforming gets a bit samey after about an hour's play.

Perhaps the most annoying aspectof the game is when moving platforms are introduced alongside enemies who guard the ledges above. This means you have to time your jumps perfectly and then attack the enemy with a flurry of touchscreen taps as you bounce off the moving wall. Although The Fallen King isn't a difficult game, it definitely becomes irksome in the latter stages.

Despite all these flaws, however, there's something compelling about the whole experience. The characterisation is sharp and the witty conversations can be genuinely amusing. There's also a world map that beautifully leads you into each level and shows the missions you still need to complete.

Ultimately, The Fallen King is an interesting experiment. It's not terrible, but after a couple of hours you'll wish there were a bit more to it. Without any multiplayer modes, unlockable extras or anything in the way of replay value, the prince is a bit of a pauper when it comes to longevity. So let's just hope Ubisoft reverts back to the good old D-pad for its next iteration or the prince really will be for the chop.

Prince of Persia: The Fallen King

Despite high production values, Prince of Persia: The Fallen King's awkward stylus controls means this is one Arabian night worth sleeping through
Mark Walbank
Mark Walbank
Ex-Edge writer and retro game enthusiast, Mark has been playing games since he received a Grandstand home entertainment system back in 1977. Still deeply absorbed by moving pixels (though nothing 'too fast'), he now lives in Scotland and practices the art of mentalism.