Prince Of Persia (1989) – A Playthrough

It took me six goddamn days to play this game from start to finish. What on earth was Jordan Mechner thinking when he devised this cruel and sadistic platformer.

Prince of Persia (the original from 1989) is at once both a stunningly beautiful game and a deceptively simple torture chamber. The controls are basic. You run, jump, climb, drink potions, and stab bad guys with your pointy sword. That’s all you can really do in the game.

Oh, did I mention the spikes that kill you if you run too fast into them? Or the guillotines that snap shut if you mistime a jump? Or the endless maze of dungeons where a wrong turn spells certain death.

As frustrating as it was to attempt a playthrough while under pressure to get this review out by the end of the week, I have to say I now have a bitter, grudging respect for the so-called “classic games” of the 90s. These were games that did a lot more with a lot less.

Prince of Persia 1989 Cover

With the programming constraints of the time, games had to be very clever and experiment with what they could do. Some elements are entirely superflous, like the potion that turns the world upside down, or the one lets you fall in slow motion. Others are a stroke of brilliance.

And perhaps the most obvious (and annoying) of these is the appearance of ‘The Shadow.’ He is a doppleganger of your main character who is seemingly created when you jump through a magic mirror and tear your body in two.

Although at first, he is nothing more than mischievous bounder, he soon interferes with your completion of the game. He drinks your health potions, locks you out of the next level, and finally even challenges you to a swordfight.

However, any damage you inflict on The Shadow results in your character losing a life. The two of you are inextricably linked and his death spells yours. I spent more time trying to defeat this seemingly indestructible figment than I care to admit.

Revolutionary rotoscoping technology in Prince of Persia 1989

And yet as it turns out, the solution is not to fight him but simply put away your sword and merge with this evil apparition and become whole. Perhaps there is something to be said here about the duality of man and accepting the lesser aspects of our own psyche.

But that is far too deep into the realm of rambling armchair philosophy for this reviewer. For my part, I’m glad to be done with this stupid 8-bit, lo-fi, retro, should-have-stayed-in-the-90s game so I can move on to doing something marginally more worthwhile in my life.

The playthrough is up on our official YouTube channel. Watch it if you’ve really exhausted every other video on your feed. Or just watch it to laugh at how many times I had to restart a certain level.

Till the next review fellow readers. In the meantime, watch this to while away your hours:

Linus T

If I'm not back in five minutes, just wait longer.