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The Rogue Prince Of Persia Early Access Review: A Noble Effort?

Platform: PC (version reviewed)
Genre: Roguelite, 2D platformer, Prince of Persia throwback

This year, 2D platformer fans are blessed with not just one Prince of Persia title, but two! We’ve covered the first one: the acclaimed The Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown from Ubisoft Montpellier. The second one? A roguelite take on the acrobatic highness courtesy of the folks behind Dead Cells: Evil Empire. And so far, the game’s early access form shows some cracks, but still delivers on the cycle of fun.

King of Swing

Dubbed Rogue Prince of Persia, the 2D action game with semi-search action feels and level design pits you as the titular prince as he has to run from left to right through procedurally-generated stages & multiple biomes (village, aqueducts, royal gardens, etcetera) to stop the Huns from taking over his kingdom of Persia. He’ll have to fight different kinds of Hun footsoldiers from axe-wielders to pikemen, to even fearsome bosses that are fuelled by dark magic. They’re all challenging, given the fact that you have to play through each run losing as little health as possible before fighting the big bads; it’s easier said than done.

Along the way, he finds out that whenever he dies, his bola necklace revives him and sends him right back to where he was, Groundhog’s Day-style, and back at his camp. Through this time loop and multiple inevitable deaths with each attempt at stopping the Huns and their black magic ways, he finds out more about his enemies, the sorcery they wield, and the power-ups he gets to use and abuse.

If you’ve played Evil Empire’s crowning 2D roguelite title Dead Cells, you’ll get into the swing of things hella quick. Unlike Dead Cells though, The Rogue Prince Of Persia opts for a 3D-on-2D art style that may not gel with some folks, especially after seeing Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown in action or even isometric cousins like Hades 2 (also out this month) bedazzled spectators with its graphical offerings. Still, don’t count the Rogue out: the Prince here looks good in motion and plays out just fine even if half the cast looks like they’ve beaten to death by all shades of purple paint. The backgrounds, the biomes, and overall aesthetic does look a tad simplistic and less detailed, but maybe because my standards for 2D platformer graphics have been unrealistically heightened given the past few months’ releases.

What I cannot criticize are the controls and gameplay flow: they feel good. The purple Prince himself can use a plethora of weapons from his dual daggers to long-reaching spears, fire arrows or other long-ranged tools that use up energy, and a kick that knocks foes away and into environmental hazards. He even has a downward stomp that can push back foes below him, and also take out shielded enemies immediately. On top of that, he can vault over enemies to avoid attacks or just leap to the other side and make his escape.

And he can also wallrun upwards, wallrun straight or upwards onto the background wall, pole-vault, and walljump through many of the biomes’ tricky jumping hazards and pitfalls. Not to be outstaged by past Prince of Persia efforts, each randomized area you come across will have their obstacle courses requiring you to be agile, or just figure out lever orders as you climb back and forth between revolving barriers. It’s all good fun, and you even get to uncover different pathways for your future runs if you spend time checking out every crevasse and corner of each biome.

Assisting the Prince back at camp are a blacksmith and a medallion-peddler. The former makes you weapons for your future runs and the latter makes you medallions that you can equip to give you effects and abilities for your skills. Both will need spirit glimmer to make their respective tools for you, which you acquire from enemy kills. So you can’t just be acrobatic and avoid enemies you see most of the time; getting these glimmers means better permanent powerups that can aid you in future attempts. Within my eighth run, I have bestowed my Prince with a kick that sets off poisonous gas in the area, attacks that gain back bits of my health, and a healing buff that activates whenever I discover a new teleporter in a biome. Yes, like Dead Cells, you uncover teleporters that help you backtrack easier in each biome. At least there are some features from Evil Empire’s past game to help ease the backtracking process, seeing as the game is not going to give you a break with its endurance test.

Purple Reign

While still a bit rough around the edges, particularly with some animations not looking right and some screen-shaking effects that pop up occasionally, The Rogue Prince of Persia is a decent and challenging take on a tried-and-true 2D series. Evil Empire’s Dead Cells mechanics and lessons all pay dividend in delivering a fun 2D platforming adrenaline-charged experience that isn’t afraid to break you. Having said that, maybe the game needs just as much catching up content-wise, even if you compare this Prince’s base game with Dead Cell’s original DLC-less release.

Still, there’s a lot of time to improve it since this is an Early Access title and thus an incomplete product, hence no final score at the bottom. At least what’s on tap is still action 2D platform-worthy and worth jumping in if you want a different take on a 2D roguelite platformer.

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