Did you know that you can download handheld games now? That's amazingly convenient! The only inconvenient part of it is finding the right games to buy -- and that's where we come in, with our Portabliss column. In each installment, we'll tell you about a downloadable game on the iPhone, iPad, Android device, DSi, 3DS, PSP, etc. Today: Prince of Persia Classic.

With such a heavy emphasis on precision controls and split-second decisions, the idea of playing the original Prince of Persia on an iPhone might sound pretty daunting. And yet, as was the case with the iOS version of Another World: 20th Anniversary Edition, Prince of Persia Classic HD turns out to be a playable, faithful rendition of one of gaming's true classics.

For those without the good fortune of experiencing the original Prince of Persia before, the premise is pretty simple. As an unnamed, blank slate of a character -- unless you happen to remember the Sega CD version of Prince of Persia, anyway -- you find yourself tossed in a dungeon by an evil vizier. The vizier has been busy, having also locked the sultan's daughter in a tower, giving her one hour to become his wife and assuring a path to the sultan's throne for himself. That gives you one hour to escape the dungeon, climb to the top of the tower and save her.

As fate would have it, the main character -- let's just call him the Prince -- is one athletic dude. Players can run, climb ledges, leap fantastic distances and handle a sword with aplomb, handy skills for anyone trying to escape a dangerous, trap-filled dungeon. Each level has the Prince looking for the exit to the next floor, with the one hour time limite always ticking away.

Levels are littered with traps, switches and gates, ultimately leading to a final exit. Each section usually presents a series of challenges that must be overcome in a specific way before the Prince can move forward. For instance, you might encounter a locked gate, leaving you with no choice but to wander down a hallway in the opposite direction, avoiding numerous pitfalls and traps along the way. At the end of the hall is a button which, of course, opens the gate. Unfortunately, said gate almost always starts closing imediately, meaning the Prince has to run back through all the traps and leap over the pitfalls -- quickly -- in order to make it through.

Controls are broken down into three context-sensitive buttons -- jump, interact, attack, defend, etc. -- and a single D-pad restricted to left and right movement. In order to walk -- a necessary action for tiptoeing though spike traps -- players nudge the D-pad slightly. To run, just slide it all the way in either direction. It works well for the most part, though I've occasionally broken into a run without meaning to, leading to some unnecessary (and frustrating) deaths. It's also easy to accidentally hit one button instead of another. I've found myself attacking when I mean to defend many times, though it rarely leads to death as the fights seem easier than I remember them. If you feel like taking the time to do so, the buttons can be customized to sit wherever you like them on the screen as well, though the default configuration worked fine for me most of the time.

Frustration is kept to a minimum with a handy checkpoint system (unless you opt for the one-life-only survival mode). Unfortunately, the menu implementation is a bit clunky. Upon death, the option to restart the entire level is on top of the menu, while a checkpoint restart is strangely the second option. If, like me, you're eager to get back into action immediately after death, you may find yourself reflexively tapping the restart level option instead of the checkpoint option, especially if you've retried one section multiple times and are getting frustrated.

Still, even with a few minor annoyances, the iOS rendition of Prince of Persia Classic is a great take on the original game.


Prince of Persia Classic is available for $1.99 on iTunes. An "HD" version for the iPad is also available for $2.99. We're always looking for new distractions. Want to submit your game for Portabliss consideration? You can reach us at portabliss aat joystiq dawt com.

This article is based on a final release download of Prince of Persia Classic, provided by Ubisoft.