A game that revolutionized the action/adventure genre and set new standards for the genre.
What strikes you first is the graphics of the game. It is very detailed and colorful. The middle-eastern theme is an exotic theme with lots of possibilities, which makes it a great choice. Unfortunately it is very rare, especially compared to medieval and even far-eastern themes. This theme is very well applied, with so many ornamental designs, pillows and pillars which makes you feel like you are in a One Thousand and One Nights story. The sense of duality in the game, which is first implied by the dungeon levels versus the palace levels is also a good idea to make things more interesting. Also, the semi-isometric view of the levels also make the environment seem much more realistic than that of any other game. Combined with an unforgettable soundtrack which sounds great even with the PC Speaker, the atmosphere, overall, is perfect.
Then you've got the animations. Starting from the very beginning, when you see the prologue, where Jaffar enters and has a conversation with the princess. The detailed animations of her hair, the Vizier's cape, make you feel you're watching a movie.
The realistic animations, aren't just animations. They are also a key element in the realistic gameplay. Most platform games back then had protagonists that barely moved their legs while running, or even jumping. The movement usually didn't even seem to be associated with the running animation. They also jumped in an inhuman manner, many times higher than their heights, and again, barely moving their legs. This was not the case with the Prince. The Prince runs really using his legs, with obvious steps, and jumps like normal people. And the fact the you can know how far he can go with any number of steps or how far you can jump in different situations is a key element in the gameplay. Some distances you can take jumping from where you are and some by making a running jump only.
Which brings us to Gameplay:
Controlling the Prince is really simple: You have four movement keys (the arrow keys) and one action button (shift). That's all it takes to make moves that other platform games of the time didn't even have. Using these keys you can run, make a vertical jump, crouch, move one step, take a leap, make a running jump (which took you further than a leap), make a long running jump (which took you a little further, using the action button), climb up or down a ledge, hold on to a ledge, open and close doors (these are done simply by stepping on certain pressure-plates), and drink potions...
The game also has a fighting system, another feature that makes the game way better than other platform games, which usually had a button to shoot a projectile weapon of some kind--even the ones featuring swords as a weapon operated in a similar manner, it just wasn't projectile and instead affected enemies at close range. The Prince of Persia featured a much more realistic sword-fighting, which made the fighting more complicated, but still simple to control. The Prince basically enters "fighting mode" when he encounters an enemy, by drawing his sword. The player has four options: move (forward or backward), attack, parry or sheathe sword (which makes him vulnerable but mobile, until he chooses to draw his sword again).
Again, as opposed to other platform games of the time (and even of today), the Prince cannot jump higher than a real life person can and cannot fall a long way down; he gets injured for a medium fall, and dies for a long one.
Speaking of, the health system in Prince of Persia is also more realistic than its counterparts. It features a number of "lives", initially 3, which basically represent the number of blows the Prince can take before dying. The Prince is injured (loses one life) when he gets hit by the sword, falls a medium fall (two floors), a brick falls on him, or drinks a blue potion. If he gets hit by the sword on his back, falls a long way down (three floors or more), or is caught by a trap, he instantly dies--regardless of how many lives he has.
Prince of Persia has a lot of elements throughout the game that make it more than a platform game, and evolve into an action/adventure.
First and foremost: You have 60 minutes to save the princess, and the game is in real time, which means you have 60 minutes to complete the game. This is of course, impossible if you are playing the game for the first time. But although criticized for being an insanely difficult mission, I'm glad that this is the case, because it means that the game CAN be completed in 60 minutes, but if you do that the first time you play the game, then that's a damn short playing time you've got. Today we actually value games with the average time of gameplay, and want at least 20 hours or so to complete a game. Why should Prince of Persia be just a 1-hour game? Fortunately, it isn't, and it is very difficult so you'll have to restart the game at least a couple of times. This might not sound good now, but back then, Prince of Persia was already the best game you could play, so I think it didn't really matter if you could complete the game or not, you were going to play it again anyway...
Let's go back to the game. The levels in general, although linear in principle (there is usually one way to complete a level), have a non-linear layout where you can usually go left, right, up or down. You have to find your way through the levels. For example, at the very first level, you start as a prisoner in the dungeon without your weapon. So you must find a sword first, and then go further. The levels sometimes also have alternate paths to complete the level or secret areas where you can get healing or extra life potions. This encourages exploration despite the time limit.
Throughout the levels, there are pressure plates to open and close doors, doors slowly closing down when opened (giving you a time limit to make it), traps, unstable bricks (which fall a little after you step on them or hit them from below), and enemies that get tougher each time, some even having their own fighting tactics(parry a lot and counter-hit, or always wait for you to make the first attack, etc). Combined with the great level design, these features make every level a puzzle on its own.
But there's more. You also have surprising unique puzzles such as the undead, the mirror, the green potion(s), and much more that I do not want to ruin for those who might still want to play this game and haven't yet...
The Bottom Line
Prince of Persia is a ground-breaking game that defined a new genre and was followed by great games like Another World (a.k.a. Out of This World), Flashback and BlackThorne, featuring similar adventure elements and puzzles.Simply,Prince of Persia did what Wolfenstein 3D did to FPS and Legend of Zelda did to Action/Adventure games:Set new revolutionary standards that added so much new features to the genre.Prince of Persia is sand always will be a lgendary masterpiece.