Prince of Persia Rival Swords

Ubisoft go back in time with the Prince going back in time to fix time

Certain 'Wiimakes' we can live with. Driver: Parallel Lines, Godfather... these are games essentially 'new to Nintendo'. But Prince of Persia: Rival Swords has been a Wii-compatible GameCube game for over a year. Only - aha! - under a different name: namely, The Two Thrones. Sticking some Wii controls on a pre-existing title, then changing its name so, intentionally or otherwise, copies are sold under the assumption it's a new game? If there isn't a law against that, there bloody well should be.

Rival Swords works on the belief that it'd be fun to swing a sword around with the Wii controller. Well, yes, it would be: if the developers had bothered to make it fun. To be sure, most Twilight Princess players simply waggled the remote like a feather duster, but you still felt empowered. Rival Swords simply replaces button presses with downward swings of the Wii remote. Which is odd for straight face-to-face fighting, and downright counterintuitive for Prince of Persia's traditional attack combos: A Button, down-swing, down-swing just doesn't work in the heat of battle. It makes PoP's already dodgy combat so painful, we ran straight past bemused enemies rather than engage them in a painful round of Wii remote semaphoring.

Oh, and we don't want to be waggling the stick to grab on to a switch when we're in the middle of one of the Prince's impressive but potentially deadly wall-runs, either. But Ubisoft force us to.

So, aside from the lunchbreak job of remapping the buttons1, let's be clear. This. Is. Two. Thrones. Not as good as the original Prince of Persia, not as bad as grumpy grungefest Warrior Within, it's a decent game with a gratifying thread of logic running through.

The sun-burnished rooms aren't containers for puzzles so much as they are the puzzles, and the Prince - working to rescue Babylon from the Vizier, who's been resurrected by all the time-fiddling in the second game - moves with a balletic grace that's pretty much all the reward you need for working out you need him to grab the ledge, run across the wall, bounce off the switch, swing off the pole, shimmy along the plank and drop down onto a big bird-headed archer chap.

The rewind-time feature - built specially for slippy-footed clumsies like us - is still something we think should be built into every game2, too. We hope it's not just us who make swooshy time travel noises with our mouths when we're rescuing the Prince with some misty-screened backwards behaviour.

But Rival Thrones (or whatever) has all the problems of the GC version, too. The game's big 'thing' is the short bits where our hero is auto-transformed into a super-powerful bad evil Dark Prince. But it's also its biggest pain - because your emo alter ego's health is constantly dripping down, creating an arbitrary time limit. You need to keep replenishing your sand (ie health, ie time) as you go, which means the game keeps having to throw sand-filled enemies and pots at you, and you have to keep killing or breaking them. Our idea: why not just get rid of the time limit? Trying to work your way around a room, in the dark, with enemies attacking, against the clock is just infuriating.

The Dark Prince's main sell - his whippily effective double-Razortail, designed to make short work of local bird-headed blokes - is hard work, too, because it's controlled by repeated waggling of the nunchuk. That's pretty tough for your weakest hand. Our left wrist, unaccustomed to exertion, simply gave up gripping at one point and sent the nunchuk flying over our heads.

So that's about all there is to say about Rival Swords. Like other hasty trot-outs such as Splinter Cell: Double Agent, this isn't a bad game - but it's a lazy port that's hard to recommend against the cheaper and far more system-suited GC version. Wii deserves better than this, Ubisoft.

The verdict

As we said in NGC 115: it makes the right moves but doesn't quite scale the heights. And you can buy the GameCube version - without Ubisoft's half-hearted Wii controls - for around £20.

Nintendo Wii
Action, Adventure