The Amiga classic that never was loses none of it’s 16bit charm in this polished remake on iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad
The premise is a simple one, collect magical palms to vanquish an evil sorcerer who has put your Kingdom under a spell… but the execution is not, as unlike Mario this plat-former isn’t a walk in a mushroom filled park.
You play as two ancient Iraqi prince’s Blasir and Nasir. Both are controllable via your trusty virtual D-pad. Both can jump, and they also have limited attack ability as well as a special ability unique to each. And this is where the main gameplay mechanic comes into play. You see you cannot control both characters at the same time. Instead you must switch between them by tapping an icon on the top left of the screen. This activates one, while turning the other into stone. Not a useless lump of rock mind you, they are not only useful as large paperweights to activate switches and keep doors open, but also as an extra ledge to give you other character a leg up to a platform otherwise unreachable.
The levels themselves are mini labyrinths designed to tax your mind as to which character to use where. As I mentioned, both have a unique power. Blasir can run like the wind. As you hold down the action button he runs on the spot, building up power which can be unleashed as a sprinting attack (much like Sonic the Hedgehog). This is useful for jumping large gaps, but mainly is used to gaining access to brittle walls which can be smashed. Blasir is limited to vertical smashing, while his brother on the other hand can unleash a corkscrew attack that opens up crumbling floors/ceilings.
You’ll slowly unravel the levels, gaining access to new areas as you seek out the Palms, as well as other objects such as keys, to gain access to locked sections. Guards won’t let you pass unless you have a key. Other enemies are designed to hinder you, nipping at your health. whether they are small bats and rodents, or soldiers, birds and wolves they can be avoided by a simple jump for the majority of the time, or stunned with your blade, but get your timing wrong and it’s easy to get injured.
Visually the game isn’t a huge leap from the original 16bit game. Back then it wasn’t ugly, and to this day it has a charming bitmap cartoon feel to it. The levels themselves are a little repetitive in look and feel, with tiled patterns making up most of the walls, foliage and the like. The main characters look good though and the game runs silky smooth, I particularly like the zoom in effect when you activate their powers. The original music is still here. It’s funk meets panpipes, it fits the game well, but can grate on multiple listens.
There are five worlds to explore with over a dozen levels in all. Despite this, the gameplay does get a tad repetitive, but it’s addictive none-the-less, with a strong ‘one more go’ feeling pulling you in for more… even when you might regret it after dying once again only moments away from that last palm of the level.
Back in ’93 this would have been a real gem. It still is, but despite a face lift on the iPhone and iPod Touch, as an overall game it’s not as quite as shiny as once anticipated. For platform fans that like a bit of head scratching thrown in for good measure, it’s certainly worth checking out, and fans hoping to play the original won’t be disappointed.