There's a lot of history behind the new film Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. If, that is, you think that 20-plus years of video gaming counts as "history" -- but heck, if you're only 20 years old yourself, video games are probably a lot more historically significant to you than the events in any textbook. And if you want to taste a bit of that history for just 99 cents, Apple has, as they say, an app for that -- the folks over at iPhone Help reviewed the original Prince of Persia game for the iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, available through the iTunes store.

The first Prince of Persia saw life in 1989 as a game for the Apple II, and was pretty much state-of-the-art at the time. Game developer Jordan Mechner videotaped his younger brother and used the rotoscoping technique to create more realistic character movement than was seen in games of the time; the good guys and bad guys also fought each other with swords, while almost all games at that point were shooters.

Mechner, who later said he was inspired by the opening set piece of Raiders of the Lost Ark, made his game more cinematic than game-players were used to seeing, and broke up the somewhat repetitive running-jumping-fighting action by interspersing puzzles and potentially deadly traps. Players responded enthusiastically, and PoP inspired an entire genre of games that offered more than basic side-to-side scrolling and blocky, awkward in-game characters.

Every few years since, a newer, slicker, updated chapter in the PoP game world has arrived -- Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time hit the shelves in 2003, designed by Ubisoft Montreal (who also designed the innovative Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell) and players found themselves solving tasks and fighting villains using kinetic running-jumping-climbing actions, leaping from building to building via rooftops, then finding items and, of course, solving puzzles. They were also provided with the Dagger of Time, which allowed them to freeze enemies, slow down time, replay actions backwards and, of course, kill guys. Recharging/replenishing the dagger involved absorbing sands from enemies, with extra "tanks" of sand gained by accumulating a certain number of sand clouds (it all makes sense when you're playing, honest.)

Current PoP developer Ubisoft released Prince of Persia:The Forgotten Sands, an "interquel" to the storylines in Sands of Time and 2005's PoP: The Two Thrones, to coincide with the movie adaptation. The company's description:
The Prince is back and he is visiting his brother's kingdom following his adventure in Azad, the Prince finds the royal palace under siege from a mighty army bent on its destruction. When the decision is made to use the ancient power of the Sand in a desperate gamble to save the kingdom from total annihilation, he will embark on an epic adventure in which he will learn to bear the mantle of true leadership, and discover that great power often comes with great responsibility.
Hmm. That last phrase is awfully familiar.

Like the previous games, there's a lot of running, jumping and hopping along rooftops, but the Prince's abilities have become almost superhuman at this point -- he (meaning you, the player) can now fling himself off walls at 45-degree angles through windows, slide down chutes, and balance on any number of balance-y stuff. Oh, and he also has a dark "other personality" that he bickers with -- it's like a buddy movie, but you get to be both buddies!

So if you liked the movie, why not play the game? (You can check out the game trailer below.) In addition to the retro Prince of Persia app through the iTunes store, the original PoP: Sands of Time is available for Xbox, Game Cube, Game Boy Advance, PS2, and even -- believe it or not -- for your PC (in fact, you can download it on Amazon for just $9.99.) You can also pick up the three previous games that featured the storyline in a bundled bargain pack. the new game, Forgotten Sands, will run you a lot more -- suggested retail is 60 bucks. But maybe once you try the classic versions, you'll be inspired to spring for the new one (void where prohibited, Jake Gyllenhaal not included.)