Review by JD99705alaska

"Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time"

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Every once in awhile, a game comes along that defies all expectations and blows us away. The Sands of Time does that in almost every aspect of its existence; the game is executed wonderfully and its only real shortcoming is something that can be remedied with a decent sound card that supports wave boosting. In short, The Sands of Time lives up to the original Prince games and one-ups them, breathing new life into the series and boldly catapulting it into the realm of three dimensions.

The Sands of Time tells the story of Prince, who in his very first battle, comes away with a very nifty treasure, the Dagger of Time. Although the Vizier of the kingdom Prince and his father ransacked to acquire the dagger wants it badly, Prince's father steps in and tells the Vizier not to deny the boy a trophy of his first battle. The company travels to palace of a sultan, where before the entire throne room, the Vizier tricks the Prince into unlocking the Sands of Time, which in turns reigns destruction upon the palace and pits the Prince against unfathomable odds in order to set things right.

Right from the very beginning, The Sands of Time wastes very little energy throwing you into the mix of things. You'll never have a shortage of action in the game and every now and then you'll get a cut scene that propels the story forward and never lets go. The game is fast paced, adventurous, beautiful, and has arguably one of the best game endings of all time.

Graphics
The Sands of Time, to say the very least, is a beautiful game. It boasts a full screen glow effect, successfully giving the game a very appealing story book presentation.; almost as if you were in a fairy tale, which is even further relayed by Prince's narration throughout the game. Animations are very fluid throughout the entire game; the Prince is very convincing while running along walls and doing vaulted back flips off the backs of enemies before crashing down on them with his blade. In battle, the Prince quickly and realistically transitions between stunning acrobatics and deadly sword blows, at times with lightning speed and then at times, with visually eye popping slow motion effects. Attention to detail in this game is heavy. Notice as Prince's chest heaves after he's struggled to run up a wall and then vault himself across the room in mid-air to grab onto an opposing ledge. Should Prince get his feet wet and then try to do one of his daring moves, you'll notice that his feet slip on whatever surface he's trying to cling to. For the most part, this won't affect your ability to complete any of the game's puzzles, but it's pretty cool to see that Ubisoft Montreal remained consistent in the interaction between the characters in the game and the environments they're in. It's worth noting that players coming to the PC version of the game from one of the consol version may find the new camera a little frustrating at times. The angles can get pretty weird and unlike many other games, the button on your keyboard you must press to navigate the Prince is directly related to the position of the camera. This can often time lead to having to redo some of the trickier puzzle areas one or two times more than you'd like. Should you try to move the camera into a position where it's not allowed, the game will rebound the camera back to its original position with a very nifty shader effect. Other than the obvious camera issues related to tight corridors, The Sands of Time is visually pleasing on just about any card you run it on. Score: 9/10

Audio
While music is sparse in The Sands of Time, primarily used to fuel the seemingly never ending battles, it fits the mood perfectly and never gets tiring. The music rarely plays while you're actually adventuring, leaving you to focus your energies on the gameplay in front of you and eliminating the distraction that some people find all too frustrating in other adventure titles. Environmental effects in The Sands of Time are beautiful. Prince's feet will echo throughout long hallways as he makes his way to the games climax and the same goes for pretty much any other action he does. If you hit a wall, you'll hear a small amount of echo, just enough to make what the Prince is doing sound amazing believable. Battle effects are just as beautiful. Going into slow motion, you'll hear what sounds like a small explosion and then a light humming and whispering as Prince does what he does. While there seems to some balancing issues, especially when Prince pulls out of a retrieve, it won't really affect your gameplay or cause any discomfort unless you're wearing head phones as I was. The major shortcoming that I mentioned in my review's introduction sadly falls into the audio category. Purposeful or not, the game's voice casting is unusually dim and you'll probably miss a few of the wittier conversations between the Prince and Farah, which truly is a shame as most of them will give you a laugh or two. “Meet me at the baths she says! Who does she think I am? She treats me like I'm some kind of servant!” Score 9/10

Gameplay
Gameplay is where Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time shines at its very best. Whether Prince is running along a wall, throwing himself from pole to pole across caverns, running up walls and then vaulting himself backwards, or balancing on beams, the controls in The Sands of Time are exceptionally tight and responsive. One thing players will notice right from the very beginning and probably thank the developers for later is the fact that The Sands of Time doesn't require rocket science in order to complete what looks to be an extremely complicated feat of acrobatic prowess. Simply point Prince towards your target and in most cases, hit a single key on your keyboard. Simple as that. For most of Prince's more complicated moves, the game has a Special Action button. Want to run along a wall to cross a gap? That's easy. Start running and then hold down the Special Action button as you near the edge. Presto, you're running along a wall. Want to vault yourself over to the other wall as you near the apex of your run? That's easy too. Simply press the jump button at your apex and Prince will vault himself over. As I mentioned before, even though the moves the Prince performs look complicated, you won't need a degree in rocket science to pull them off and another thing you'll probably thank the developers again for later, is that the game has a fairly large margin for error. Jumps don't have to have exact timing. You can be almost a second off target and Prince will still pull off his move flawlessly. Should you ever fall to your doom though, simply press a button and you have the ability to rewind time as far back as ten seconds. While this is extremely useful, especially later in the game where your perils become increasingly frustrating, it doesn't last forever. In order to use this power, Prince must fill his Sand Tanks. This can be done by performing retrieves on enemies in battle or finding Sand Storms scattered throughout the game. In addition, should you collect eight Sand Storms; you'll gain an extra tank. You'll also gain another Power Tank (used for performing slow motion combat moves and freezes) for every sixteen retrieves you perform during battle. Keep in mind though that your Power Tanks may not exceed your Sand Tanks in number. Scattered throughout the game are secret passageways, noticeable by their fairy tale music, that lead Prince to a secret cavern where he'll drink from a fountain that extends his life bar. Should you ever find yourself at a loss when faced with a puzzle, all you have to do is backtrack to the last save point you accessed. Upon Prince's first entry into a save point, you'll see a vision of the future. This essentially functions as a stylized hint system for players, and even has it's own explanation. They're basically the Sands of Time and the dagger granting Prince premonitions of his future. Score 10/10

Story
You have Prince, tricked into unlocking the Sands of Time, which wreak havoc upon the palace of the sultan. You'll notice the story progresses at a very even pace and it will never leave you wondering what exactly just happened. The game has CG scenes from time to time, mainly during key moments in the story, while the rest of the game's story is driven along by scenes rendered in the game's engine. The Prince narrates his story throughout the game, sometimes seemingly out of the blue, which is sometimes welcome while you're walking down one of the many lonely corridors in this game. After you meet Farah early on, she and the Prince will often exchange witty comments towards one another, and it seems to me that they get progressively amusing as the game pushes on. While the dim voice acting I mentioned earlier can affect your enjoyment of these exchanges, should you manage to catch them, you'll be laughing quite a bit. Somewhere around the 75% mark of the game though, you'll find yourself jolted back into the harsh reality that the Prince finds himself in. I won't spoil the events that will cause this, but the game does a very nice job of not making the jolt too sudden. Subtle foreshadowing will make the blow less catastrophic. In regards to my comment way up there about this game having arguably one of the best game endings of all time; I believe and stand by every word that I said. The Sands of Time, unlike so many games on the market today will actually leave you with a sense of accomplishment when all is said and done, and not just because you're finally finished with the game. You'll truly feel like you've done something and taken part in this world and that you yourself have had an integral part in saving it. The ending is actually touching in a way and will leave you with a longing to know what exactly happens next. That means a lot in a game; at least to me. Score 10/10

Ubisoft Montreal is quickly becoming one of the coveted studios in the gaming world. They've put out hits like Splinter Cell and Myst IV Revelation, but The Sands of Time is by far their most accomplished project. The level of polish and shine in the game easily belittles the humble beginnings of the Prince of Persia series and is the only game marketed as a Prince of Persia game in the last ten or so years that truly lives up to its ancestors. The story will drive you to keep pushing to the very end, the beauty and presentation will leave you in awe, and the ease of the mechanics will make you feel as though you should try out for the virtual Olympics. While that game has a minor shortcoming in the audio presentation, it hardly takes away from the overall feel of the game. In the end, The Sands of Time has pulled off something that a lot of games haven't: damn near perfection. This isn't a game you should miss out on and even if you have your doubts, pick up a copy and see for yourself. You'll be amazed. Enough said.

Final Score: 9/10


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 10/03/05


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