Review by ZFS
"Controlling time? Running on walls? Crazy acrobatic moves? Yeah -- the Prince is the man."
The Prince of Persia series has been around for a while now starting back to the original game by Jordan Mechner back for the NES, and later on the SNES. The series has always been about a Prince who saves the Kingdom and the Princess from the evil wizard Jaffar. The game(s) usually featured traps, jumps, buttons to press, etc. and this is pretty much what carries over into the Sands of Time; however unlike the games of old this one has an enhanced fighting system, harder puzzles, and more dangerous traps. The Sands of Time also does not tie into the story of the previous two and is its own story, which is good.
The Prince of Persia's gameplay is its strong point, and when I say strong I mean strong. The game consists of, you, playing as the Prince of ancient Persia who is going to siege the Maharajah's Palace. As Prince you will start off trying to please your father by getting the Dagger of Time but later on realize what you've done must be undone. This brings up the characters; the main character Prince for example has a feel of being real. Most characters in games don't seem to show their emotion or feelings as good as the ones do in Prince of Persia. On many occasions you will find Prince talking to himself about a situation he might've got in, something he saw, a conversation he might've just had, etc. He tends to show that he has the mind of his own and isn't the usual silent hero. He is a very developed character; he has a background and a good one at that. At first all he wants is nothing more than honor and glory, a generous, nice guy but wants to prove himself to his father. Soon enough though he realizes that honor and glory isn't looking so good anymore. The other characters in the game are equally developed well, each having their own personality and background and display the type of personality brilliantly. A very well done job by Ubisoft.
The puzzle portion of the game is brilliant sporting puzzles that use real logic to figure out and remain difficult while not being insane. The puzzles could consist of moving a mirror to reflect a beam of light to pulling a block to reach a certain higher to reach area. Most of the puzzles will keep you thinking for a while and then you'll discover what to do and go do it, but it's much more difficult than that. The puzzles take up a very large portion of the game; almost every room you enter will have some kind of something that you must do in order to get to the next room / area. The pace is nice though and doesn't lag down or feel like it is a pointless task setup by the game. The puzzles feel as though that they were setup this way to defend from soldiers who might invade the palace, the place you are traversing. Overall, very nicely done.
That brings me to controls or the controlling of Prince; the controls are some of the best in a video game, period. The control stick is used to move him around while the R button lets Prince run up / across walls and L lets you Rewind time, which you get very early in the game. Prince is also very fluid, which is what really makes this game stand out from the rest. You can go from running across a wall, grabbing onto a ledge, then to a bar, swing across jump off of a wall, grab a ladder, climb up and continue running all in one simple, very easy to do motion. While this sounds difficult you will be doing this almost as soon as you pick up the controller and put in the game. It takes very little time to adapt to these controls and you soon do it effortlessly. With great controls and a main character who is as fluid as this guy is it makes for a great gaming experience, Prince is definitely not Lara Croft, who feels way to stiff when in comparison to Prince of Persia.
Now, the one aspect of the game that really keeps this game from being flawless is the fighting. While the battle system is amazing the way the fights are setup are definitely not. Usually what you do to get to a fight is after a long puzzle or many rooms you'll come to an area where you'll fight hordes upon hordes of enemies. The reward? A save point. This is usually how it goes for the majority of the game, the fighting can seem so tedious and frustrating at times that you just wonder why Ubisoft didn't do a better job with this area. The game should have laid out the enemies in smaller groups and in more rooms and areas of the palace. It made it seem like finishing a puzzle would only lead to a big enemy fight with waves upon waves of enemies. This one area kept the game from being a perfect 10.
Although, the way the fighting is setup was bad the actual battle system is brilliant. Prince is able to use many moves in battle such as The Vault, Mega Freeze, Haste, Slow Down, Rebound, etc. Some of these, The Vault for example, are used many times during the game. Prince can go from attacking one enemy to pushing off of one and back flipping over it to give a nice slice to the back. The other moves that you acquire and use are like this; the fighting is very nice and is like a better version of Zelda's battle system. Very fast and fluid. Although the way the fighting is setup is flawed, the battle system isn't.
Now one area that is flawless is the graphical portion of Sands of Time. Everything looks and feels like the time period the game is set in, everything is also interactive. The flags hanging from bars sway when you touch them or are touched by something; loose bars shake wildly as if about to fall off when you swing from them. Walls can crumble as you walk across them, bridges fall, planks turn to dust, etc. The lighting effects are also very, very nicely done featuring some of the best I've seen from a game. The sun to the Sand Clouds everything seems to give this very bright shine or effect that seems as though it should be there. A dark area with a window will have the sun shining through illuminating a small part of the ground or wall.
The character models are look very nice, and have a nice feature that I'd like to comment on. The Prince starts out cleaned up and looks like he is a Prince, but later on his clothes starting getting ripped, and pants dirty from the dirt and wear and tear of the clothes. He'll even use a part of his sleeve to cover up a wound and keep it for the rest of the game. But the models themselves look very well done, staying true to the art they display everything in a great fashion from the cut scenes to cinematics the models represent well. Prince's hair for example looks like real hair and moves as such, his pants also bounce up and down when he runs from being baggy. Very, very nicely done from Ubisoft here too. The only problem is that they can look a little bad at certain times. But the detail that went into them is amazing; from scratches on the Prince's eyebrow and chest to detailed environments the graphics in the Sands of Time is nothing short of jaw dropping. It'd be almost impossible to say that the graphics aren't some of the best on the Xbox.
Now there is one thing I love about the sound in this game and it's the battle music. There are at least three different tracks that play throughout the entire course of this game, just for the fighting. Instead of featuring actual Arabian music they tried to implement some rock and vocalists into the mix to give it that feel but definitely not using pure Arab music it works very well though. The vocalists set the mood for fighting and the rock type music gets the adrenaline running for the battle. The music continues to get better with different parts of the game featuring the same kind of music but without the rush you get from fighting music. I didn't find a whole lot of memorable tracks in the game but they do work for when they are played and that's why the music works well. Not memorable but at the same time not terrible music compositions. Most of the game I didn't really hear a whole lot of music outside of a fight, which is a good thing if you ask me. So, it's not the kind of game where music will play while you are trying to balance across a narrow ledge.
Now, the secondary part of sound is the effects of it. The sound of swords clanging together or the voices from the characters, which brings to talk about the voices. The voices sound very good, you can understand what each person is saying and there isn't really a time where it sounds scratchy or like a bad emulation. In fact, there is only one time when this kind of thing happens and that is at the point where you just finish saving, he says '' Shall I continue? '' and it sounds very scratchy, like the sound is dieing but this is the only bad compression part of the game in sound. The other nice effect is that from which you get Sand Clouds, when you get them you stab your sword into the ground and instead of the same sound used every time depending on what kind of surface you are on depends on the sound. An example of this is, stabbing your Dagger into a Sand Cloud that is near grass you will hear a soft sound from your sword and if it is on concrete it will have a hard clang sound, a very nice thing that can be picked up while the animation is going. Overall, I think the sound is done pretty well but isn't the best sound could be done.
Now, there is no multiplayer to this game so the only type of replay value is unlockables and just the amount of fun you can have playing. The only unlockable in the game is the original Prince of Persia, so you could always mess around with that after you've completed the Sands of Time and see how far it's come as well as play the old series. As far as the game itself goes, since this is an action / adventure you'll more than likely only play through the adventure once unless you really like it and want to go through it a second and third time. I found it to be a game where I wanted to go through it that second and third time. The length of the game is pretty short ranging from 7 - 15 hours depending on how skilled you are as a gamer. Pretty good considering the genre this game is in. Overall, not a great game to replay many times but the unlockable could keep you coming back as well as another run through.
Final Score: 9.4
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 04/26/06
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