Review by Dune Tiger
"The Prince FINALLY gets his due"
POP's had its ups and downs. The first Prince of Persia was a magnificent feat of rotoscoping and complex, mind-boggling puzzles if not sadistical for it's very, VERY tight time limit. I know -I- never beat it, yet I still played it over and over again, mastering every piece of the game I knew.
POP2 had a graphic 'overhaul' and really made the game look silly. However, it still played the same, the puzzles were even more diabolical, but it was nothing new, nothing fresh. At least it didn't spawn 6 sequels with the same engine (*cough*ROCKMAN*cough*).
POP3D was horrendous. Magic Carpet was a better experience. Let's not talk about the long-forgotten POP3D.
And now Sands of Time. If there was ever an action/adventure game, this is it. First, it's one of the most beautiful games I've ever seen. With effects like overexposure, ridiculously large rooms, and elegant puzzles that take the form of the room itself, not to mention some of the greatest lighting a game has ever seen, it really sets the bar. Sure, DOAXVB was pretty, but it could afford to be given it took place on like, 4 squares of map; the castle in Sands of Time (SoT) is expansive and STILL looks like a painting. If there was any doubt as to the ambience and atmosphere of the game, forget about it.
And character models. My god, the models are fantastic. If you took the rendered pre-demonized Raziel (Soul Reaver), gave him some skin color and a little beard, you'd have the titular Prince. And to see him move is another thing altogether.
The simple and just under-intuitive control system allows you to run along walls, leap off to a ledge, climb up, sommersault forward past a trap, leap yet again to a horizontal bar, swing over to a swarm of baddies, vault over your enemies and stab them in the back. And all this with three buttons.
The last button is reserved for the Dagger of Time itself, a marvel of the game to be sure. As you dispatch each enemy, you have a chance to gather some sand into the dagger, which will let you control time on several levels. You can rewind time and undo up to ten seconds of mistakes you've made, freeze enemies in stasis, forward time to strike faster, and slow time down to let you think. All become useful sooner or later, and to watch it in action is something you have to see for yourself.
But if it sounds like combat is all you've got, then you're very wrong. One of the major appeals of the first POP was that a) the Prince was an agile monkey, and b) you had to think your way past trapped rooms. But yes, there are traps (and it's actually quite clever how they worked them into the story), seemingly-exitless rooms, etc. but the one thing that translates very well from the original to SoT is the Prince's agility and his ability to climb, vault, swing, etc like the monkey he once was. And you'll need all of this to solve the rooms you get stuck in. For example, one room requires you to run up a wall to hit a switch, climb up the resulting platform, hop onto a bar, swing onto a ledge, climb up and jump to a doorway. Similarily, another area has spinning sawblades moving up and down the walls and you'll have to time your wall-run to slip past AND time it so that when you jump (and you'll need to, or you'll die), you land on the ledge across the room which you can then shimmy to safety. And all of this is intuitive. I mean, you don't have to fumble around to do exactly what you want to do. You just do it as if you were the guy himself.
Oh, and if you're thinking it's another ''rescue the princess'' story a-la previous POPs, then think again. This time, an epic story unfolds as your father the King raids the Maharaja's treasure room after a sweet victory. There, the Prince collects the Dagger of Time and the Hourglass central to the story. Betrayed by a greedy Vizier (it's always the vizier in these stories), the Prince is tricked into opening the hourglass, releasing the Sands of Time. The only survivors? The Prince, the captured Princess, and the Vizier. As for the others, the Sands of Time rob you of your sanity and turn you into vicious, mindless Sand Creatures, bent on killing anything with a heartbeat. And with only three survivors of the incident, it's not so hard to figure out who to chase after. Think of it as an Arabian Zombie fest.
Honestly, the presentation and epic feeling of the game feels a lot like a Legacy of Kain storyline, especially since the once-beautiful castle has transformed into a den of horror. Only remove the gothic setting and the convoluted 'family' story, and drop in a quest for survival. And while it's interesting to see how the story plays out (told in a narrative which, by the way, is superbly done), the real draw of the game is simply thinking your way out of a room. There's nothing more satisfying than solving a room without help from anyone. Like checkmating someone you know practices chess. The puzzles themselves aren't none too difficult, but they're none too easy, either. Every one takes some thinking, but once you get it, you'll feel great. The story is simply a plus.
So anyone avoiding POP cause of the awful tarnish POP3D put on it, forget about it. SoT is definitely a very good step in the right direction, and honestly, it can only get better from here. A thinking man's (or woman's) action adventure is what I call it, and when you're done with it, you'll feel like you've been on one of the greatest journeys the world has to offer.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 11/16/03
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