Review by Fanboy Username
"The most beautiful game I ever... watched"
Prince of Persia is a new installment in the series with a new hero not in the trilogy of the previous generation. The game is primarily a platformer with fighting some evil mixed in. This game is produced and developed by Ubisoft, who also made Assassin's Creed, which suffers from repetition: a trait which PoP inherited. But before jumping into the worst part of the game, let's look at some good fields first.
The game begins as you, Prince, are wondering the desert, looking for somebody, when you happen to get caught in the path of a girl. For some unexplained reason, you feel the need to follow her, and you quickly learn she is the princess of Persia, and she's trying to stop her dad, the king, from sending the world into ruin. Blahblahblah. Aside from the cliched elements, the story is somewhat entertaining, for what few characters you have to work with. Each area has a short little background for itself, and the minibosses have purpose.
The main flaw with the story is the way it is told. There are some short cutscenes, but the majority of it is told by you talking to Elika, the princess, by pressing the LT button. This method takes away from the storytelling, as you only get a small message until you have to press the LT button again, and since the story can be told from any location in the game, the camera angles are less dynamic and you just stare at Elika as she talks. This was a good attempt to try to make the story less pushed in your face, but ultimately it fails for the people that actually care.
As for the personality of the characters, Prince can get a little annoying with his one-liners, feeling the need to say something every time before his "death" and whenever he and Elika interact. While it might be a good feature to some, adding to the realism in that you would not just stay quiet while on an adventure with a partner, it does not feel very immersive and is annoying.
Ah, the place the game truly shines. Just a short note, this was the first game I played on my brand new HDTV, so I may be a bit underknowledged on what makes a game look good. But, without a comparison, I believe this game looks gorgeous. The characters are very well detailed. The enemies, even though they're only black beings with swords, all look amazing, and the ancient buildings and caves could not look more real. This game shows what beauty the systems are capable of, and the art direction is something that inspired the creation.
A great aspect of the graphics is that you'll be able to fall in love with the same area twice: once while it's corrupted and afterward when it's cleansed. When the area is corrupted, you will feel the dark atmosphere and have a sense of hopelessness, as darkness is everywhere and the land is abandoned. Then, once you purify the land, you see all the vibrant colors of its past, and you truly appreciate the land around you. Ubisoft really knows how to make you appreciate graphics.
To go with the beautifully created characters, you have very smooth animations. All the while of running, jumping, crawling, and battling, you will notice how fluid Prince's movements are. He was made perfectly with this world. The platforming sections will make you feel like a pro as you masterfully handle them and watch the character fluidly make the transition from a wallrun to going around a corner with the help of a chain to grabbing onto a ledge, even as much as catching Elika with one arm, her dangling above a deadly fall, as she comes up behind and catches up to you. The battle animations are also chained together well, with long and also flashy combos with a lot of slowdown animations and aerial stunts.
As for nitpickings, there's not much I can say. Really, the only thing I don't like is how the levels are designed, not giving much feel of realism. With random rings stuck on walls and ceilings and worn spots on walls signaling where to wallrun, the game does not make you feel like you're playing in the world, but playing with how the designers want you to. I'll cover this more in-depth in the gameplay, but it is a problem noticed because of the graphics and level design. And one more thing I forgot to mention. When traveling from a cleansed area to a corrupted area, you will quickly notice when you "switch over." It is simply a straight line instead of the two intermingling a bit. With the importance of graphics in this game, they should have included this feature.
And on a final note, if you leave the game on but don't input any commands for some amount of time, the game has a bit of a "screensaver" feature. This shows you some of the beautiful landscapes and gives you a great view of the area. This random feature is very much appreciated, given how graphics-driven this game is.
While writing this review, I noticed I was missing a section: my beloved music. Why did this section not pass through my mind? I never once noticed the music, if it has any. As I don't feel like turning the game on this very moment, the fact that I can't remember a single score from the game shows how terrible the music is. But this just shows you how amazing the graphics are, because you do feel connected to the land as you play. It's a possibility that there was some light music to go with the isolated feeling you and Elika have, so it wasn't meant to be a grand orchestrated piece.
Before mentioning aspects of gameplay, I'll list the actions you can do, so you won't feel overwhelmed. For platforming, you can move, jump or grab. For fighting, you can use any of the face buttons to chain together different types of attacks (but all with the same outcome) or block. And that's about all there is that you can do gameplay wise. Hopefully I didn't overload your brain with this game's complexity.
The game was getting such a great score, until you have to play the blasted thing. Let's begin with the platforming. In normal 3D platformers, the main selling point is exploration and nonlinearity. Prince of Persia dumbs that down by having linear paths in a non-linear world. That is to say, you can choose which area to do first, but usually there's only one way to move around in that world. It also doesn't help that there's no compass function, so many times you depend on Elika's navigation powers, which really doesn't help the game's linearity issue.
Linearity aside, gameplay suffers because you seriously don't play this game. Platforming is pretty much automatic on Prince's part. You press a button to jump on a wall, he automatically runs, and the only thing you have to do is press jump again and you watch his next animation. Directional input in this game is next to nothing and, in fact, it can screw you up. Take pillars for example. To run on the ceiling, all that is required is that you are at the top of the pillar. By instinct, some people will want to press up and jump to execute the climb. But, the directional input only makes you shift which side of the pillar you hang from, and your jump is immediately executed, usually leading you to an instant death and you have to do the whole pillar thing again. You may also notice another flaw with the game based off what I said. Before he even completed the animation of switching sides of the pillars, because I hit the A button in that time, he will immediately jump after the switching animation is done, essentially meaning there is an action queue in this game, which is very, very bad. Many times, when I'm on a ledge trying to scale up, I will hit A twice because of the somewhat slow movements and you're not sure if the first hit registered. Oh, but it did, and the second hit of A also registered, meaning that after you finally do the wall climb animation, you will immediately jump, resulting in imminent doom. I'm pretty sure commands are done like this just so the animations can be so perfect, showing you how much of a focus the developers put on graphics. What a pity.
Now onto battles. Battles are actually pretty fun, but only because of the cool animations you can see (that sounds familiar). Generally, mashing buttons will make you win. It's so simple. Just make sure to hit RT when it tells you to, and the cat's in the bag. Once you master the art of button mashing, normal enemies will die in one combo because Prince finishes it off by stabbing the shadow in its heart(?). Even bosses seem to die to this sometimes, as if they're on a ledge and you do the combo, he will push them off. Onto bosses, they don't feel very great. All but one play just like normal enemies with a bit more health, and the one that's different you have to kill by pushing him into stuff (pits and pillars).
Next are seeds, the game's arbitrary collect-a-thon item. Seeds feel very uninspired. You heal the area, and then you have to find 45 seeds. Their locations are normally on the paths you take to get to another area, but a few are in hard-to-get locations that you get to by activating a power you get later in the game usually. As a guy that loves collecting items, I can't stand the way it's implemented in this game. You run over the same area you've covered countless other times, because you revisit some areas to get to new locations, and you explored it the first time when it was corrupted. With the way platforming is done in this game, collecting just isn't very fun. I just want to get the game over with, and I'm forced to search for seeds in the exact same locations I've already covered before.
Since I mentioned powers, I will cover that briefly. Don't get your hopes up that there's a lot of neat stuff to do in this game. There are only four powers, and they all have pretty much the same effect. You can only activate your powered on specially-colored circles, and then you'll either do an automated jump where you just look at it until you reach another place to jump or a place to land, or one of the powers lets you run on walls for a longer period of time, and you have to dodge obstacles in your way without stopping. So only one of the four powers actually adds anything to the gameplay. The others essentially act as keys to unlock the next area that let you see a cool jumping animation.
For people who have some knowledge on this game already you may have noticed I haven't talked about Elika's saving powers yet. That's because I actually like them, and as a human being, I'd much rather talk about what I hate rather than what I love. For those of you who don't know about her saving powers, each time Prince falls and dies like I have talked about, Elika uses her voodoo magic and saves you from your doom, and you're teleported to the last safe spot you landed on. I don't see the point in dying and starting at the beginning of the area again, because it'll just be the same monotonous task you have to do again. The point is, if you got there once, you can easily get there again, because there's nothing essentially hard about the platforming. You just might screw up. And battles aren't very hard anyway. It's just a timesaver and makes things a bit less repetitive. A bit.
Final score: 6/10
The saving grace of this game is it's so beautiful, but they had to hold themselves back so much to be able to keep that beauty. I'd recommend a rent just so you can see how beautiful it is, and you'll be entertained for a few hours, but in the end I'm not even going to complete this game. I'd rather much play something I actually make a difference in, rather than something that plays all on its own.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 01/29/09, Updated 12/23/09
Game Release: Prince of Persia (US, 12/02/08)
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