Review by WilcoRogers
Sands of Quicktime-Events
In what is to hopefully NOT be a new disturbing trend in gaming, PoP takes incredible visual flare and seemingly amazing gameplay and strips nearly all involvement the player might have in the game. One of the deciding factors here on whether or not you'll like the game is dependent on if you like the new concept of not being able to die; where in Sands of Time you used your abilities to save yourself from impending doom, this is more or less done for you automatically no matter what the situation, even in fights where it may be some little minion or a big boss battle. Any gamer has played their fair share of games where inconvenient checkpoints and overly hard challenges become frustrating, and while it IS an innovative concept in PoP to not let the player die, the problem is that it doesn't feel like anything is at stake; any challenge you can't overcome will be passable within minutes by just fiddling around with the simplified controls, which brings me to my next points -
The game is way too easy.
In fact, it's so easy it doesn't even feel like you're playing it. This is basically Dragon's Lair for a new era, a deceptive control scheme designed to fool the player into thinking they are actually maneuvering these treacherous chasms, but in reality it just boils down to "Hit A to wallrun, B to swing on a ring, Y to have Elika (your ethereal companion) boost your jump, etc," which as the game progresses becomes longer and faster paced, leading to an experience more rooted in rhythmic timing rather than the pathfinding aspect of the previous three games. To the games credit, as the Prince does all of the crazy acrobatic moves it does look breathtaking, but unfortunately timing doesn't play a vital part in the execution of all this, so after a single button tap you can literally just watch the screen for a few moments before having to press the next button in the sequence with a 2-3 second leeway time. Fighting isn't too different, as all you'll really need to do is string together button sequences at the right time and let the animations play out before you, with a few random quicktime events thrown into the quicktime event. Oh the irony.
The story is of the "been there, done that" variety involving a Princess named Elika who is out to stop her father who has plans to release an evil god Ahriman for undisclosed purposes. Along the way she meets a no-name Vagabond who only wishes he was the ultimate smart ass. Together, of course, they join forces in hopes to stop the growing evil her father has relentlessly unleashed.With all the hype surrounding the new title, there was all this hoopla about the new Prince and how original of an anti-hero he was going to be, but really all it boils down to is that this guy is yet another addition to a long line of poor-man's Han Solos. His one-liners are fairly embarrassing, and his role as a minor player in a bigger scheme beyond his control has been done so many times that any connection with him is near impossible. Elika, though, shines as the main focus of the story (the "Princess" of Persia), and like other reviews are stating you will end up caring for her moreso than the Prince.
With all the strikes against the game so far, there are a few highlights: Seed collecting can be a blast, even if it is a diversion. You'll explore different regions on a world map and have to cleanse them of their "corruption" (a weird black goo substance kind of like in the old Hanna Barbarra cartoon "Pirates of Dark Water") which is done by defeating the boss of the area, which will reveal new areas previously unexplorable due to the corruption. Once it dissipitates, light seeds will appear in which you can collect them to then unlock new abilities for Elika which allow you to access even more areas in regions and on the world map. Again, to collect all of these will be a feat for those with more than a lot of free time on their hands.
The production values in this game are unbelievable, and are definitely the best part of this game. Fluid cel-shaded animations with a surprisingly mature theme grace every single frame of this game, and the environments are no exception either, although they are all kind of reminiscent of each other. The score is equally wonderful, complimenting the mood the game establishes, and is able to propel the generic storyline just a little above it's limitations.
Although this game wasn't supposed to be a successor to the previous trilogy so much as it was to be a reboot of the franchise, it really didn't need to be dumbed down. For every step it takes forward, it tap dances backwards with enough zing to make you feel it isn't as bad as it seems. As far as the not-dying feature goes, I can always be proven wrong with such a concept, but in the future it will have to be implemented more soundly.
Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Product Release: Prince of Persia (US, 12/02/08)
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