Review by andao

"Very, very good."

Prince of Persia is a very special game that really makes me stop and appreciate video games as an art form comparable to film and literature. As a disclaimer, I really enjoyed the first three games and how different they were from each other, which is exactly the reason why most people DIDN'T like them. From Sands of Time (puzzley) to Warrior Within (gorey) to Two Thrones (combo-y?), I would designate the new Prince of Persia as "artsy" first and foremost. While this style will certainly not appeal to some, the game is much less a button masher, frenzied fighter than an entertainment experience. I guess one comparison I would make would be to the Dreamcast gem "Rez," but this one is definitely more mainstream and has substantially more "game" to it. Let's try to break it up into categories for rating ease:

Graphics: 9/10. As I mentioned above, "artsy" is the first word that comes to mind. The environments are beautiful and photo-realistic. Old cities, ship construction yards, and abandoned towers can be seen from a great distance as you approach. They all carry a pseudo-Middle Eastern theme, but they are diverse enough to provide eye candy for the entire game. When you arrive to each new zone, everything is black, brown, and grey, covered in "Corruption." Once you purify the area with your essential companion, Elika, the dungeons dissolve into meadows and waterfalls, complete with butterflies and dandelions floating in the air. It's really something to see, and I often found myself rushing through to purify each zone, then spending a long time trying to explore every nook and cranny in the more appealing environment.

The characters themselves are what makes it especially "artsy" I think. They are cel-shaded, making them appear a little cartoony, but not enough that you wouldn't take the story seriously. It just adds to the surreal atmosphere of the game. Combat with these characters is also beautifully done, both in terms of animation and flashy special effects. I guess I keep thinking about the blacks and reds of "Warrior Within" and how this game represents pretty much the opposite of that color scheme

Sound: 9/10: One of the only games where I really noticed the soundtrack. Beautifully orchestrated pieces change from rather dismal when you enter a corrupted zone to warm and mystical once you purify it. The dialogue between Prince and Elika, while not extensive, is both funny and gives you an insight into this world Ubisoft has created. If you'd prefer not to hear any of this, you can just decide against talking to Elika and play on.

Gameplay: 7/10: The gameplay is not perfect, but the things that most people rag on are actually some of my favorite features. First of all, this is not a combat focused game. Jumping puzzles form the majority of the game, and leaping from wall to wall might be a little boring to people looking to chop enemies to shreds. The most distinct gameplay feature, however, is the fact that you can not die. No matter how much punishment you take from a boss or how high you fall from a cliff, Elika will rescue you and return you to the last safe location. It isn't quite that simple, and after a long series of jumps it gets frustrating to have to start the whole mess again. Likewise, enemies regain a lot of health if Elika has to save you, so there is incentive not to die. Many other reviewers think this ruins the game, but honestly its one of my favorite features. You'll be hard pressed to find another game that works like this, and it encourages you to experiment more in your jumps and attacks. As part of the story, it also demonstrates the Prince's dependence on Elika (does she really even need him?) and helps tie the plot together.

Combat, when you're alive, is not very special. It would have been cool to learn new combos or something, but you pretty much learn one combo and use it on every enemy and boss the whole game. Combat is beautiful looking though, so I guess you at least have that.

In general, it kind of feels like Sonic the Hedgehog at times, which I also liked so that works for me. Improved combat would have been nice, but the jumping puzzles were entertaining enough for me to finish it.

Story: 9/10. The story is very simple, but in a good way. You are thrust into this world that you know has history and culture, but the game never goes into extensive detail. Elika gives you some history tidbits if you ask her, but that's about it. It's good guys versus an evil god against insurmountable odds. Sounds familiar? The reason I think its so good is because it sets the stage for many sequels that will certainly come, and creates an atmosphere that is both plausible (as far as fantasy stories go) and simple enough for anyone to understand. The inevitable love story is very subtle and never becomes sappy or boring. Major kudos to Ubisoft for not caving and making it more traditional in that respect.

So far, I would have given it a 7, but the way the ending is set up makes me give it a 9. Some may hate it, but I did not. I pride myself in predicting the end to movies, video games, and the like, but this one I could not guess correctly. Not going to spoil anything for you, but it's worth playing through to see it.

Replay value: 5/10. Very average replay value. I will replay it because I love the environments and the gameplay, but there is very little reason to play through a second time. No two player, online mode, or anything of that nature.

Overall rating: 9/10. Prince of Persia was a fantastic, beautifully designed game. I appreciate it mostly for its production value, sound, graphics, and simple, yet compelling story. It has significant gameplay flaws and issues with replay value, but I think its just long enough for what it was aiming to do. It is an easy game, no doubt, but it's also a ton of fun. I would recommend without hesitation as a rental, but probably not a buy). You need to play this game! It's definitely worth your time and effort, and you have to be prepared for what will surely be a stellar sequel.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 01/09/09

Game Release: Prince of Persia (US, 12/02/08)

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