Review by horror_spooky
"The Prince could totally kick Altair's ass"
Prince of Persia has been a game series that has certainly pertained throughout the years. Back in the third generation, Prince of Persia wowed gamers with its unique side-scrolling gameplay. Three generations later, the series was revitalized by Ubisoft with a new time control mechanic that wowed gamers once again, and brought the dormant series back from its grave for an epic trilogy and a slew of spin-offs. The unique acrobatic gameplay has inspired other games, like Ubisoft's own Assassin's Creed, making the Prince of Persia series easily one of the most important video game series of all time. With the series debut on seventh generation consoles, some things have changed, but deep down, it's still some of that classic Prince of Persia gameplay we all know and love, and now there's a new hero to get behind.
The new hero, simply known as the Prince, does not have the Sands of Time at his disposal. Instead, he carries around a large sword and has a gauntlet that he can use to climb farther up walls and to slide down walls in a pretty awesome fashion. All of the insane Prince of Persia acrobatics are still intact though, so don't worry. You will still be running along walls and leaping across gaps, but any fan of the series knows that this means you will probably be falling a lot.
In the previous games, whenever you would fall or get mauled by a deathtrap, you could simply rewind time. This system was used as opposed to using too many checkpoints to make the game less frustrating and simply to add an interesting mechanic. Well, our new Prince doesn't have this luxury. Instead, your new friend Elika will grab your wrist before you plummet to your death or before you are killed by a trap, and she will throw you to the nearest segment of flat land. It's sort of like a checkpoint system in a way, but in reality it fixes a few of the older games' problems. For example, rewinding time was great, but you had to rewind all the way back to the last piece of flat land you were on for the most part anyway, but sometimes you would run out of sand in the middle of a wall run, causing a cheap and annoying death. Does this mechanic make the game too easy? Not at all. There are still challenging platforming segments as well as nice battles that will definitely challenge players.
Speaking of traps, there is one place where the older Prince of Persia games surpass this newest game. The newer version of environmental traps is just black blobs that the Prince can get sucked into. As you could imagine, they are far less exciting than getting cut up by a saw or getting cut in half by a giant guillotine. These blobs move on the walls, but there are different types. There are areas where there is just a pool of blackness that if you fall into it, you will die, but there are also special kinds of blobs with tentacles that will grab the Prince, smash him into the wall, and let him fall. There were some problems I experienced here, with the hit detection a little wonky. Sometimes I would be sucked into a blob when I clearly did not touch it and other times I wouldn't be sucked into a blob even though I was literally standing right in the middle of it. Game breaking? Absolutely not, but it does make you notice that perhaps the developers didn't spend as much time on the game that was needed to make it perfect.
While running up walls and performing death defying leaps is pretty damn cool, doing only these things throughout the whole adventure would become rather tiresome. There are special pads that you can touch to activate special powers to make sure you aren't doing the exact same things throughout the whole game. Generally, these pads perform the same function of simply sending you to another area by shooting you off, but two of the pads provide a sort of different experience.
The yellow pad, for instance, allows you to fly. You are on a set flight path, but you have to move the Prince around to dodge obstacles. This would be all fine and good if there wasn't an annoyingly bright and distracting aura surrounding you, effectively blocking some of your vision and doing a number on your eyes in the process. I haven't experienced a design decision this stupid since they moved the camera in front of your face during the speedy moments of Sonic the Hedgehog. On top of that, there were even times where I would smack right into an invisible wall. Sorry, but invisible walls during segments like these don't belong in games unless I'm playing the game on a PlayStation. Then there's the green pad, which allows gives you the ability to run up walls at a decently fast speed, all the while dodging obstacles that will knock you off. Is it all that original? Well, no, but it's still fun and easily the best ability the new Prince has at his disposal.
Before I dig into the combat and the exploration aspects of Prince of Persia, I must address some control issues. Just like in the previous games, there will be frustrating moments when you try to jump one way, but the Prince jumps an entirely different direction. Sometimes you will try to run along a wall, but don't move, and then you start to move right when the trap comes up to take your life. These problems are unfortunate, but I have a feeling that they are a little unavoidable in a game like this.
Instead of going around killing a bunch of enemies like you did in the older games, in a vein more similar to God of War or Devil May Cry, the battles are now more personal. Every enemy has a health bar at the bottom of the screen, and by using a unique mix of combos and blocks you'll have some pretty epic battles. The game does seem to hold your hand a little bit in the game by telling you explicitly when to block and such, but you'll soon be blocking moves without the game carrying you along. Each face button serves a purpose in the combat. X allows you to strike your opponents with your sword, which can lead to more moves that must be timed just right, while the A button can be used to avoid attacks or perform acrobatic moves that can be linked along with more face buttons for a more varied combo. The Y button allows Elika to get into the mix by attacking using her magic abilities, and by tapping the B button, you use your gauntlet to charge your enemy, grab them, and then throw them in the air.
You can't just spam moves, however. Enemies, who become increasingly smarter throughout the game, will dodge and block your moves plenty of times. You have to fight smart, and you have to figure out which combos will work best against your foe. The combat system is unique and really builds upon the concept introduced by Assassin's Creed. Occasionally, your enemies will have an aura surrounding them, indicating that you have to use a certain move against them in order to perform any combos.
Quick-time events, created by Resident Evil 4 and popularized further by God of War, also make an appearance in Prince of Persia and figure heavily into the combat, especially later in the game. The QTEs save your life right before the enemy is about to cool you (assuming the enemy has hit you enough times) so that Elika doesn't have to save you, which would in turn give your enemy some health back. The QTEs are also used during some situations when your enemy attacks and the game gives you an opportunity to counter. They sort of overwhelm the game at some points, but the QTEs are interesting and fun and at the very least, tolerable.
Like I said, battles are isolated cases, not instances where you are running around fighting hordes of enemies like you would in the older games. Boss fights are like this, too, and there are four bosses that you will face plenty of times in the game. Each of their battles is different than the last in some sort of way, and they are quite entertaining. While I would have enjoyed facing a wider variety of bosses, the game does manage to get you to almost care about the bosses as if they were one of the protagonists. It's truly that powerful.
What's the point of fighting these bosses, though? By defeating the bosses, you can heal the land by walking over to a blue pillar of light and mashing on the Y button. When you heal a land, that area is free of the darkness (the corruption as the game calls it) and you can also fast travel to that area whenever you wish, as long as you are traveling from another healed area.
Now you must think I'm crazy. Why on earth would you need to fast travel in a Prince of Persia game? Well, this PoP is much less linear than the previous entries, in that you choose which order you complete the game in, and the difficulty changes according to the order you play the game. At the beginning, this can cause a problem because you will have to go through a lot of the same areas, creating a very repetitive feel that made me have flashbacks to Assassin's Creed, but after a while, you will have enough of the game world opened that repetitiveness instantly washes away.
The nonlinearity is chosen by the powers that you have to use. You are given a choice of which out of the four powers you want and these open the areas to the levels that previously were unavailable. However, you can only choose a power once you have collected enough light seeds. Early on in the game, collecting these light seeds can be quite the hassle and it will feel like a sorry excuse to prolong the game, but once the game progresses, the light seeds seem to come much easier, meaning that the game doesn't just take the easy road the entire game to feign longevity.
Prince of Persia's tale ends up being top heavy, meaning it starts out weak and gets really damn good at the end, right where it's cut off. The first about 75% of the game is a pretty lame mess, with the Prince just deciding to help this Elika girl and risk his neck for her for no apparent reason other than she's hot. There are some minor references to the older games (such as the new Prince's donkey being named Farah), but there are no real connections between this title and the older series. Is that necessarily a bad thing? Not at all. The new Prince is a lot more of a likeable character, and you'll actually feel for his endeavors by the end of the game, with some pretty powerful moments that lead up to one hell of a conclusion. Overall, I feel the storyline is a giant improvement over the previous games', and those who haven't played a Prince of Persia game before will be happy to know that they can hop right into this adventure without having to try to follow a bunch of confusing time traveling nonsense.
If you are a fan of the PlayStation 2/Wii masterpiece Okami, then you will probably enjoy Prince of Persia's cartoonish art style. This adventure is cel-shaded, but the horse power of the Xbox 360 allows the cel-shading to look so great that the lines between game and concept art are really blurred. You can see clear to the other side of the game world without any of that annoying pop-up that plagues games like Grand Theft Auto IV, and it looks absolutely stunning. The small little details really let this game shine, though some technical problems like glitches and the fact that a lot of the world looks a little bit too similar to prevent it from being the best looking game this generation. Character models look great and the lighting effects are just as awesome as they were in Ubisoft's other big game this generation, Assassin's Creed.
Awkward dialogue that plagued the conversations between our old Prince and his various women is thankfully not present here. While the voice acting isn't nearly as good as it probably should be, it gets the job done and the dialogue is actually sort of humorous this time around. There were moments when I felt a little Resident Evilish, but it's not corny to the point that you would rather turn the sound off. The musical score is epic in its presentation and gets you pumped at just the right moments and goes soft at the more intimate moments of the game, really getting you involved in the story in a way that most musical scores absolutely fail to do in video games.
You will be treated to anywhere of four to eight hours of gameplay with Prince of Persia, depending on how fast you collect those light seeds and how skilled you are at the battles. Since most of the battles can be avoided entirely, the length of the game is sort of dependent on how the gamer plays the game. You can unlock different skins to play through the game with, including nods at other Ubisoft franchises, but one of the more popular skins, the one of Altair, is only available by going on Xbox Live, which was just silly for a game focused around the single player adventure. Just like any 360 games, Prince of Persia has achievements, and while you can collect nearly all of them with your first play-through, there are others that are pretty damn hard to achieve, so if you're a gamer who loves a daunting challenge, then Prince of Persia is the game you should definitely get.
This reboot of a classic gaming series does plenty of things right. The graphics are astounding, the gameplay is pretty damn entertaining, and the story is awesome. The voice acting could have been worked on and even though the story was awesome, it didn't get that way until later in the game, so it would have been nice for the story to be just as engrossing in the beginning. Some technical flaws need attending to and the repetitiveness that plagued the game's opening hours should definitely be done away with. Prince of Persia should appeal to all gamers, especially those who are fans of this tried-and-true series.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 01/21/09
Game Release: Prince of Persia (US, 12/02/08)
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