Review by Wiggis
"Old-school meets new-school meets... Shadow of the Colossus?"
When people think of Prince of Persia, their thoughts will go one of two directions. Either they think of the 1989 PC title that was heavily puzzle-based, or they think of Sands of Time, the platform-heavy, award-winning game released for the GameCube/Playstation 2/X-Box. Both were undeniably great, but they each had different fans. In the first Prince of Persia on the system generation following Sands of Time, Ubisoft attempted to combine both flavors. When they did, they picked up odd influences along the way...
STORY: 5 / 10
Opening scene: your nameless protagonist (the game refers to him only as Prince) is searching for a donkey he overloaded with gold and treasure. Instead, he comes across a princess named Elika fleeing from would-be captors. Against her wishes, he defends her from them, which gets him caught in a series of events that lead to Elika's father unleashing a massive Corruption upon the land in an attempt to free a dark deity from imprisonment.
The story is very good overall, keeping the focus on the here-and-now and leaving the backstories to be told when and if the player decides to hear them. Unfortunately, it all falls apart at the ending. I won't reveal anything, I'll simply say no story in any video game should end like this. There is downloadable content that picks up from that point, but at the time I wrote this I have not yet played it. Whether or not it's good, it's still bonus content, meaning most of the people playing the game will go on only knowing this end.
GRAPHICS: 8 / 10
Everything in the game is beautiful, brilliantly using cel-shading that looks like a living water color painting. Landscapes are vast and detailed, movement is fluid and the differences between Corrupted and non-Corrupted areas are impressive, especially later in the game. There's also a very noteworthy use of black and white graphics when you're about to die.
But for all that praise, I must point out that they suffer from unoriginality. They borrow a lot from ICO and Shadow of the Colossus. The random enemy encounters are almost completely taken from ICO; they rise from a pillar of smoke billowing from the ground and share similar near-featureless profiles. Certain areas of PoP have architecture that highly resembles that which can be found in SotC. The rest are little things scattered throughout the game, like character features, etc. It's too bad, because every Prince of Persia prior to this copied nobody, or at least didn't make it this obvious.
SOUND: 9 / 10
The music serves it's purpose. None of it is truly bad, but none of it is memorable, either. The sound effects are more or less the same. Luckily, being on X-Box, you're allowed to play your own music, warranting the high score.
The voice acting is very well done, which is good if you want to hear the backstories.
CONTROL: 8 / 10
All things considered, navigating the Prince works out very well. On the field, maneuverability is delegated to the left thumbstick and jumping/wall running, grabbing rings and enlisting Elika's help are mapped to the A, B & Y buttons respectively. Pressing RT while on a wall will make the Prince slide straight down, though you can guide him left or right with the thumbstick. They work well enough to the point that simply running around the land is more fun than it should be, but I lost count of how many instances where cheap deaths occurred due to the Prince not listening to the controller. But make no mistake; the good greatly outweighs the bad.
The fighting, however, is a donkey of an entirely differently color. All four face buttons attack in some way (mimicking the field controls) and the RT blocks/deflects enemy attacks. Lastly, the LT starts a conversation between the Prince and Elika (or the enemy he's fighting).
Oddly, the bumpers perform the same exact functions as the triggers.
GAMEPLAY: 7 / 10
Because of how well the controls work and the near-flawless construction of it's environments, simply running around is too much fun. The Prince makes the impossible look as natural as walking as he runs from wall to wall and scuttles across ceilings, oftentimes without a hint of a floor below. With Elika, the Prince can normally increase his jumps and extend his attacks, but later can unlock the ability to run circumnavigable stages, bound great distances and fly when standing on special plates. These lead to top-notch platforming movements as you perfectly time these skills to avoid Corruption.
After defying gravity for a little while, you square off against one of 4 bosses, depending on the area you're currently traversing. Each area has 6 landmarks Elika needs to purify, meaning you fight each of the bosses 6 times. It makes sense storyline-wise, but they could've given us minibosses. They could have programmed loyal followers to the bosses from their past lives or something.
Regular enemy fights are an odd one. They can be dispatched one of two ways: either by stabbing the ICO-like entrance smoke or slicing it to death in a duel. Stabbing the smoke ends the fight right away, but can only be done in a limited time span. Once that window of opportunity has closed, you'll be forced to duel. Here, you can't just slash away by pressing the kill button. You have to time your attacks, counter all you can and always be prepared for a quick time event that could turn the tables.
In a throwback to the old school game, confrontations are treated like puzzles. There's no way you could ever hope to complete the game wildly swinging your sword. Planning and quick reflexes are essential. The only problem here is that there are times when the computer will try to cheat by miraculously countering you, even while you're in the middle of a devastating combo. This doesn't make fights impossible, merely needlessly frustrating at times. Luckily, most fights (even bosses) can be ended quickly by simply pushing your foe off a ledge. Plus, combo timing is infinitely forgiving.
Beating the game shouldn't take the average gamer too long. I got the Speed Demon Achievement (beat the game in under 12 hours) without a problem. Unfortunately, there isn't too much to do upon the game's completion. The two most noteworthy after-game unlockables are concept art (which are very good) and character skins for the two main characters. There's also the downloadable epilogue, but that costs real world money. At least the final boss is a really unique fight and the journey to him is fun.
OVERALL: 7 / 10
Despite it's lack of originality, Prince ICO of the Persialossus, I mean, Prince of Persia is a very good first attempt at the 360/PS3 generation, but many aspects keep it grounded in the previous generation. If not for the way the game ends, this would be one of the best platformers that ever graced the X-Box 360.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 07/07/11, Updated 11/22/11
Game Release: Prince of Persia (US, 12/02/08)
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