I remember playing the very first Prince of Persia on some Macs during my elementary school days. It was a difficult game (games from the 80s and early 90s were waaay more difficult than the games today), but the character graphics is what made me keep coming back. Now fast forward 15 years later and the newest one is a complete different story. Arriving on December 2, 2008 it was a reboot of a reboot of a famous franchise. The game that really shined for the Prince of Persia name was The Sands of Time. It was considered one of the best games of that year, hell, probably one of the best of all time. But sadly I never got to play the game. Yeah, shocking news when 99% of gamers have probably played this game. So, to make it up for it, I finally got myself a Prince of Persia game.
I never knew why Ubisoft decided to reboot the franchise again, especially after 5 years is something really unnecessary when the franchise was doing well. Either way it doesn’t matter to me as long as this game was not a disappointment and I must say…it wasn’t. This game was entertaining in many ways and it was one of the most beautiful games I have ever played. Prince of Persia was completely different from the other past games, but the original idea still existed. A random wanderer finds a beautiful princess, helps her, and falls in love with her while saving the world. In this game, the wanderer stumbles upon Elika who is trying to save her world from evil. But her father falls into the dark side and tries to stop Elika and the wanderer. The wanderer and Elika must bring “light” back into different parts of the endangered world to prevent Ahriman (the main villain) from coming back to reality. There are some plot twists, but I’ll save it for you to find out…that is if you ever play the game.
Right off the bat, I have to say this about the gameplay…is a little too easy. You can never, NEVER, die in this game. Elika always saves you, when you do something stupid. The game saves you automatically, through Elika, no matter what you do. The developers never put dying as an option. That’s crazy! Never heard of a game where you can’t die. Even Mario dies man! Either way, I don’t know what the developers wanted to get out of a game without death, maybe it’s a lesson on life or something they don’t believe in, whatevers. Instead of dying, you just go back to the last checkpoint. This gets annoying as you are progressing throughout the game. Sometimes you have to go through a long sequence of jumps and at the last couple steps you falter and you have to do the whole damn thing again.
But that is not as bad as the combat part of the game. The combat is generally easy, but also frustrating. Combat is rare, probably makes up for 20% of the game, but still those fights do get annoying. At first I enjoyed it, but later in the game it just got frustrating. The fights drag on too long and like I said earlier, you can’t die. So instead the boss’ health just regenerates every time you mess up, resulting in a even longer battle. The combat features a lot of timed attacks, combats, and parrying to defeat your foe. There are some quick-time events either attacking and defending from your foe. Unless you perfect the combat, the combat can drag too long. Like I said earlier, you get bored eventually.
The absolute worst part of the game though, was the damn magic circles. Holy crap, I seriously wanted to quit the game at certain times because of these damn things. There are four magical circles to open up and once you do, you harness a different power…and all of those powers suck like hell. Two of the four are pretty much the same thing (I bet the developers didn’t know how to come up with a fourth one or something); it just dealt with timing “magical jumps”. The other two were flying and running on walls. These two are so frustrating, especially if you keep messing up, you have to do the same damn fucking thing over and over again. The level design for these last two powers are frustrating and stupid. They should of just got rid of it and kept the platforming at an even pace. The magic power just made the pace broken at times and just didn’t flow well. I was more interested in playing with grass than going through those damn magic sequences. I understand the developer was trying to keep the pace of the game at an interesting level, but this didn’t make things interesting, it made it worse.
Alright enough with the problems and now into the good stuff. The first thing Prince of Persia is known for is the platforming part of the game and it really shines throughout the game. I said the gameplay is easy, but the platforming balances out the difficulty. The platforming feels silky and smooth like milk chocolate. There is a rhythm to it like a dancing game. There is one problem, there is only a specific way to get to a certain area, up, down, left, or right. You can’t take a shortcut to get to you destination, which sometimes makes it tedious to get through the same areas you’ve passed before. Still, the platforming is amazing and no other game feels close to what you have to pull off to get to your destination. There are frustrating times during the platforming, but not as frustrating as the combat. Sometimes the controls makes your character to go in directions you don’t want to, but it’s not too bad as you get better at the game. There are subtle clues on what maneuver is going to occur when you move throughout the levels and prepares your course of action.
The game has a nice presentation. The animation and voice acting was superb and you get a real sense of the characters. The dialogue is great and gives gamers a sense of realism in the characters, good or bad. You felt if the world was a little bit more real, even though the world was pretty much lifeless. The animation done was great as well as the characters flow from wall to wall and swinging of the sword. The intricate little details of the Prince’s claws creating spark as he scrapes the walls to the small dust clouds and debris every time the Prince and Elika reach new grounds. Each movement looks and feels real in the game.
The biggest thing that caught my attention more than the gameplay was the artistic direction. It is un-freaking-believable. I never knew colors that vivid and the cell shaded graphics brought out the style even more. The world was so beautiful either when the darkness or light took over the world. The dark world was done over and over again in many video games, but in Prince of Persia, there was a different feel to it. In some areas, yes, there were very common themes in of a “dark world”, but in other parts, it was very different. It wasn’t just full of black and blue, but there was hues of green and red, sometimes even white. The colors is what pops out more than anything. It is even more apparent when Elika adds light and color to the darken world. “Wow”, that is what you would be saying, every time the world changed. Man, it’s amazing seriously. Also, the level design and the world itself is just something to behold. I was always in awe, especially when you “free” the world from darkness. Everything just shines and you can’t help just looking into the background more than playing the game. The levels were greatly designed (mostly) and the worlds were spectacularly imagined from the floating islands to towering ice castles. This is one of the few games that I was seriously more interested in the artistic design than the game itself.
The game can be finished around the 10-15 hour mark depending what difficulty you are playing at and also if you are an achievement whore. There are some downloadable content, but never got to getting it. The game was fun when it was strictly platforming, but the combat and “magic sequences” kinda killed the game for me. Still, I would assume most would have a better experience (in at least the combat mode) than I would. Again, I was more amused with the artistic direction and the story than the gameplay itself. I’m not saying it was bad, but it could have been better. Either way, the Prince still lives on and I await for another fantastic journey.