Full Review: ?and no, his name's not Aladdin
When you make a big mistake - it sucks. No matter what you did, be it locking the keys in the car, telling your girlfriend that it's not her choice of clothes that make her look fat, or forgetting to lock the bathroom door right after you got that new Victoria's Secret catalog -- you're bound to be smacking yourself for days afterward.
Well, no matter what your greatest wrong turn in life was, it couldn't have been nearly as bad as the one the Prince of Persia commits. You see, the prince and his father were roaming the desert one day when they came to the kingdom where Princess Farra lives. Being the nice guys that they are, the prince and his father pillage the town taking all of the treasures held within the city's walls. Princess Farra's father though, being the sly devil that he is, tricks the Prince to open one particular treasure that releases the Sands of Time, a mysterious force that changes everyone but the prince and Princess Farra victim to bloodthirsty sand monsters. In order to restore order to the world The Prince and Princess must work together in order to reverse the spell that The Sands of Time has put upon the world.
Thus, the tale leads you into the new game by Ubisoft for the Xbox known as Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, the first 3D entry for this once 2D platforming series. Though many other attempts at reviving old game series have failed, Prince of Persia is not one of them. In fact, it's the prime example of how to revive a series, as the game contains enough new elements to make it a great game in today's world while still retaining enough from the old games to please the hardcore followers.
The first thing that grips you in Prince of Persia is the its presentation. While the game's plot certainly isn't anything that hasn't been seen before, Ubisoft has dressed the plot up in enough style that it makes up for the slight lack of substance. For one thing, the prince and princess's relationship is an unsteady one, as the two pair up more out of necessity than by choice. This doesn't stop the two from intermingling however, and an interesting subplot does come about involving the two's relationship.
The other presentation factor that makes Prince of Persia more enjoyable is that the prince tells the story, meaning you get to hear his narration of the events that happen. Through hearing the Prince's moods and opinions, he becomes a far deeper character than your usual platformer star. Ubisoft has used this narration aspect in many more creative aspects as well, allowing the Prince to utter in-jokes occasionally, which wouldn't have found a place in the game otherwise, and has the Prince admit that he's "telling the story wrong" whenever you die in the game (meaning you have to go back and tell/play the last part of the story over again).
Adding even more depth to the Prince of Persia characters is their realistic look. The game itself is a few polygons short in comparison to others currently on the market, but the character models still look fantastically detailed. Same the can be said about the environments, which sport fantastic lighting that's reminiscent of Ico and other effects that make your eyes bug out.
The greatest thing about Prince of Persia's graphics is the animation. The prince has a huge list of moves that he can perform, including running on the walls, pole climbing, aerial flips, and a host of other movements that other characters in games have never had. Because of the bevy of new moves, Prince of Persia feels a lot more original and broader than many other games, as you use the new moves to fight with enemies, solve puzzles, and explore the rich environments. Best of all, every slight movement that the prince makes looks so fluent and realistic that you'll just want to kiss your TV screen.
The multitude of moves that the prince can perform opens the floodgates for everything else in the game. The puzzles, for one, are far more ingenious than your common platformer fare, since the he has to harness every move in his arsenal in order to accomplish some of them. Only near the end of the game do any of the puzzles become not practices of creative thinking, but instead controlling frustration.
Wading through the game's environments is also a very entertaining. Instead of having you collect hundreds and hundreds of worthless items, Prince of Persia's gameplay harkens back to the 2D days of yore, requiring you to use your noggin and your gaming prowess in order to get past the obstacles presented to you throughout the levels.
The powers harnessed from the sands of time make the gameplay even more interesting with abilities ranging from slowing down and reversing the course of time to healing your wounds. While time manipulation certainly isn't anything new to video games lately, it helps the game feel less frustrating without making it too easy since you're powers are limited.
The only part of the gameplay that really doesn't wow you is the fighting. Though the fighting is fine, and downright stylish given the vast array of attacks the prince can harness, you always know when you're going to fight (usually after a long bout of platforming exploration) and the combat never really gets any deeper as the game goes on. Still, the fighting is entertaining, and it does the job, so it's not too bad of a scratch on Prince of Persia's otherwise flawless paint job.
Finally there is the game's audio, which is awesome. The scores feel epic and fitting, and the Middle Eastern influence really sets the desert like mood. The sound effects are also crisp, and sound realistic. The voice acting for the characters in the game sounds very natural, although on occasion they will utter a line that sounds a little stilted.
Prince of Persia is what platforming titles have been trying to do for years, but repeatedly failing at. It harkens back to the days of 2D platformers when it was all about getting through the levels alive, as opposed to wandering aimlessly looking for items you needed to collect. Prince of Persia makes no effort to fuse itself with other genres in the way that other platforming titles have done, instead working to perfect the very things that make action platformers so enjoyable. Bravo, Ubi Soft. Bravo.