Prince of Persia: Sands of Time

'O my lord, far be it, alas! that what is past should again come to pass and that I company with thee at other time than this time!

I'm not exactly sure how to go about reviewing Prince of Persia (Xbox version) since most every site o­n the planet has already proclaimed it the best thing since sliced bread and a huge contender for game of the year. They're mostly right too, Prince of Persia is an amazing game with a level of control unrivaled in the 3rd person action genre. The story is compelling, the graphics are excellent and the music is good enough to want o­n a separate CD. So in many ways this review is a gimmie because the game really is that good and every part of it is creative, fun and well crafted.

There are a few small issues which need to be discussed however so let's get to it! Rather then get too long winded (or Elysiumed) we'll break it down into sections and try to keep it brief.Gameplay

The moment you take control of the Prince you'll understand that this game is going to be something special. He responds to the controls almost perfectly and makes you feel like a pro as you navigate the first tutorial level. Wall running, jumping and rolling are all easy to execute while looking complex enough to shock and amaze anyone who happens to be watching you play. That's really o­ne of the main appeals to playing the game, you can perform moves that shouldn't be as effortless to pull off as they are. It really never gets old.

As the story moves along (which is excellent but I won't spoil anything) you'll get the ability to rewind time so long as you've got enough sand stocked up to use it. Truly, you'll rarely find yourself low o­n sand as killing your enemies replenishes it and there are sand charge points you can find as you play. Rewinding time is a great feature which becomes a crutch later in the game, making it almost too easy in some instances. It's a life saver for some of the jumping puzzles of course but you can also rewind if an enemy hits you during combat. This brings us to my first issue.

Even without the ability to rewind the game and block an o­ncoming attack the combat is really much too easy. The controls are so good and the Prince is so fast and acrobatic it's easy to manage your enemies and take them out. You simply press the direction you want to attack, swing your sword and off you go. Occasionally you need to block but for the most part if you keep moving and jumping over your enemies heads and slashing them in the back (which looks great) you won't find much of a challenge to be had. O­nce an enemy is down you simply need to drain them of their sand (ala Soul Reaver's reaping of souls) and they're gone for good. Of course, if you're too busy fighting to finish them off they get back up and keep coming at you. The combat being easy doesn't mean it's not fun mind you, it's a nice break between puzzles and dodging spikes and like everything else in the game it looks great in motion. I just wish it provided a bit more of a challenge, maybe speeding up the enemies a bit would help since they tend to be pretty slow.

Speaking of puzzles, it says something that even the jumping puzzles are a joy. Again, the controls and the animations are so tight you could have the prince baking bread and I'm sure it would still be a good time. The expected assortment of spikes, saws, drop-offs and bottomless pits are there and although you can rewind when you mess up they still provide more of a challenge than the combat. Most of the puzzles themselves involve finding ways to get to certain buttons and levers and sometimes running a gamut of traps before a door closes.

The game moves along at a brisk pace thanks to the frequent save points you'll encounter as you push through the levels. It seems about every five to eight minutes you'll hit a save so if you die and you can't rewind time you'll rarely have far to go to get back to where you left off. This is great because it saves frustration. The save points are not o­nly to save the game mind you, every time you enter o­ne you get brief flashes of what's to come later in the level. You see yourself performing certain actions which are often key to progressing. It's an excellent way to give the player hints without spoiling things too much.

Graphics and Sounds

The graphics are a  dash of Ico's soft, painting-like presentation with a bit of Splinter Cell's lighting and a style that is unique to the game. The textures are pretty good for a console and there really aren't too many jaggies to distract you or pull you out of the world. There are some areas which can be fairly bland with just layers up layers of sandy beige but considering the desert setting that's to be expected. As previously mentioned the music is delightful and it brings to mind some of the stuff you'd hear listening to a group like Dead Can Dance. As far as sounds go I have no complaints, swords sound like swords, the pitter patter of feet sound much like my own when I'm running along walls and the undead scream just like the undead do when I kill them in my back yard. Nice research guys!

The game is presented as the Prince telling you a story as narrator and the voice actor should be commended for handing in an excellent performance. The same can be said for the female lead and the rest of the people in the game, it's always refreshing to hear some real voice talent.

The Show Stopper

I encountered a bug which hopefully isn't too prevalent but I feel you should be made aware of it. At o­ne point in the game the lovely lady who is supposed to pull a lever simply doesn't and you can't do it yourself and there is no way to move forward in the level without it. If someone was o­nly using o­ne save slot, made it 75% through the game and encountered this bug I imagine they would be pissed. Thankfully I made a new save every time I was prompted so I just had to load back o­nce, do a good 10 minutes worth of a puzzle solving again and carry o­n. I haven't seen any other reports of that particular bug but it's worth noting.

  

Final Thoughts

Prince of Persia is excellent and well worth owning if you enjoy maintaining a library of top shelf games. The final hour count upon finishing the game was ten hours for me so if you don't like paying full price for a short (albeit fantastic) game then a rent may be a better choice for you. The inclusion of the original Prince of Persia o­n the GC and PS2 versions of the game and the Xbox's additional POP 2 port may be enough to push you into the "buy" category but that's up to you. They were great games for their time and this newest incarnation is the best yet.

- Certis

Comments

I bought this last night and am just getting through the tutorial level tonight. It's still early, but the game is great.

This one is definately on my short list of games to get.

Yeah, this one is in my GameFly queue. It sounds excellent, I'm glad the series got a decent treatment after the first 3D version was so bad.

Excellent game. Have yet to finish it, but I am about half way through. Isn't it also coming out for PC? The game looks amazing on Xbox, but even the better Xbox games always look better when ported to PC. LOTR: ROTK for example. No comparison.

Sorry about posting ANOTHER review in the forums. I'm just been so scattered lately, I didn't see yours on the front.

Now I thought that the animation was passable, but not spectacular. You can tell it's hand keyframed, and I guess I am used to mocap based animation. Granted, I am only in the tutorial level so far, so I can't make a super well informed opinion. I thought the animation in the opening cinema was horrid. Too floaty. Not enough gravity and follow-through....

-Seph