Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands

The guys at Ubisoft have had a bit of a hard time since the Prince of Persia arrived on PS3. For many, the first game on PS3 was extremely enjoyable; a beautiful, flowing experience that will forever be one of the most memorable games on PS3. However, many disagreed, disliking the relatively low difficulty and the new artistic style. Sadly the developers are the victims of their own success. The Sands of Time was such an enjoyable game on PS2 that fans will forever push back towards that golden formula. Combined with the recent release of the Jake Gylenhall film, the pressure to produce The Sands of Time 2 must have been immense. Though the game provides an alternative take, more than a re-make, the similarities to the PS2 game, and the facial resemblance of the main character, are unmistakable. Not necessarily a bad thing, this does still mean that the free, colourful beauty of the previous Prince of Persia is dropped in favour of a more gritty environment and story.

Prince of Persia

With the beautiful Persian palace under invasion, the king turns in desperation to forgotten powers, held within mystical sands, and unleashes King Soloman's army. As you would obviously not expect, this turns out to be a mistake. The army devastates all in its path, regardless of their political orientation or dietary requirements. Grabbing an amulet or two and sealing the army back in place seems like a pretty decent idea, but unexpectedly, power corrupts, that's just how original the whole thing is. Before long, you're pretty much on your own, leaping from wall to wall, desperately trying to seal the dark powers away. Thankfully, the one thing you have going for you is a scantily clad lady with a whole bunch of powers that she can gradually unveil to you (really), allowing you to manipulate time, clad yourself in rock armour, freeze water, set enemies alight, that sort of stuff. Typical sandpower stuff.

With epic motivations in place, there are fights to pick, and admittedly the core combat is an improvement over the previous game. There's equal emphasis on combos, but the prince himself is more agile and versatile, perhaps since the combat relies only on him. The presence of Elica in fights in the previous game was actually very cool though, and made for a better spectacle. However, the combat in the current game will provide more variety and challenge for those keen on a meatier system. Switching powers on and off during battle also becomes second nature, adding an additional tactical layer. The only downside is that it's tempting to save up all your special powers (limited to a certain number of usages, and recharged with pickups of course) for the key moments where you simply encase yourself in stone and batter the poop out of the biggest enemy in sight. Speaking of large enemies, there are some impressive creatures, especially the large troll and minotaur-like badstuffs, but there's nothing on the scale of a God of War game. You won't find yourself crawling up the arm of a massive Titan here, but I guess the developers would only have been accused of copying if you did, so I guess there was no way to win that one.

Prince of Persia

As with any decent Prince of Persia game though, it's not all about the combat. There's equal emphasis on exploration, with acrobatic skill coming to the fore. Scrambling up walls, balancing on beams, swinging around poles and scooting along the side of walls are all techniques that make a welcome appearance in the game, maintaining the satisfying feeling of motion control, even if it's not quite as smooth as the free running in the previous Prince of Persia. It's rare that you'll stop to plot your course though, with most routes easy to spot, and others spelt out via cutscenes, but there are occasional puzzles that will at least slow you down for a moment. Usually, puzzles involve mechanical devices in the palace that can be manipulated to open new paths, and they work well to provide a change of pace, despite there being nothing taxing.

Tackling puzzles, movement and combat is made easier because of a decent control setup, with no fiddly combinations to attempt. The overall difficulty of the game can be increased over that of the first Persia game on PS3, but only if you choose to select a harder difficulty. You're pretty much encouraged not to though, since one of the trophies is actually given for turning the difficulty down part way through the game, which pretty much defeats the point. It's worth ticking along at normal or higher though, otherwise every enemy and even the bosses will be very simple. That said, with further trophies for winning particular boss battles without taking damage, it's sometimes beneficial to experiment with that lower difficulty setting.

Prince of Persia

Many will prefer the return to a more traditional visual style, but the game actually feels like a step back graphically, perhaps as a result of some haste to coincide with the release of the film. In Prince of Persia, every area was absolutely stunning, especially after returning each part to its natural glory, making the game a genuine visual delight. The Forgotten Sands, by comparison, appears generally brown, with weaker character models and less imaginative flare. It's as though the developers have been forced to play safe, to avoid offending anyone, but the result is something a little bit too generic. The soundtrack is less bland though, with some memorable elements to the score, while the voicework is decent enough, despite lacking the casual banter between the Prince and Elica in the previous game.

The Forgotten Sands is a game that does nothing badly, but also nothing exceptionally well. Perhaps hampered by fan backlash and film tie-ins, the end product is an enjoyable but slightly limited experience. The Prince of Persia games should form a series where the developers are allowed to explore the creative possibilities, to do something new and interesting. The Sands of Time is remembered as fondly as it is because its blend of story elements, playful banter and flowing gameplay was relatively unique at the time, and not simply the product of popular generic components. If the Prince returns on PS3, it would be nice to see a fresh take on the genre. Meanwhile, for fans of the series, The Forgotten Sands is a solid action game with enjoyable gameplay that'll keep gamers happy for ten hours or so, but it could have been far more.

Game details

Game logo

Publisher:

Ubisoft

Developer:

Ubisoft Montreal

Players:

1

Online:

None

Release:

2010-05-20

Trophies:

41

Review summary

Gameplay:

A decent blend of exploration, puzzling and combat

Graphics:

Sharp and colourful but not as pretty as PS3's first POP

Sound:

Atmospheric music as always in the POP series

Lastability:

A short game but with a few collectibles and side missions

8.6

Supernova

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