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Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Platform(s): Game Boy Advance, GameCube, Movie, PC, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Xbox
Genre: Action
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Release Date: Nov. 30, 2003 (US), Dec. 5, 2003 (EU)


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PC Review - 'Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time'

by ToAstA on Jan. 18, 2004 @ 12:50 a.m. PST

A rogue prince reluctantly joins forces with a mysterious princess and together, they race against dark forces to safeguard an ancient dagger capable of releasing the Sands of Time, which can reverse time and allow its possessor to rule the world.
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Once again Ubisoft cranks out another quality title into the gaming market. The classic Prince of Persia series is revived yet again and, in my opinion, the Sands of Time is by far the best Prince of Persia game. The Sands of Time pulls off smart puzzles, extremely intense combat and a pretty sweet story to boot.

Stepping into the sandy boots of a prince you are immediately thrown into the action of the game through a series of tutorials. This entire process is pulled off excellently and feels very natural as your learn the basic game play mechanics. You'll also be introduced to how the story is told for the game during the opening sections of the game. The Prince himself narrates the tale as you plow your way through puzzles and the many enemies you face. Many times you'll complete a challenging puzzle or enter a new room causing the Prince to speak a little commentary on the situation around him. These never sound like they are spoken to force you to get into the character's mindset, instead they help immerse you into believing that the Prince is there telling you the story in person.

Since the entire story is told in past tense one can only assume the Prince obviously made it through alive and well. It also drives you to play non-stop to find out what happens next in the tale. I really like the premise of this style of storytelling and it works very well in Prince of Persia. The story tells a tale of a dagger that holds the key to controlling the Sands of Time, a dagger that you steal as your father's army raids the maharaja's kingdom. The Sands of Time are released, and in turn, cast a dark cloud of evil over the land and an evil that is dead set on the destruction of the Prince himself. I can't say anymore in fear of ruining the story and how it's told throughout the game.

The game's controls are configured for the keyboard and mouse, but I used my Sidewinder instead as I felt it'd be easier to play with a controller. Controls are tight and responsive and feel exactly like they should. You'll be wall running, jumping from pole to pole and swinging around rooms in no time. Combat in Prince of Persia is based around a lot of jumping and slashing. Battle animations are smooth as silk are can be linked together to produce impressive-looking chain-linked combos. Having the ability to jump between multiple enemies with a quick press of a directional arrow and the attack button makes for some fast paced combat. Couple that with wall jumping and the ability to vault over an enemy and strike him down as you fall back to earth.

The dagger also gains new powers over time. Achieving new powers is as simple as finishing off the corrupted soldiers of the Sultan's army. Enemies will keep getting back up unless you plunge the dagger into them and retrieve their sand. Do this sixteen times and your dagger receives a new power. Basically, you can freeze an enemy by sticking the dagger into him/her, causing the enemy to float in the air and await your final strike that reduces them to a cloud of dust. As good as the combat system is, it's also somewhat repetitive after a short time through the game. There aren't many moves at your disposal nor can you learn anything new. Once you find the proper method to killing your enemies there's no need to attack them any other way. Most people will probably prefer a simpler combat system without too many combos or evasion moves, but I still wish the game had a few more attacks.

The puzzles of the game are pretty straight ahead. Involving a lot of box pulling, switch throwing and moving trap dodging. It all seems to fit with the theme of the game, thus, not feeling out of place as it does in a lot of other games. The amount of maze-like puzzles is limited and instead you'll have a lot of puzzles that are solved by simple examination. Another big help in solving some of the harder death trap puzzles is the fact that you can control time. The dagger has a ten-second limit to the rewind function, which is usually more than enough time to pull you off that giant spike in that pit of giant spikes. As if that wasn't enough to pull you through the tougher parts of the game the save points also offer you some help. Each time you walk into a save point you are lifted into the air and shown a vision of quick-cut video scenes of the Prince going through the area ahead. They show you just enough but not too much, allowing you to charge head first into the unknown.

The game's graphics are also another high spot on the ladder. Many effects used in Splinter Cell make their appearances in Prince of Persia such as the cloth system, providing very realistic-looking banners and such. The entire game is layered over with a 'soft filter', or gauze filter it's called, gives the game a dream-like quality. Light gently borders objects and characters with a soft warm glow. Seeing the cones of light spilling through cracks in broken walls or through windows is a sight to behold. It casts beautiful shadows all over the place giving the game even more atmosphere. Character models are low on polygons but the highly detailed textures that adorn their body's hides a lot of that. That and the fact that everything is animated so perfectly you'll have a hard time even noticing polygon counts.

Sound in Prince of Persia is good but nothing special. The surround sound mix is decent as well as the voice acting. Creature and ambient sounds fit well into their given environments. The music in the game is limited to looped themes through most areas and, of course, the battle music that cues in as soon as you enter combat. While not an amazing score the sound does help immerse you in your adventure through the hot sands.

Prince of Persia is much more than a distraction while we all wait for the new Ninja Gaiden. Ubisoft has another gem on their hands and deserves high praise for a job well done.

Score: 9.0/10

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