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Prince Of Persia

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Release Date: Dec. 2, 2008 (US), Dec. 12, 2008 (EU)


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Xbox 360 Review - 'Prince of Persia'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Dec. 8, 2008 @ 1:24 a.m. PST

Prince of Persia is opening a new chapter in the Prince of Persia universe, featuring a new breed of gameplay. The game is poised to rejuvenate the action-adventure genre in addition to introducing a brand-new illustrative art style.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was perhaps one of the best titles to hit the last generation of consoles. It combined unsurpassed platforming and acrobatics with a surprisingly likable set of main characters to create one of the most fun games of the last era. While the sequels improved on some aspects of the original title, they never quite managed to capture the same sense of wonder that The Sands of Time did. Every tale must have an end, and the last of the Sands of Time trilogy sealed up things pretty well for that prince. Thankfully, where one story ends, another begins, and Ubisoft has decided to reboot the franchise once again with the simply named Prince of Persia.

This new Prince of Persia, oddly enough, does not star a prince and does not take place in Persia. You're placed in control of a rogue unnamed tomb raider who, unfortunately for him, wanders into a forgotten kingdom while looking for his lost donkey. He promptly wanders into the Princess Elika, who is on the run from her father. It turns out that Elika is the heir to a lost magical power of the god Ormazd, and her power is the only thing that can prevent the evil god Ahriman from escaping. The princess' father promptly destroys Ahriman seal, which cracks and slowly breaks open his jail cell, releasing a horrible black substance called Corruption across the land. The only thing that can hold back Corruption is the Fertile Land, magical places of great power that have been left untended. Our unlucky hero must escort Elika to these Fertile Lands to revive them with her power, and Ahriman will attempt to stop them every step of the way.

The plot in Prince of Persia is pretty weak, and the story is generic at best — and bad at its very worst. From the moment the game begins, every plot twist is predictable, and the ending is rather lame. Thankfully, the weakness in the story is made up for by the strong relationship between the characters. Elika and the main character are surprisingly fun and likable, even if they're pretty much Han Solo and Princess Leia in different clothing. The only real problem is that the game falls into the trap of using modern phrasing a bit too much. There's really no indication that the protagonist is from any time before the 1990s. He uses modern slang, makes jokes with Elika about not looking at his ass, and calls villains "bad mothers" and other such anachronistic things. It's not enough to make him unlikable, but it brings about a lot of eye-rolling moments.

Platforming in Prince of Persia is somewhere between the older games and Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed. Movement is simple and easy. The face buttons are bound to the various moves you can do. The A button controls jumping moves, B is for gauntlet moves, and Y controls Elika's moves. Simply press the button at the right point, and you'll perform the right move. For example, press A while running forward and you'll jump. Press it and the analog stick toward a straight surface, and you'll wall-run. Press it while hanging, and you'll leap onto a nearby object. It sounds a bit simple, but it works quite well, and chaining together your various abilities is a breeze. Once you've got the hang of the controls, you can perform extremely long and fast strings of acrobatics, which allows you to zoom across the ruined kingdom with shocking speed. Perhaps the only real problem is for veterans of Sands of Time. I kept trying to use familiar movements from the last games in this one, all of which have changed just enough to lead to me leaping off a cliff. Once I got the hang of these new controls, though, those problems vanished pretty quickly. It's really easy to pick up, and even younger gamers could probably learn the tricks within a few hours.

One of the more controversial elements of Prince of Persia is how your character can't technically die. Should you leap off a cliff or be defeated in combat, Elika will glow and save you. This may sound like it removes the challenge from the game, but in practice, it really isn't anything like that. Outside of combat, Elika basically serves as an instant reload after death. You don't get a death sequence, but the basic effect is the same. The main character is returned to the last safe solid platform that existed before he fell, which, because of the way maps are designed, can be five seconds back or halfway across the map. It just functions as a quick and fast reload without a "game over" screen, and it keeps the game flowing smoothly.

If anything, it is actually less forgiving than The Sands of Time. You may have unlimited revivals, but you can't control where you get dropped off, and a misstep will likely require you to redo a good bit of platforming. Compare that to Sands, where you could instantly undo a missed jump but you're punished more for your screw-up. Elika also travels with you every step of the way, but she requires no babysitting at all. She'll follow you automatically, never get in your way, can't die and is easily the best escort mission partner ever.

After you've reached the Fertile Grounds and healed them, the gameplay changes slightly. Healing the Fertile Grounds causes the nearby area to be revived, with color returning to the world and the Corruption melting away. In its place are a number of Light Seeds, glowing orbs of power, which can be collected by touching them. These Light Seeds are shards of the same power that fuels Elika's magic, and collecting them is required to power her up. In order to advance the game, you'll have to collect a minimum of 540 Light Seeds throughout the course of the game by re-exploring areas you've already visited. There are roughly 45 hidden in each area, and 1,001 in the entire game, so you'll need a little over half of the seeds to finish. It's really not that hard to collect the seeds, but it isn't exactly fun either. It simply requires you to revisit areas you've already explored, with all the puzzles already completed and most of the danger gone. The end result is something that feels like a pointless attempt to extend the game's length. The "powers" you unlock are fairly tame. They are "Power Plates," which are special abilities that are only used on certain glowing plates throughout the stage, and those feel fairly canned. Two of the abilities can't even be controlled at all, and are just roughly identical canned animations. The other two are simply mini-games where you have to dodge obstacles for a brief period of time.

As in the rest of the franchise, the combat is easily the weakest element of the new Prince of Persia game. All of the fights in the game are two-on-one fights, with Elika and the protagonist fighting a single foe. Taking down your foes is pretty simple. Each of the controller's face buttons is bound to one of the main character's attacks: sword, acrobatic, gauntlet or Elika. Press the button and you attack, and you can chain these attacks into combos that do a ton of damage, with up to 15 hits possible from one combo. A 15-hit combo is usually enough to take down any enemy in the game, or at least weaken them substantially, and most combat revolves around weakening the foe to the point where you can get one or two good combos off. While it is visually interesting the first couple of times, it quickly grows boring, since you never learn any new moves or abilities, and most of the enemies can be defeated in the exact same way. As the game progresses, enemies gain special defenses, which are glowing auras that can only be broken with a specific kind of attack, but they don't do much other than require you to use a slightly different combo.

Likewise, enemies will occasionally parry your sword thrusts, but you can simply parry back and unleash your combo to win. The good news is that most of the fighting in the game is avoidable. Except for the boss battles at the end of each area, each enemy in the game has a "spawn time." If you reach the enemy's location before they spawn, you can instantly kill them without a fight, and unless you screw up your acrobatics, you'll probably do this every time.

The boss fights are slightly, but only slightly, more interesting. Ahriman has sent his four Corrupted Generals to destroy the various Fertile Lands scattered throughout the world, and every time you go to fix one, you have to fight a particular general. You fight each general six times, five regular fights and then an extended boss fight. The bosses are basically identical to regular foes, except each has a gimmick, such as reversing your controls or blinding you. Once you figure out how to get past their gimmicks, you can probably take them down in 15 seconds, with the exception of The Warrior, who must be knocked off a cliff to defeat him. It's really disappointing. The Corrupted are an interesting idea, but fighting them so many times really takes away from the fun of battling them, since each fight is roughly identical. The bosses may have more hit points or may learn one of the special defenses mentioned above, but that doesn't really make them any harder, and unlike the platforming, it makes them pretty tedious.

Prince of Persia is a really lovely game. For the majority of it, the world will consist of shades of black and gray because Ahriman's corruption is draining all the life and color from the world, leaving your characters as the only bright spots. Once you heal the corrupted ground, color floods back to the world, turning the depressing and bland world into a more colorful version of itself. The prince and Elika's animations are smooth and exceptionally fluid, although there are a few nasty visual glitches involved whenever you have to push one of the game's annoying twin-lever mechanisms; Elika will often not hit the right "trigger" and end up teleporting, twitching in place or overlapping with the prince. The music is solid and atmospheric, with excellent voice acting from the prince and Elika serving to improve their rather strong chemistry.

Prince of Persia is fun. It isn't really challenging, and it isn't really lengthy, but when you play it, you're going to have fun. There are complaints, especially about the lackluster combat, but they're complaints that you could put forth about all of the previous Prince of Persia titles. If you enjoyed the previous games or are simply looking for a fast and fun platforming-action title, Prince of Persia is a great choice. It is more user-friendly than titles like Mirror's Edge, although the low difficulty may make it a bit unsatisfying for more experienced gamers. It's a new Prince of Persia game, and while it doesn't change the formula too much, it's still more of the same fun gameplay as the previous titles.

Score: 8.5/10

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