Prince of Persia

Prince of Persia
Prince of Persia Cover
Platforms PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows, OSX
Genre Watercolored, ponderous action
MtAMinutes to Action 3
Keep Playing? No
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The success of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time completely rejuvenated a left for dead franchise. From a series that was known for its challenging, timed gameplay, rose a 3D incarnation that was nearly beloved by both the gaming press and gamers themselves. Setting the gears in motion for sequels, spinoffs, and a movie, The Sands of Time was both a trendsetter for many future titles and an acknowledgement to its roots.

A few years after its immediate trilogy sputtered off, Ubisoft tried to remake the prince once again with Prince of Persia, no subtitle. Much like the NES Ninja Gaiden and the Xbox Ninja Gaiden, Prince of Persia was annoyingly named the exact same as the original game twenty years its predecessor. But if fans were expecting an even closer imitation of the original, they would be quite surprised with the bigger changes made by Ubisoft.

Prince of Persia (2008, not 1989) received mixed reviews with attention to the excellent art and animation, but some disdain towards the game’s reported simple difficulty. What attracted me to reviewing the game’s first hour was definitely the art style. Borrowing the watercolor look from Okami was definitely a brave move by a generally conservative Ubisoft, and I am hoping some of that creativity might have run over to the parkour and fighting elements of the game. Let’s take a look.

Minute by Minute

02 - After a way too over the top settings menu, the opening cutscene begins showing a very confusing set of characters saying things. It quickly cuts to our Prince pushing his way through a desert storm. He’s yelling for Farah, who leaps into his arms from above after being chased. Oh, that might not have been Farah.

03 - My initial attempts at wall running are failing badly, shouldn’t this be second nature by now to this sort of game? I then enter one-on-one combat with a guard, I kind of like the battle system, requires keeping a close eye on what the enemy is doing. Ah, Farah is his donkey, the girl is Elika.

08 - Our Prince sounds like Nolan North, have to check... Yep. Elika and I are now partners in search of a temple.

11 - I fall to my death, or so I thought as Elika grabs me out of thin air to rescue me. The Prince is impressed, but incredulous. She also joins me in battle which makes for some pretty fights.

17 - After a fight with Elika’s father, he chops down a tree with his sword which causes some demon to appear. Along with using my sword and gauntlet, I can also use Elika’s magic attacks by throwing her at enemies. She can also throw me so I can cover huge gaps.

24 - I now have access to the world map and can choose my first destination out of four. I guess the left most one will do. Off to the Fertile Grounds.

Prince of Persia Wall run Wolverine Scratch

33 - That didn’t take long for Prince of Persia to incorporate quick time events into the battle system.

37 - Healed my first Fertile Ground, Elika can barely walk, she needs a Light Seed. I have 1 of 60. Okay, now they’re just all over, do I have to collect them all right now? I guess not.

44 - Cute animations with Elika riding on the Prince’s back.

48 - Another battle, another Fertile Ground healed.

57 - Elika is captured by the Concubine, leaving me alone to try and rescue her on the Fertile Ground we’re standing on. After a somewhat laborious fight, I’m no closer to rescuing the girl or this Fertile Ground, but that’s the end of the first hour of Prince of Persia.

Prince of Persia Elika Running

First Hour Summary

Minutes to Action: 3

A pretty mixed bag of elements in the first hour of Prince of Persia. While the game is gorgeous and the blossoming relationship between the Prince and Elika is entertaining, most of the gameplay felt really basic. In Sands of Time, escaping from a room felt like a puzzle, where as this game drops any pretense of exploration and trial and error and replaces it with a linear path with obstacles in the way.

There’s nothing really wrong with this change in tactics, but it just isn’t executed very well. The controls feel sloppy when trying to wall run and a few of the Elika-assisted moves seem a bit too powerful, as in tossing the Prince a hundred feet through the air as the level dictates. I do like what I’ve seen so far from the combat engine, but there are so few fights I’m afraid the game thinks its own fighting will get stale if it sets up too many encounters.

And while I noted the fighting has quick time events in it, there’s a safe argument to be had that many of gameplay elements are just one long QTE, too. There are portions where you’re literally just hopping from one wall to the next for nearly a minute on end and one wrong press of the button results in death (or near death, thanks to Elika). Once again, not necessarily a bad thing, but it just seems weak compared to the Sands of Time series which focused on small bursts of intricate moves instead of stringing out single button presses.

Bias: I’m a big fan of The Sands of Time, but that may end up counting more against this Prince of Persia iteration over everything else.

Would I Keep Playing? No. While I only explored a few Fertile Grounds, I really feel like I have a handle on how the rest of the game will play out. While Prince of Persia was feeling adventurous in its art style, everything else has been done before, and better.