|Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands|
|Platforms||Wii, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows, Nintendo DS, PlayStation Portable|
|Genre||Wii port of a 360 tie-in to a movie adaptation of a PS2 reboot of an Apple II game
|MtAMinutes to Action||1|
|Keep Playing?||I guess so|
|Buy from Amazon|
Hollywood and video games have never had a healthy relationship. Ever since the Super Mario Bros. movie ruined millions of childhoods, video game franchises of all kinds have received blasphemous silver screen adaptations. The latest mainstream abuse of a video game license comes from Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. I'm not one to praise the narrative of most games, but I really enjoyed the bittersweet fable of the Prince and Farah that the 2002 hit presented. I've heard less favorable things about the movie, and I don't think I want to see how it ended up.
The existence of Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands is the result of one of the strangest cross-media cycles I've ever seen. The Forgotten Sands, a sequel to the Sands of Time video game, was released alongside the Sands of Time movie, an unrelated adaptation of the Sands of Time video game. Even stranger, Sands of Time already has a pair of sequels (Warrior Within, and The Two Thrones), but Forgotten Sands apparently precedes them. Even strangerer, the Wii version of Forgotten Sands is actually an alternate tale to the version of the game available for PS3, 360, and PC!
I'm still trying to wrap my head around all that. The plotline of the Sands Trilogy was already mind-bending enough with all the time travel going on, but now Hollywood's gone and made everything worse! Oh well. I guess the more pressing topic at hand is just how forgettable Forgotten Sands is on the Wii.
Minute by Minute
00 - Cutscene: the Prince is running away from something. Or toward something. This stone castle is crumbling! Guess he's running away from that. I know I would.
01 - I'm in control, running the prince along the path in front of me. Control stick to run, A to jump, Z to drop down a ledge. There is some fairy character following me around and telling me where to go. She doesn't seem to take this dangerous situation as seriously as I would.
02 - There's a handy little guide that shows you where the Prince will jump when hanging off a cliff and looking in a direction. It lets you know what's safe before you leap. The wall in front of me is sinking into quicksand. Better climb quickly!
03 - "Hero Challenge Completed: You're Good." Achievements? Okay then. Cutscene: The Fairy says that nowhere to go but down. The Prince trusts his fairy companion, and jumps into the sand vortex below. Screen to white.
"Searching for untold riches, the Prince had been traveling for months with a small genie that he acquired in a peculiar marketplace."
04 - A woman narrates about the genie and prince. Some say that the genie lured the prince to the desert with promises of wealth and power, only to drown him in the sands. She will tell the tale of the truth, however. The story begins with the prince and genie traveling through the desert, discussing the genie's promises of wealth, kingdom, and queen. The genie says they have arrived at their destination, but the prince sees nothing notable.
05 - They come upon a statue of a deity, and the genie tells the prince to kiss it. Reluctantly, he plants a wet one on the stone lips. The result is a pillar of light engulfing the Arabian royalty.
06 - Apparently, making out with a statue forges a union between the genie and prince that allows the hero some limits of invincibility, as well as the genie's magical vision. He now sees the Kingdom of Izdihar ahead of him, though really it just appears to be ruins of an old palace in the middle of the desert. At least the Prince can revive indefinitely as long as he has a life orb. I guess this game uses the auto-restart function in the POP reboot rather than the Sands' rewind power.
07 - I'm in full control now. A jumps, down on the D-pad rolls, and swiping the Wii remote causes the prince to attack with his sword. A hint button appears on-screen. Pressing up on the D-pad shows where I should go. There are sand orbs to collect along the way.
08 - I can run up walls by jumping into them. In the distance, a huge vine emerges from the ground and towers above the valley.
09 - Some monsters emerge from the sand: Izdihar's minions. The genie says their strength is only in numbers, so it's a good thing there's only one. It doesn't bother attacking me, and I swing my Wii remote until it is dead. I've acquired some nearby sand orbs and apparently earned a Jump Attack Upgrade in doing so.
10 - There are pots to smash for sand orbs. Climbing up some ledges now. The prince is puzzled to find a fountain in these ruins. Drinking the water restores the prince's health and saves my progress.
11 - More giant thorn vines rising up in the distance as I climb, wallrun, and jump through the environment.
12 - More enemies show up. I can press Z to block incoming attacks with the prince's armored gauntlet and shake the nunchuk to punch with it. This punch breaks an enemy's guard. Enemies can charge their attacks to break through my guard as well. After taking a few hits, I destroy the two monsters. They drop health refills.
13 - Sometimes I can press the Minus button to get a birds-eye view of the area. It doesn't really help, but it's kind of neat. The prince can run up two parallel walls by jumping back and forth between them. Found another fountain at the top of this area. The prince feels awesome after drinking the water and says as much out loud.
14 - There's a giant head statue here, and a palace in the distance behind it. The prince and genie briefly discuss whether or not they should call each other by their names (the prince does not wish to) and I continue onward.
15 - Climbing up cracks in the walls, descending into the valley where the giant head is. Cutscene, the prince reads a tablet: "Whoever rescues my daughter and frees my kingdom from the evil shall have both." He isn't exactly thrilled with a captured princess and cursed kingdom.
16 - He pulls a jagged sword from the vine near the statue, and the vines come alive as some evil-looking spirit ascends into the sky and disappears. The genie mentions that it is a tortured soul, corrupted by the Haoma, the magical vine that strangles this kingdom. The genie wanted the prince to destroy it, but he accidentally freed it by taking the sword.
17 - As if that weren't enough, an ogre appears and attacks the prince with its club. The prince retaliates by stabbing the monster with the newly-acquired sword, but the blade breaks off in the beast. It runs away after being exposed to sunlight. The genie is especially miffed that the prince lost the blade, which is the weapon that can defeat the Haoma. Time to chase an ogre.
18 - Back in control. I can climb walls that are covered with vines. I've noticed there's a meter in the corner of the screen that fills as I collect sand orbs. It fills completely, and I'm rewarded with a Guard Upgrade. Guess that's my experience meter, sort of.
19 - More giant vines rising in the distance as the ogre continues to flee. Some small enemies emerge from the sand in a small clearing. The combat is sort of sloppy and much less technical than it was in the Sands trilogy.
20 - These evil vines are continuing to pop out everywhere. My bad? Found another health and save fountain.
21 - The prince and genie see the creature up ahead, beyond some precarious-looking platforms. Some small fries show up, and a tutorial says that I have to defeat all enemies in this Combat Arena in order to continue. In addition to the standard sword-wielding enemies, there are smaller archers as well.
22 - Some of these enemies actually guard against my attacks and retaliate, so I use the gauntlet attack to break their guard before slicing them up.
23 - I've come across my first trap: arrows launch in intervals from the wall. I've also acquired enough sand orbs to earn a Grab and Throw. Swing the nunchuk while on an enemy to throw it afar. I guess I can jump on enemies? That's news to me.
24 - A very simple moving block puzzle. Save fountain. The door opens when I slide the block onto a pressure plate, and I jump from the block up to the door.
25 - Cutscene: the ogre is above us and smashes through some of Izdihar's palace guards and through a gate, which closes afterwards. I'm climbing around underneath the bridge, on its supports. There's a treasure chest in an alcove in the wall. I'm not sure how to get there...
26 - Still climbing along the bridge. I still can't get to that treasure chest...oh well, it probably just has some sand orbs in it like the others.
27 - I've made it to the top of the bridge, and it begins to crumble away. I have to jump across and avoid the falling pieces.
28 - Some enemies approach while on the bridge, and I am granted a Tornado Attack, triggered by shaking both the Wii remote and the nunchuk. Seems powerful and has plenty of range. Behind the enemies is another brief moving block puzzle.
29 - I venture deeper into the palace walls and find some more classic Prince of Persia traps like rotating blade cylinders and swinging logs. Another fountain.
30 - The ogre is still fleeing. It mentions that the prince is an infidel. How rude. Zombie soldiers approach and keep me busy while the ogre escapes.
31 - Jump Attacks knock eneimes to the ground, and I can attack them while they're prone. A Minotaur Champion appears after I take out a few standard enemies. It has a shield that blocks all of my attacks...
32 - I have to roll away from its attacks and retaliate from behind in order to damage the beast. After a few strikes, its shield is destroyed and I can wail on it at will.
33 - The enemies are all gone, but the prince mentions that there doesn't seem to be a way to pursue the ogre. The genie believes that a nearby shrine may help. I use the Wii remote's pointer and press the B button to activate the shrine, transporting the prince to...somewhere else. Somewhere blue. "Kiss me!" says a statue. Can't say no to that.
34 - The genie mentions that each shrine grants the prince a new power and helps to repair the blade. This one grants me a Spirit Hook creation power, which lets me point to certain spots on walls to create a hook to hang from.
35 - Continuing on, the genie says that Spirit Hook plates of the same color will all activate when one is activated. I can see how some cool puzzles might take advantage of that later. The game also mentions that cooperative play is available. Wait, really? It's probably just a pointer aid like in Mario Galaxy.
36 - Smashing up some vases, filling up my upgrade meter...Now I'm sidling along a ledge, with arrow launchers on top and below it. I have to switch between the two as arrows fire from each. A fountain is on the other side.
37 - Still jumping around the environment now. Oops, fell down a pit! The prince automatically revives at the spot where I jumped off.
38 - Found another save fountain. The prince again feels really good after a gulp. The genie mentions that the red ivy ahead is deadly to the prince. Climbing up some vines, jumping up Spirit Hooks...
39 - The ogre is up ahead, still fleeing. Vines emerge from the wall behind it, blocking the direct route. I have to climb above the vines along the wall to continue forward into another cave.
40 - Interesting, it seems I've gone around in a full circle, back to the giant head statue. The ogre climbs up the statue toward the palace beyond. The genie says there is a secret entrance behind the head, and that I should climb there.
41 - I climb beyond the head using the Spirit Hooks and come to a courtyard inside. The ogre continues to flee...the genie mentions that these fortifications are impenetrable from man and demon alike, meaning that the palace's fall was from within. Climbing up some columns now.
42 - I am continuing along the wall while the prince and genie have some banter about flying and wishing for wings. Speaking of wings, I could sure use some to reach that treasure chest a few meters beyond my jump range...I'll go for it anyway!
43 - I died. That's one life orb lost. I wonder if I can make it to that column nearby...nope. There goes another life orb. Oh well, guess I'll leave it there and continue onward.
44 - Enemies approach, and I use the whirlwind attack to keep them from swarming me. Also, it seems that I can't block an enemy's attack unless I direct the prince's vision toward it.
45 - One of those shield enemies shows up again. It automatically knocks me back if I try to jump attack it. Guess I'll just keep rolling around and attacking it from behind...
46 - The prince is still not amused that the genie's promise of a kingdom is so crappy. The genie convinces him to keep moving forward. I wonder if the genie is secretly the princess...Found another fountain.
47 - The prince comes upon a single enormous column. It is split into sections, some of them with ledges protruding outward that I can jump to. There are spots on the columns that I can point to and press B, and they rotate.
48 - There are buttons to jump onto on the walls surrounding the column. They gradually unlock the door nearby.
49 - Once I approach the unlocked door, I have to play a short game of SIMON to open it up with the genie's magic. The ogre is inside, and continues fleeing as I enter the doorway.
50 - More rotating pillars inside. Some of them have Spirit Hook plates to activate.
51 - I've made it to the top of this pillar and have to jump to one nearby and climb down it. A vine in the background rises up and appears to attach itself to the palace.
52 - I climb down to a ledge with a button on the side. The prince's weight on the button activates a small wall between two ledges, allowing me to wallrun it.
53 - I've made it to solid ground, and wouldn't you know it, some enemies show up. Apparently the archer marked with a beam of light is the enemy leader, and killing it will cause the others to flee. In a matter of seconds, the archer is destroyed and the others simply disappear.
54 - I've made it to a fountain, and the genie mentions that I should probably save here. The path ahead is dangerous and not brief. Another small skirmish erupts, and I'm told that pointing at an enemy and pressing the B button will temporarily petrify it. That's helpful and pretty cool, actually.
55 - The next area is made up of a line of climbable pillars. Archers stand on ledges nearby. I have to hide behind the pillars to avoid their fire. The genie mentions there should be another way to defeat these archers...I'm not sure what she means, though. I continue to climb and sneak from cover to cover, avoiding arrows.
56 - Still climbing along the pillars. The climbing is a little more exciting when archers are firing arrows at me. I've noticed that there are magic buttons underneath the archers...I press them and the ledges underneath them temporarily give way, dropping them into the abyss below. Neat! Glad I figured that out.
57 - I've made it to the palace wall where the archers were. A small group of enemies appear and it's time to fight. I try the Grab Throw attack by jumping onto an enemy and shaking the nunchuk. The prince tosses the sand monster to the ground.
58 - More enemies show up as I defeat others. The prince makes a snarky comment after defeating them all, but the genie makes sure to diminish his pride by mentioning those guards aren't especially powerful.
59 - A door opens in a chamber below. I'll smash some vases before heading down.
60 - And there's a health fountain down there as well. The first hour ends with a drink.
First Hour Summary
Minutes to Action: 1
What I liked
Fast learner: I'm not the biggest fan of experience-based upgrade systems, but at least he Prince was gaining new abilities at a steady rate through this first hour. If the pace keeps up like that, I'll have plenty of advanced techniques to juggle soon enough.
Pointin' Prince: I never would have imagined a Prince of Persia game finding a use for the Wii's infrared tracker, but using the device to create hang-spots and freeze enemies in place is a delight. It's easily the most compelling feature of Forgotten Sands thus far.
What I didn't like
Wagglin' daggers: I'll be the first to praise motion controls when they add to the experience, but replacing a button with the flail of a Wii remote is a step down in almost all circumstances. In Prince of Persia, it severs immersion and feels cumbersome.
Video: This game won't win any visual awards, that's for sure. It wouldn't have won any last generation, either. It's serviceable, though. I miss the Prince's old parkour animations, as well. They were a little more fallible, more believable than the quicker new movements.
Gameplay: It feels a lot like the 2008 Prince of Persia reboot for 360 and PS3. Shame it doesn't have the same grand views and watercolor style to give the experience some life. Still, the combat and platforming are both showing hints of coming complexities in the closing minutes of the hour, thanks to the Wii remote's pointer functions.
Narrative: Despite being shoved into the Sands of Time series, Forgotten Sands appears to have no connection to that trilogy outside of the prince's involvement. It may prove to be a decent standalone tale, but for now it's got all the appeal of a direct-to-DVD spinoff.
Challenge: Enemy swipes pack a surprising bit of punch, felling the prince in three or four blows. Less dangerous is the platforming so far, thanks to the handy can-I-make-that-jump guide. The traditional booby traps showed up near the end, though, so the terrain will probably take a turn for the perilous soon enough.
Pacing: A good bit of platforming, some splashes of combat here and there, and some occasional talky time. A respectable balance. And plenty of fountains to keep frustrations to a minimum.
Would I keep playing? I guess so. Things are a bit dull so far, but I've got a feeling that things may get pretty interesting soon enough. At the very least, it has exceeded the low expectations I built based on the game's origins. Yep, Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands for Wii is downright competent.
Words from beyond the First Hour: I've stopped playing Forgotten Sands after about three hours. I had to: disc read errors prevent me from moving on. My Wii's lens is clean as a whistle, so the disc must be faulty. It doesn't look so bad; it just has a couple minor scratches. I guess that's enough, though, because entering one area of the game causes the Wii to get very loud, then a disc-read error pops up. Oh well.
Would I have kept playing if the disc-read errors hadn't stopped me? I would say so. The upward trend at the end of the first hour continued into the second and third, and a few more combat and platforming abilities added greater potential. It's shaping up to be the weakest modern Prince of Persia yet, but it's still a decent game. The bit that I played was definitely worth the $5 I paid, anyway.