Prince of Persia Review: Beauty And The Beast
The long-time “Prince of Persia” fans that have followed it throughout its’ remake trilogy on the PS2 and XBOX have been anticipating the release of the PS3 and XBOX 360 versions. Those gamers that spent several hours playing through those games, already have an idea of what to expect in the new version’s story. Sadly, I haven’t played any of the previous revamps for the series. The last time I played “Prince of Persia” was on my PC back in the West Indies. Before you brush me aside for this atrocity, consider that it is perhaps best to get an opinion from someone like myself, in its most unbiased form. Like anything under the Sun, “Prince of Persia” is not without fault, even though it has a lot going for it in its current incarnation, but there’s always room for more. The ending cements itself and sets up what could be another (at least) 4 years of wall runs, leaps, double jumps, and light seed collecting.
Perhaps holding back made this game easy, but nevertheless this game is easy. It may have been intentional by the creators to make it approachable, or it could have been a strong belief in not punishing users with the “Game Over” screen. It’s odd, but just because you don’t ever see a game over screen, does it make a game easy? Although, with “Prince of Persia” it might not be necessary; perhaps that’s when all the visuals kick in, and you’re stuck, stuck with it like staring at a midnight Gypsy dancer. It’s perhaps the right time for anyone to get aquatinted with the series. In its current form it is an obvious amalgamation of technologies used in the PS2 titles, and newer systems like the XBOX 360. Yet, for all the power available to the creators, I’m puzzled why the gameplay mechanics forces you on a set path, one that you are punished heavily for if you do not follow? For instance, if you don’t perform a double jump when you are supposed to, even though there may be a wall near by that you could do a wall-run jump off of, you will … die or be saved by your partner Elika. That’s where most people will begin to label this game as not easy. And, let’s not forget that 14-hit combo that’s almost impossible to pull off for beginners. In the hopes of keeping the flow of the game going, you will want to be saved by Elika, and every time you fall into a pit, you are almost satisfied that there will be no Game Over screen. Think of Elika’s life saving cut scenes akin to the reviving chambers in “Bioshock.” At the same time, there is a trophy that you can obtain which requires you to use Elika less than 100 times, however, you’ll quickly find out that attempting this the first time around may seem more challenging that you originally thought.
At least you can die a beautiful death … or rescue; this game is a tapestry come to life. We’ve all seen cell shaded games before, but this is on a level that pushes things forward. There are times when you play this title, and you forget that it’s cell shaded. The way in which shadows, draw distances, bokeh, and various visual effects all play together is simply draw-dropping. As a matter of fact, there are two trophies/achievements that you can only attain by appreciating the massive draw distance in the game.
The audio in “Prince of Persia” reminded me of “Uncharted” for the PS3. It wasn’t a soundtrack per say, but melodies that kicked in at the right time for effect. The same thing is found here, like “Uncharted,” with music queued in at the right time. All of this plays extreamly well with the characters and the environment, setting the appropriate mood. Perhaps using the same voice actor from “Uncharted” was a good idea too - I love this guy. His one liners (which sound like he could be thinking them up on his own) are always great for added humor. I mean, he flat out insults the heroine in the game; verbally and through interaction. Little things like that make the game bearable while chasing for 1001 light seeds. The plot of the game is not safe from his bashing either … could that be a first in gaming?
Here you have a guy chasing a donkey stocked with a “Kings ransom” in gold through a sandstorm. He happens upon a beautiful princess running from a few guards, and he chases her. Some how he gets mixed up in a family feud that involves the sealing of a demonic God, a distraught King, and a fallen city. The ending for the game surprised me, but after speaking with other gamers about it they told me that it was typical of the series to leave you hanging. This was something I hadn’t seen since “Soul Reaver.” My immediate thoughts were “Where the f%&# is disc 2 man?”.
However, one of my gripes with “Prince of Persia” is the controls. It’s a love/hate relationship really. There are times when the controls work perfectly, but then there are times when the nameless Prince does things that you just don’t want him to do. This has a lot to do with the whole do as you are told or be punished constraints of the game. Certain moves are very easy to pull off, and you become very aware that reading the lay of the land before you move is more than just important: it’s platforming at its best, and its worst. You either do it this way, or die. In consideration of the title being platforming at its worst, you spend a serious amount of time “faffing about from jump to jump”. Some users, especially those expecting something to hold them over till “God of War III” hits, will be disappointed. If you can’t see yourself jumping from here to there, fighting a random opponent every now then, with the sole aim to collect 1000 light seeds, and to the save the world from death and destruction, then look elsewhere. That’s the honest truth, and not a bashing in any form, because this game is beautiful, and perhaps can only be appreciated by a select few.
From a usage stand point, I find that harsh. At the same time, it’s pleasing that you don’t have to worry about walking on those thin beams without tipping to the side and falling to your doom … rescue. You will traverse some seriously tall buildings here, and if you suffer from vertigo, perhaps playing this game might be a bad idea. God forbid that the balance beam feature is implemented. The main culprit here is the jump button. It’s evil. You really have to practice reservation when using the jump button, or sometimes you’ll find yourself suspended mid-air, off the side of a tower as you plummet to your … you know, rescue. It’s frustrating. Like anything, once you’ve mastered the art of reservation, you will be able to swing through ledges, poles, jump off walls, navigate upside down while hundreds of feet in the air, and string together a combination of environment interaction that will amaze your girlfriend. (If this amazement leads to anything extra, please send me a thank you letter.)
Another thing that is worth mentioning is the way in which you fight off enemies. “Prince of Persia” is not a button masher; it’s a good mix of platforming and head slicing. You always fight your enemies one on one (or two against one). When you face off against each of the four generals and various guards, you will get those quick time events (hated/loved), but the way in which its done here makes it very pleasing to watch and execute. Since it’s not built into the games presentation sequences, they can occur at any point and time during battle, so not everyone will have the same experience.
“Prince of Persia” is perhaps a precursor for great deal of effort by Ubisoft Montreal. If this is a telling of things to come, then the team has set up descent beginning for a tale of a prince and his lost donkey, and I’m guessing you won’t see the donkey till the very last entry in the series. It would add to this series if they worked out some the annoyances with the controls, but even after going through the game two times, I am convinced that fixing the control scheme is the only way this game can be executed even better.