I REMEMBER WHEN I was just a wee one and Prince of Persia only existed on the Amiga 500 – ah, those were the days. When the Prince of Persia franchise decided to go ’next-gen’ I was definitely among the sceptics. Since The Sands of Time was released in 2003 I’ve been chowing down on humble pie.
Once again, you control the acrobatic Persian Prince in an attempt to save the world. You start out as an athletic but otherwise run-of-the-mill prince; apart from your ability to run on walls and such – you know, like a regular guy. As in Sands of Time you can also rewind time just in case you screw up, which can be handy when you’ve impaled your groin in a punji pit. And besides, it looks awesome when the screen goes all glowy.
The levels start off pretty slow with a nice mix of platforming, puzzle and action, but as you learn new skills the learning curve climbs steeply. However, although you’d think that you might fall short and fall victim to a fatal faceplant, the engine has what feels like a corrective autopilot, guiding you to your next obstacle. It’s hard not to grin to yourself as you enable the Prince to do the impossible.
You wouldn’t be far off if you said “man, this feels a lot like Assassin’s Creed”. Well, here’s a wee secret for you: Ubisoft built both games on the same game engine. The comparisons end there, though. The environments are stunning and the art direction is incredible – but in some parts it feels like the production team hasn’t put as much love into this game as it did with The Sands of Time or Assassin’s Creed. It lacks the small, intricate details of these other titles, so I was sometimes left underwhelmed. It’s kind of like the popcorn I got when I went to see the movie; it was delicious, but perhaps a little burnt, cold and chewy – and I longed for perfection.
In The Forgotten Sands, an experience system has been included; the more you kill, the more points you gain. You can spend these points to upgrade the Prince’s abilities to your liking, which really gives the otherwise linear gameplay a feeling of developing a unique character. You’ve got your stock-standard, health-type upgrades, but there are also new abilities to unlock and improve. There’s an areaof- effect knock down, rock armour and elemental attacks too. These abilities can be really useful, but it’s more the awesome visual effects that will entice you to use them again and again.
Most notable of the Prince’s tricks are the ability to freeze water and interact with a ruined structure as it would have stood in its glory days. Imagine running along a wall, freezing a spout of water, swinging on it like a gymnast on a horizontal bar and then breaking the time-space continuum to land on a structure that doesn’t really exist. Yeah – that’s cool.
The story and characters aren’t as strong this time around, so sometimes you can be stuck wondering “why am I doing this again?” That said, The Forgotten Sands is still a top-notch title and you’ll fi nd yourself going back to it time and time again; even if it’s just to open up a can on some baddies in the challenge modes.