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Prince of Persia Review
, Playstation 3
, Xbox 360
$49.99 (PC), $59.99 (PS3, Xbox 360)
Playing Prince of Persia got me questioning what games really are... and I'm not sure that's a good thing. But that's a subject for another time.
Prince of Persia is the latest reboot of the aptly named Prince of Persia franchise which began way back in 1989 on the Apple II. (Not, as my younger cousins believe, in 2003 on the Playstation 2.) In fact, my only exposure to the franchise was way back in middle school playing the original Prince of Persia in our Mac labs, completely missing out on the Sands of Time trilogy and all the advancements made in that series.
In this game, you play as the Prince (though in name only, I seriously doubt his royal heritage...) as he stumbles upon a princess in distress named Elika (her, I believe...) on a mission to purge her land of a soon-to-be released dark god, Ahriman. Of course, she needs your help and soon you're off running, jumping and climbing to purge her fertile grounds (not a euphemism) while fighting Ahriman's corrupted followers along the way.
Since the original game debuted on the Apple II, the franchise has been known for it's graphics and this reboot doesn't disappoint. To put it simply, the game is beautiful. The game has a visual style that is unlike anything currently on the shelves. At first glance, it looks like the game is using a cel shading technique that has become popular in the last few years, but Prince of Persia's visuals are much more detailed than what we've seen before. The game almost looks like an illustration come to life. It's also apparent that Ubisoft put a lot of time and effort into developing each area you encounter so that it feels both different yet a part of the world around it so you never get bored by what you're looking at.
Unfortunately, that role may be filled by the gameplay. The controls are simple so that you can pull off amazing feats of acrobatics with the simple push of a button. That's good because you won't find yourself jumping too early and missing that ledge you meant to grab, but it also means there's very little challenge in the game. At times, it feels like the Prince is on autopilot and the obstacles before you are just quick time events with the buttons replaced with visual cues in the landscape.
It doesn't help that your AI controlled partner, Elika, won't let you die. Seriously, you hit jump instead of grab? She saves you. You're about to get killed by one of the bosses? She saves you. You jump from too high? She saves you. I get the feeling that the game really wants the player to succeed. So much so that it wouldn't surprise me if Ubisoft was working on a controller that plays itself but just ran out of time so they settled for making the game really easy. There isn't even much challenge in trying to figure out which platforming elements you need to use to get to your destination. Elika has a "compass" feature which highlights exactly where you need to go and what you need to do to get there.
The game is touted as an "open world" game, where you can go anywhere you want. Ironically, although you can complete the areas in whatever order you like, platforming within those areas is much more rigid. There's usually only one right path to your destination... actually, there's only one path period. What's the use of having all these acrobatic skills and an open world if you can only use them as the game designers intended in the path that they've laid out for you?
The other mechanic of the game is combat. The platforming sections and combat sections are completely separate and in that regard, it stays true to the original Prince of Persia game. Combat has also been simplified, with buttons assigned to various types of moves that you can string together for stunning combos. There aren't very many combat sequences in the game and you can end them pretty quickly by inadvertently shoving your enemy off one of the many ledges. But when you aren't accidentally killing your opponent, the "not dying" feature allows you to experiment with combos which I enjoyed.
For all it's shortcomings, Prince of Persia has the foundations of a really good game. So I'll give it a "rent"
. I think the visual style alone is worth experiencing. But there isn't a whole lot of replayability in the game. Once you've finished it, you've finished it. Sure there are different skins for you to try out, but it's still the same game underneath. Hopefully, the developers will iron out the kinks and build on what they've laid out in the inevitable sequel.
One of the things that I really enjoyed about the game wasn't so much the game itself but preordering the game. This doesn't really affect my rating, but I felt like writing about it. If you preordered the game, you got a limited edition version with a bonus disc of behind-the-scenes material, soundtrack, and other things for... no extra cost! I've paid upwards of $30 extra for "limited edition" versions (because I'm a sucker) and it was nice to get a limited edition for nothing more than preordering. I totally think game companies should offer this kind of thing more often. It's a win-win all around. The companies get guaranteed sales of their game and the players get something extra for free.
Shadow of the Colossus
- Prince of Persia reminds me a lot of this game. The same open world, the same few and far between combat sections, even the same central temple you start out in. Shadow of the Colossus also had a fantastic visual style which should be experienced. But unlike Prince of Persia, Shadow of the Colossus is both challenging and satisfying.
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