It might sound strange for some people, but I never fancied this kind of “action-platformer” titles like Tomb Raider, the Sands of Time trilogy and I didn’t even get over-excited by the highly appreciated Shadow of the Collosus (actually I found it quite boring) – so I was not really eager to start my Persian adventures. However, soon after I was introduced to the new universe created by Ubisoft, I was amazed: I actually found the game enjoyable and the first 60 minutes were a real pleasure. Did my experience with Prince of Persia follow the same pattern? I invite you to read on and find out.
One thing should be mentioned before starting: Ubisoft always said that this new Prince of Persia game is a “re-imagination” of the franchise – and that’s why I consider it fair enough to write a review about PoP and not one about Prince of Persia vs. the Sands of Time. The games’ publisher considers them two distinct chapters and I believe we should do the same.
Unlike other modern, high-budget games, the new Prince of Persia does not begin with a 30 minutes-long cutscene, but instead opts to present a “teaser” for the story: the Prince bumps into Elika, a beautiful girl that tries to get away from some fierce, ugly guards and he decides to help her. The story then unfolds as you play and you’ll soon find out about the evil god Ahriman who’s being freed by Elika’s father; about the only way to stop him: by “healing” specific fertile lands; and finally about the guards who must be defeated along the way.
You decide how much of the story you wish to be told, though: the minimum, which is presented via some (unfortunately) unskippable but generally short cutscenes, or the full story by listening to Elika’s explanations and by triggering some usually funny dialogs with the Princess.
Although rather simple and not juicing with originality, I must admit that Prince of Persia’s story really impressed me: the script is incredibly well written, the Prince himself delivers some really great one liners which made me laugh out loud (and even my girlfriend, who was around but wasn’t paying too much attention to the game, giggled a few times when she heard some of the Prince’s lines) and generally you have the impression of experiencing a great Hollywood script with only one thing missing: the popcorn.
Gameplay wise, Ubisoft decided to keep it very simple: just a few buttons an an incredibly easy to use interface will help you guide the Prince through the levels at high pace. However, I did have some trouble syncing my moves because the same button is used for both wall running and jumping and usually I felt the need to press the button a bit more often than necessary. But, as I said, once you get used to it, it’s going to be a breeze – yet entertaining enough to keep you going.
Actually, the whole acrobatic element of the game is taken to the next level thanks to Elika who proves to be a very useful and easy to use companion: with the press of a single button, she can help you “double jump”, she will always show you the right way with her magic and she will generally act like your guardian angel, rescuing you from death. Although this makes the Prince immortal and simplifies the game even more, it is a good weapon against frustration (or against saving the game every 5 seconds) since once you pass sequences of wall running-jumping-avoiding obstacles-more wall running, you won’t have to worry about them anymore (until you return, at least). However, even though these sequences are generally easy to overcome, there are moments when some non-stop button pressing has to be done and, of course, you won’t do it until you exercise three or so times. And this trial-and-error type of play doesn’t really fit my definition of “quality time with a game”.
Battles are really entertaining at first and always spectacular: you’ll be generally fighting against “bosses”, each with different combat skills and weaknesses. However, these battles are never challenging and after a few creatures are defeated, the rest will seem rather repetitive, because the “uniqueness” of your enemies does not change things too much and oblige you to use very different strategies, unfortunately.
The addition of Elika, as I said, does more good than initially expected – actually, she will never give you any headaches (at least not gameplay-wise) which is a major bonus for the game – we all know how annoying it is to have a companion that simply ruins your experience. From this point of view, Elika is perfect: offering a helping hand when needed (literary), offering a few extra combat options and generally making your entire game easier. Maybe too easy, after all…
The game world is vast enough to thrill all the adventure seekers with tons of ways to test the Prince’s new abilities and enjoy some of the best looking acrobatics ever seen in a video game. You will be allowed to select which path to follow, but it’s not a completely free-to-explore world: you have four separate paths to explore at first and you will be allowed to progressively unlock more. This means that you won’t be just exploring and healing the lands, but you’ll also be collecting orbs which are used to unlock further areas.
The visuals are simply mind blowing: when I first heard that Prince of Persia will be turned into a cartoon I had an impulse to throw a poisoned spike right at the game’s heart – but now, after seeing how good PoP looks, I’ve changed my mind: the visual experience is simply amazing. Actually, it’s flawless, I would dare to say! The same can be said about Prince of Persia’s sound: the soundtrack is great, the voice acting is also flawless and combined with the well penned script I talked about already, it adds great value to the title. All in all, two aspects Ubisoft paid great attention to and the results are impressive.
Prince of Persia should be looked at as a reinvention of the franchise – otherwise you risk to miss the point and consider the game less impressive than it actually is. Indeed, it is simplified to the bone – which for more experienced or hardcore players is a minus – and in the end it gets repetitive, but it is still a good title. It is simple and fun, fast paced and entertaining, visually stunning and rewarding. It is a new approach to the franchise and it should be considered as a success – not at all a failure. So at least give it a try.
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