The rebirth of the Prince of Persia franchise with the Sands of Time on the last generation of consoles was a true delight. Once again we had some stunning platforming brilliance, rounded off by a gorgeous graphical style and the fresh ability to rewind time when you misjudged a jump.
Since then the series has taken a turn for the worse. The Prince has gone from a mute hero to some form of antagonistic abusive jerk that absolutely no-one could relate to. Yet this latest update introduces a brand new feature that could easily break the series once and for all.
This time around the Prince simply can’t die. Mistime a leap, and you can either initiate an extra lift to help you to the next platform, or be automatically saved and dumped back at your last piece of solid ground. Similarly, find yourself about to succumb to a tricky foe and you’ll again be saved at the last moment, with only your enemies’ slightly upped health bar offering any kind of forfeit.
This feature is one that will split the gaming fraternity right down the middle. On the one hand there’s none of the frustrating lining up of jumps absolutely perfectly so you don’t tumble to your death when you can afford the risk. But without the risk, can you truly obtain any kind of reward when your skills aren’t truly being tested to their utmost?
Actually making your way through the game is lacking in challenge too. Your companion, a spiritual princess by the name of Elika, when prompted can initiate a ball of blue light, pointing you the way forward somewhat akin to the method utilised to such brilliance in the dark thriller Dead Space. While it worked for a game that included a maze of corridors, here it makes the challenge of leaping and finding your way ever upwards completely non-existent.
The Prince is just as acrobatic as ever. He’ll happily run on walls, make giant leaps, and utilise every inch of his surroundings in order to make his way through the games fairly lengthy quest to bring light back to the world. But despite the number of moves available, you’ll never feel like you’re truly in control. Timely button presses are essential, but it all feels a little too fluffy and lacking in true response.
Yet despite all the flaws and odd game design choices - and the obvious influences of the fantastic ICO - there are a number of factors that make this latest Prince of Persia title one that could help shape gaming’s platforming future.
The inability to die can be insanely irritating, but it does help the game flow at an incredibly rapid pace. Once an area is cleared of darkness and Elika has utilised her powers to turn a dark area into one packed with colour and delights, that same “level” will be populated by glowing orbs that need to be collected if you wish to open up the next area of the game.
Had frequent deaths occurred at every turn, then this decision would have only looked absolutely insane. But with the instant saves helping the pace - and at times the Prince will rush through levels at an incredible pace which is a fantastic rush - this extra chance to try out wicked jumps and wall runs is one that only helps bring even more platforming goodness.
One major plus point are the graphics. The slightly comic book, cell-shading visuals are absolutely wonderful, with only the odd appearances of gloopy “dark matter” on walls and flaws acting as a putting off device. The first time you bring light to a particular level is one you’ll remember for quite a while with some stunning affects populating the screen.
And as horrific as the Prince’s dialogue can be, it can’t stop the story from being quite the intriguing ride. At points you’ll be prompted to press the left trigger button to initiate unnecessary dialogue, which ranges from one of the Princes idiotic statements, through to some truly story building lines. Safe to say that once you reach the game’s epic conclusion after the 12 or so hours of gameplay offered, you’ll have been taken on an exhilarating ride.
There’s so much to like about Prince of Persia, which makes a batch of poor game design choices all the more upsetting.
If it wasn’t for some truly horrific dialogue from the Prince, and the ridiculous idea of making death absolutely impossible, this one would be hugely recommended. Instead it’s one to wait for a budget price tag.