Prince Of Persia Review: Like Sands Through The HourglassS

Despite the overwhelming success of the first trilogy, Ubisoft went back to the drawing board to bring an entirely new Prince of Persia experience to the current generation of consoles.

The new Prince of Persia marks a total revamp of the beloved franchise that has enchanted millions of players since the debut of the original game back in 1989. Lost in a mysterious sandstorm, a nameless adventurer accidentally stumbles upon a legendary city threatened by the release of a dark god from ages past. Teaming up with a mysterious, magic-wielding woman named Elika, our hero sets off on a quest to keep the dark god from gaining its freedom and wrecking havoc on the world.

Was wiping the slate clean the right move for Ubisoft, or does the new Prince of Persia leave us wishing we could go back in time?

Loved
Ease Of Movement: This is the most fun I've had traveling in a Prince of Persia title, period. The controls are extremely responsive, making traversing the complicated levels a breeze. Remember past PoP titles where they would pan over the path you had to take before you attempted it? Completely unnecessary here, thanks to masterfully intuitive level design.

The Story Unfolds: Rather than reveal the story as scripted events, Prince of Persia allows you to decide how much or little of the story you wish to experience using an innovative conversation system. Simply press the left shoulder button to launch into conversations with your female companion that reveal much about her past as well as the Prince's own. While much of it is optional, I highly recommend you talk to Elika as much as possible, if only for the amazing chemistry that develops between the two characters throughout the course of the game.

A Painting Come To Life: The phenomenal graphics we've seen in screenshots of Prince of Persia are even more amazing when put to motion. The developers put the unique artistic style to good use, creating a world that is alternates between dark and dreadful and colorfully fantastic.

I Like Elika: Your lovely female companion is far more than something pretty to look at as you traverse the game. She's your lifeline, your help system, and the living embodiment of super moves that so often go unexplained in platforming titles. She is your magical attacks. She is your double jump. Rather than coming across as a tacked-on character, by the end of the game she is an extension of yourself. The perfect sidekick.

A Dance With Death: The fighting in Prince of Persia is simple enough for a beginner yet complex enough that the more skilled will be rewarded for mastering it. Consisting of four attack types (sword, magic, acrobatic, and claw) and a block button, battles can be fought and won by simply blocking until you find your opening, but using the parry system to create your own openings offers a much more satisfying experience. Combat is fluid and dynamic, with active time events breaking up the monotony and allowing for some spectacular cinematic moments.

Music Of The Sands: While I didn't notice the music as much during gameplay, as the credits were rolling I sat transfixed as several pieces from the original score played, amazed by the quality of composition. It's the type of music you'd expect from a big-budget adventure movie. This is music I would gladly purchase on its own.

Hated
Easy Peasy: If ever there was a game to accuse of excessive hand-holding, Prince of Persia would be it. You'll never see a Game Over screen, and you will never, ever die. Fall off a cliff, and Elika saves you. Get crushed by an enemy, and Elika saves you. While I understand some of the reasoning behind why Ubisoft Montreal went this route, the mechanic seriously cuts down on dramatic tension. The open nature of gameplay also means that there really is no ramping difficulty as you progress, in order to account for the fact that you can progress in any order you desire.

Redundant Boss Fights: The boss fights in Prince of Persia, save the very last one, are repeated upwards of five times over, with slight variations in-between bouts. One could argue that they are simply one extended boss fight broken up into five segments, but they would be wrong.

While many publishers would have been perfectly content to simply crank out sequel after sequel of a bestselling franchise, Ubisoft instead gambled with a total revamp of the Prince of Persia series, and their gamble paid off in spades. Not only have they maintained the core gameplay of the series, they've managed to improve upon it in a way that might not have been as noticeable had they stayed with the look and feel of games like The Two Thrones. Not only have they crafted a compelling new story for the game, they've created a completely new method for that story to be delivered, giving the player as much control over how the tale unfolds as they do over the Prince himself.

While I could have done with a bit more fighting and a slightly grittier voice actor to play the titular role, Prince of Persia still manages to be one of the most entertaining game experiences I've had all year.

Prince of Persia was developed by Ubisoft Montreal, published by Ubisoft, released in North America on Nov. 24 for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Retails for $59.99. Reviewed on the PlayStation 3. Completed game, credits and all. Hungry for more.

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