Prince of Persia
Oh I've been looking forward to this one! I played Sands of Time and was blown away. It may have been one of the funnest platformers I've ever played. I love this series. I played the newest incarnation of this series on Christmas day right after getting it.
In the new Prince of Persia you play, well you play some guy who's real name and back story are never given but hey he's mysterious. This time the newest incarnation of the Prince is a prince only in nickname. He's an adventurer of sorts - grave robber - and luck never goes his way. He's finally hit the big haul;a donkey loaded with gold. Unfortunately he loses his donkey and has to trek through a sand storm to find his riches. While searching he has the luck of falling down a canyon, a rock hitting his head, and still not finding that donkey! It seems like it might get better when a really beautiful girl lands on him next but then he only finds her being pursued by men with pointy objects and her psycho dad. The girl's a princess with magical powers, her dad's unleashed the Zorastrian god of darkness, and the prince is stuck saving the day instead of finding his donkey/gold.
First, the excellent! Of all the things I was expecting out of the new Prince of Persia, an amazing story was not one of them. Most of the story revolves around the Prince and the princess, Elika, as they fight the evil dark god and his minions to save the world. I found that one of the greatest hits for Sands of Time was the Prince. He was so god damn lovable and so human. Praise the lord we have that once again. Watching the new prince run, jump, climb and fight is a real treasure! He's very laid back, not shaken by danger, and awesomely sarcastic. But he's got a obvious level realism/cynicism that makes him feel as human as the last incarnation and an excellent foil to the idealistic/passionate Elika.
Speaking of our heroine, Elika, is a wonderous character! She's probably just entered my top ten for great video game heroines and she whole heartedly deserves it. Her witty comments and interactions with an equally witty prince are beautiful and sing of a character chemistry I haven't seen since Kirk and Spock bold went. She's a great change from the norm of game princesses (I have the feeling she could pull off saving the day prince or no prince), and her role in the story makes me love her all the more.
I find half my love for this game has been the two heroes. Elika and the Prince are a relationship that I will call damn near flawless as they interact and speak with a level of believability that is rare in mass media. It may be worth buying the game just so you can watch them interact!
The graphics and environments, are beautiful. I know some people don't like cell shaded but tis game really is something to behold. The levels are colorful, great eye candy, and their scale mind boggling. One of the coolest aspects is that the game has no loading screens except when you teleport, which means that while running around there's nothing to break the game for you. The areas are all varied enough to make each one a fun treat to explore and play through.
Now for the nasty. There is a bittersweet side to the environments. Elika often aids the prince, saving him from doom, fightng enemies at his side, providing witty comments and picking at his selfishness or silly nature, but she is still a magic user. There are times in the game where you must use powers you've unlocked to proceed and these powers leave the game feeling cheap. I remember in Sands of Time when I scaled the final tower all by myself, jumping, swinging, and climbing all the way to the top. You do that in the new game too, but not in the same way. You'll often use Elika's powers to move great distances and scale the towers faster, though it's not much I feel a little cheated when it's over, wondering why I couldn't use just the princes acrobatic madness to get to the top instead of making my way up via magic. These section's are even easier than the rest of the game, and not much real fun to play and I sort of wonder if I'd feel more accomplished looking from the top knowing I'd climbed the whole damn thing myself.
That's just part of it though, and luckily it's the only downside I think anyone can find in Elika (she's such a lovable character I forgave her ). The gameplay I think some people may like, love, or hate. The controls are still tight and excellently put together. It's easy to get into this game once you know what all the buttons do. It's very different from the Sands of Time trilogy in good and bad ways. First be ready for a slight shocker; you can't die in this game. Whenever the prince is in danger from and enemy or close to falling to his doom, Elika will use her magic to save him, throwing the enemy away before the final blow or flying him back to safety. Now surprisingly, this I like. It breaks the annoyance of check points, and means that after completing a section of platforming you don't have to do it all over again if the next kills you as Elika will just warp you back to the last place where you could stand. It's a nice mechanic. I feel it has nothing to really do with the sad fact gameplay is much much MUCH easier. The game no longer has booby traps for the most part and often the only real threat to your survival is falling because you didn't press the right button at the right time, silly little things that you aren't likely to do often. Though I'm glad to see the trial and error of the SoT series go, I'm sad to lose the challenge. The game's platforming is still amazing and gives you a deep satisfaction of bad asery, but it's still too easy when you're only real threat of starting the whole section over is forgetting to press a button (which after awhile you just don't do anymore if you did it at all to begin with). Still though I say again, the crown and glory platforming of the Prince of Persia series is here and still loads of fun for those who are ready no matter how easy it is! The aspect is made even better by the spread of collectable Seeds of Light you pick up to advance in story and to gain achievements.
On a bright side, the use of Elika in the game is perfect. She often helps the prince and I never found her to be a hinderance a great change of pace for how side kicks usually play out in game. She won't hold you back she rarely does something stupid, and you never have to wait for her, because if you need her for something, some clever camera work and some slight of hand from the game itself will make her available instantly. I was very pleased with this as I had worried she would be like Farah from Sands of Time who would often do something stupid.
Elika is even integrated into fights, tag teaming enemies with the prince to help him fight off the baddies at the press of a button to help you execute two on one combos! Despite this though, the combat of the game is not what I'd hoped for. It's solid and fun, but you hardly ever fight anything. There are very few enemies and they always come one at a time. You fight the same same bosses five times each, and there really is very little difference in between them at all save for one. As such the combat gets repetitive, and though the use of tag teaming your foes with Elika is fun it gets old quickly when fighting most of the enemies follows the same button presses.
As you progress in the game sadly, the boss fights cease being challenging and become merely annoying. There are many quick time sequences later in the game which become predictable quickly and are for me a waste of time as even when you kick throw or slash and enemy in these sequences you do no damage to them but risk a fatal blow Elika must save you from and whenever she saves you the enemy will regain hit points that they lost up to a certain point in the fight. Later in the game the bosses will throw five or six events at you one after the next and it only takes one wrong button to screw this up and earn them a good chunk of health back. I don't mind that, otherwise the fights would be too easy, Elika being a permanent get out of hell card and all. But Often I find the events annoying as they just waste your time. You can't deal damage so it feels like a cheap way for the bosses to come at you deal damage to you, maybe earn back some HP, and give you no chance to fight back till it's over. The combat isn't broken or bad it just gets old pretty fast.
As a final word, if you like Prince of Persia you may be torn over liking or hating the new changes the game has brought. I love it, I think it's a great game, a little different from the norm with fantastic main characters that I could play it all over again just to redo all their conversations. The game is great held back from true glory by its repetitiveness and being far to easy to play.
Rent or Buy: Rent it probably. If you love the series you may love it but you may hate it so again I think a rent is the best bet. It's a great game but I get the feeling it won't be for everyone.
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