Prince of Persia Review

Dan Webb

The title “Prince” was too loosely used back in the nineties and early “noughties”; whether you look at that zany rock star who eventually forgot his own name, the self professed fresh prince of Bel Air or even that Harry chap, they were all careless uses of a word that should be held in high esteem. The only Prince that stayed strong and true to that word was our friend from Persia, with a trilogy of hits astounding fans worldwide. The latest iteration for this current generation of consoles comes with a total makeover; a new Prince, a new look and a new feel.

Elika is the queen of party tricks.

The tale in the Prince of Persia is essentially a battle of light versus dark with a love story intertwined throughout. It tells the story of Princess Elika and your kind self, the Prince who are thrown in to each other’s paths just before the kingdom is about to come under the threat of the dark destroying god, Ahriman. You and Elika must then fight off Ahriman’s keepers to restore light, peace and tranquillity to the kingdom. The story is in fact an enjoyable tale full of wit, charm and personality and is a fitting tribute to the world that Ubisoft Montreal have created.

The first thing that will smack you in the face with Prince of Persia is the game’s presentation, both from a visual and audio standpoint. It’s like being part of an interactive painting and the game strikes a great balance of the artistic, wide open vistas with the cel-shaded characters. After freeing the fertile grounds from corruption, seeing the colour flow back in to the once dreary kingdom is a sight to behold and thanks to the impressive draw distances, it makes it that much sweeter.

The audio aspect is on equal value to the visual side of the game; offering a powerful score, great voice acting and did I mention the powerful score? The Prince may be a bit different to what we’re used to, a bit more scruffy per se, but he’s as charming and amusing as ever with his off the cuff remarks and dry humour. Nathan Nolan truly puts in a memorable performance as the Prince and the chemistry between him and Elika, voiced by Kari Wahlgren, only adds to the immersion of the story. The game’s audio aspect is only marred by some dodgy lip syncing on occasions.

Prince of Persia, or Peter Pan; you decide.

In order to progress through the game, the Prince and Elika will have to rid the once holy ground of corruption by liberating the fertile ground which is usually occupied by one of the four sub bosses. Defeating them and liberating the land restores peace and tranquillity to the area, ultimately giving you the chance to pick up the area’s light seeds which are used to power up the Prince so he can access special powers, making new areas of the world accessible to you; it’s a simple formula that works pretty well.

The powers that you unlock through the light seeds give the Prince special temporary powers when he activates one of the many relic plates; whether it’s an extended wall run, super boost jump, a random fairy-esque jump and a flying manoeuvre (seriously). The others fare pretty well but I can’t help but feel that the flying power does not work well; not only in terms of it fitting in to the whole Prince of Persia universe but it’s damn too finicky to control and clipping a wall sends you crashing back to where you started. I think the problem is that the camera never gives you a clear indication which way to steer and the controls are overly sensitive. Thankfully, this makes up for less than 1% of gameplay so it is more of a passing thought.

If you’re going in to Prince of Persia thinking you’ll be getting a hardcore platformer, think again. It is in fact one of the easiest games you’ll ever play but that doesn’t necessarily detract away from the experience. The controls are fluent and easy to pick up, as is the combat, but the fact that you can’t technically die kills the game’s spirit a little. Every time you miss a jump and end up plummeting to the bottom of a chasm or an enemy gets a little too close to your throat with their blade, Elika will pull you back from the brink; meaning you’ll jump back a short distance as if it never happened. If ever you were nursed through a game with a diaper on, this is it.

The movement controls work on simple button presses; jump, co-op grab and extend momentum, and are easy to pick up, but you’re given a bit more freedom and complexity in the combat scenarios. It’s clear that this time, Ubisoft Montreal have gone for the motion of fewer battle scenes but more epic. The new system allows you to link some pretty long combos together which are not only easy to time, but look visually fantastic. Again though, the fact that you can’t die means that you seem to be more carefree in the battles.

The controls and feel of the game aren’t perfect though and if his slow running speed doesn’t frustrate you, then surely his mind-of-his-own jumping moments will. Usually the movement in the platforming aspect is simple and doesn’t require too much precision meaning you can get a real good flow going, but at times the Prince will react beyond the button presses and do something idiotic; one example of this is that every time the Prince jumps at a wall that you want to use the gauntlet to slide down, he will hop up first and if there is a lip above, it will push you off the wall. Frustrating is an understatement.

Whilst you are trekking round the kingdom freeing the fertile ground from Ahriman’s grip, in any order you want may I add, you’ll encounter a few puzzles. Generally the puzzles are fairly simplistic but are solid in terms of having to think, however they all seem to involve a moving lever mechanic to open up the path to continue; whether you’re lining up sacred jump plates or channelling corruption in to another channel. Then there is the whole issue of fighting the same boss 5 times before finally defeating them; you kind of get the feeling of déjà-vu as they never seem to get any harder either. Lazy, or dragging out one boss battle? You can be the judge of that.

The combat combos look amazing

The achievements are the aspect of the game that seems to be off more than anything. Whether you’re talking about the excessive use of “Congratulations” when you unlock one, the use of the same tile throughout the whole list or the collect 1001 light seeds achievements; it’s a list that doesn’t match the calibre of the game. To upset the apple cart a bit more, the game includes a speed achievement (although stupidly generous with time limits) and an achievement that requires you don’t rely on the Elika save mechanism more than 100 times. Despite all that, it’s still a fairly easy 1k and an enjoyable one at that, and it can be done in one playthrough but is best saved for two ... Say 20 hours max.

Prince of Persia is definitely one of the best games of 2008 and it’s quite possibly the last “must own” of 2008 with downloadable content promised for next year. The combat is lavish, the controls simple, the animations fluent and the story a joy to be immersed in. Throw that in to a beautifully original world with a powerful score and an epic cast performance, and Prince of Persia is a title that can’t be missed this year. Not the hardcore platformer that many had hoped for, but a game that uses its artistic license freely in an enjoyable adventure in a vivid world.

If it wasn't for the pretty odd lip syncing at times the audio would be flawless. A fantastic score, supported by some great voice acting and chemistry ultimately means that Prince of Persia is one of the best audio experiences of the year.

One of the most unique game looks you'll ever see. The cel-shaded characters against the painting like backdrops is utterly fantastic and one that captures the essence of the Prince of Persia kingdom perfectly. The battle between light and dark throughout is a central theme that Ubisoft Montreal capture perfectly. Let down from being a perfect score by the odd clipping moment.

The game's controls are simple enough and responsive, the same can be said with the combat. Where the game falls short though is its lack of challenge as you technically can't die.

A fantastic adventure across a huge, although fairly linear in paths, open world. Choose who you fight and when, as you get sucked in to a fantastic story with wit, charm and personality from beginning to end. Chances are you're looking at around 10 hours a playthrough, but with the promise for more story via DLC, surely you can't pass this up.

Too much collecting, a few missed chance boss achievements and the same achievement tile for every achievement reeks of laziness from the developers. Such a shame that such a great game doesn't carry such a good list with it.

Quite possibly the last "must own" of 2008 and easily one of the best action-adventure games of the year. With a fantastic soundtrack and a unique and superb look, Prince of Persia is a platformer that you shouldn't miss. Granted, it's not the hardcore platformer that fans of the series yearned for, but if you're looking for a rich story in an even richer setting, then Prince of Persia is for you ... If anyone wants us, we'll be waiting in a cupboard for the DLC which is due next year.

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