Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands
There is a moment in ‘Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands’ when, after leaping, sliding, spinning and running through a particularly elaborate set of traps, the titular Prince asks, ‘Who builds these things?’ Now, the answer to this question is obviously Ubisoft…but within the fantasy of the game world, he does have a point. What sort of maniac would build a labyrinthine palace stuffed to the gills with all manner of traps and switches that are only accessible to a wall running Prince with the ability to rewind time, freeze water and jump on demonic vultures? In this case, the lunatic effort has paid off as such a person has appeared… but ninety-nine times out of a hundred, the construction effort required would be for naught, and the owner of the palace would have been better off spending their money on a nice little extension, conservatory or possibly a swimming pool.
Luckily for gamers, videogames aren’t prisoners to common sense and we’ve been given the chance to explore a whole series’ worth of trap-laden castles, palaces and dungeons that have for the most part been an enjoyable ride. Though the series has undoubtedly had it’s up and downs – the sterling Sands of Time released in 2003 was followed up by the somewhat lacklustre Warrior Within and the 2008 cel-shaded, open-world effort upset some purists – the Prince himself has remained a wonderfully energetic character who, at his best, is a pleasure to control with an athletic move-set that set the bar for videogame parkour. This latest instalment – Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands – snuck up on us somewhat, having only been premiered in December 2009 and seeming to fill the (unenviable) role as a movie tie-in (Jerry Bruckheimer’s movie has just been released); with this in mind, it’s fair to say that expectations weren’t that high.
The Forgotten Sands takes the series back to the basics; or, to put it another way, it gets rid off much of the baggage that the Prince has accumulated over the years and focuses on what he does best – namely running along walls, death defying leaps, nimbly dodging lethal traps and smacking some bad guys about with his scimitar. It’s a simple formula, but a proven one, and The Forgotten Sands hints that there’s life in the old series yet.
Anyone who has played Sands of Time will be instantly familiar with The Forgotten Sands. In fact, they may well find it slightly too familiar, with much of the game feeling like a glossy re-hash. Though the story picks up after the Prince’s adventure in The Sands of Time, the tale spun out in The Forgotten Sands comes with a sense of déjà vu, with only passing references to the former title. Visiting his brother, the Prince finds a palace under siege and his sibling resorting to desperate measures to save his land. And thus, an ancient power is unleashed and threatens the kingdom with destruction; a fate that only our beloved Prince can prevent.
Though the plot may be solid but uninspired, it is hard to criticise it too much; Prince of Persia has always fed on clichés, with the handsome princess saving the day….and that there’s plenty of that here comes as no surprise. Any weaknesses in the plot are also slightly easier to overlook as the meat of the game is so solid. Much of The Forgotten Sands screams quality – Ubisoft obviously consider it one of their flagship titles and it is clearly one that they know inside an out. A harsher critic might say that it’s somewhat clinical in its delivery, with mechanics and artistic styles boiled down to their essence until no interesting bumps and rough edges remain…but there’s no denying that this is a consistently good looking game that on a few occasions manages to be pretty darn breathtaking.
The uber-confident visuals are matched with equally robust gameplay. Flinging the Prince around levels, running up walls, swinging on polls and leaping onto ledges is as fun – and as fluid – as it ever was. Series veterans will find themselves quickly settling into the familiar rhythm of working through the cavernous levels with a mixture of methodical planning and split second timing, and if you’d forgotten how much fun the Prince of Persia is to control, The Forgotten Sands serves as the perfect reminder. Newcomers to the series (of which there may be quite a few should the movie be a success) will also find an approachable and satisfying platforming experience and will no doubt be dazzled by the acrobatics on show.
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