Been playing the oldish first part of the resurrected Prince of Persia-saga, Sands of Time. It was released to rave reviews but an initially lukewarm commercial success for christmas 2003, but has already seen the sales figures go up. High enough to warrant two sequels released a year apart.
And it’s turned out to be a good and enjoyable game indeed, right now I’m hovering around 70% of completion, and expect to finish soonish.
It’s sufficiently 3D to satisfy the need for eye candy, but most of the time it doesn’t fully operate in all dimensions. On the other hand, the scenery is all 3d, all the time, and some of the rooms are enough to cause nightmares for any acrophobics in the audience. Normal jumping and running activities are supplemented by a hefty selection of more acrobatic tricks such as swinging from poles, walking on vertical walls and indeed some more jumping and running.
It’s not all exploration, as the environs are teeming with enemies. Combats are, once again, rendered with a suitable set of acrobatics, and are thus quite flashy yet the protagonist remains in control of activity.
Time is an element not often used in games apart from task deadlines. However, in this game the eponymous Sands of Time give the Prince a small amount of control over the passage of time. It can be slowed down or even halted to assist surgical strikes in combat. And, more often, the time can be rewound after a miscued jump or other accident. The game itself is presented in past tense, with the prince as the narrator.
Savepoints are liberally distributed in the palace, and usually a big set piece, be it a fight, puzzle or a collection of death-defying stunts, is paired with a conveniently located means to preserve the state of the game.
Visually the game is faultless. It contains tons of images conveying a vast arabic palace that has suffered a devastating attack. Scenes are played through a day, so the environs are seen in both twilight and full daylight. Sonically the game succeeds as well, but earns a demerit for not including subtitles for the spoken dialogue. The actors are not the greatest, and I found myself actually missing huge chunks while playing.
As an easter egg (to be uncovered around the 33% completion mark) the game includes a remake of the very first, utterly two-dimensional Prince of Persia-game from 1989. It’s a well-rendered homage, and worth a try.
The sequel to Sands of Time, Warrior Within, saw a lot of changes, not all of them good. The story focused on combat as opposed to exploration, and all kinds of unnecessary bits of badassitude were stapled onto an already finished game: a puzzling inclusion of a nu-metal soundtrack, swearing, tattoos, thong-wearing villainesses. Bumped the sales figures a few notches, but were stylistically decried. I don’t think I’ll bother with the sequel – the backlog of unplayed games is long enough without B-class followups. And includes Beyond Good and Evil another Ubisoft game that was released to very little acclaim in 2003. And unlike Sands of Time, never got a second chance.