Game: Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Available on: Xbox 360, PS3, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS, PSP and PC (reviewed on Xbox 360)
The Prince of Persia series has been around for many years now and it has given us some highly enjoyable titles. The first game was released back in 1989 and was great, but the best addition to the series didn’t hit store shelves until November 2003. That game was the Ubisoft developed Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. This “reimagining” managed to blend together key elements such as platforming, puzzles and combat to near perfection. The games that followed (Warrior Within and Two Thrones) were good but they failed to capture the magic that was so evident in The Sands of Time. A recent “reboot” in 2008 (Prince of Persia) tried to take the series in a different direction and even that was good, but still couldn’t manage to reach the heights of The Sands of Time.
Putting the “reboot” on hold, Ubisoft decided to turn their attentions back to the original trilogy. That is where Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands comes in, this new title hopes to capture the magic of The Sands of Time and provide gamers with the quintessential Prince of Persia gameplay experience. So, does The Forgotten Sands manage to climb to new heights or does it end up falling into a pit of spikes? Read on for the full review.
STORY: Not exactly sure when, but The Forgotten Sands is set sometime between the events of The Sands of Time and Warrior Within. The Prince is visiting his brother, Malik, and turns up to find the Royal Palace under attack, with the troops struggling to hold back the enemy. Realising that the Royal Palace is about to fall, Malik attempts to release the Army of King Solomon to help him and his troops against the enemy. Things do not go plan though and, without ruining anything, it is up to the Prince to step up to the plate and save the day.
Sounds familiar doesn’t it?! The story is very similar to a couple of the previous games in the series and, whilst that isn’t a bad thing as such, it would have been nice to have a slightly more original tale. How many games will it take before these people realise that releasing things is a bad thing, don’t do it! The story also takes a decent stab at the whole “bridging the gap” thing, but it doesn’t really fully explain how the Prince came to be so “angry” in the Warrior Within.
GRAPHICS: Graphically, the game isn’t that great. Now that doesn’t mean it is the worst looking game ever (not by a long shot) but you would be forgiven for expecting much better from the talented folks over at Ubisoft Montreal. When you come off the back of games like God of War III, it is quite underwhelming. It has a weird sort of look, half realistic and half cartoon-like. The recent “reboot” actually looks a lot better, the art style is far superior.
For the most part the games runs quite smoothly, but when a high number enemies barrage the screen there is some noticeable slowdown. To be honest though, gameplay sections with a high number of enemies only really show up during the latter half of the game so the slowdown shouldn’t really hinder your overall enjoyment of the game too much.
SOUND: The voice acting in The Forgotten Sands is really well done and, more importantly, believable. It helps that Ubisoft managed to get Yuri Lowenthal back to do the voice of the Prince, his performance is the highlight, but all the other characters are expertly voiced too. The sound effects are decent enough and the background music does well to add an epic, middle eastern atmospheric to proceedings.
GAMEPLAY: The Forgotten Sands starts off pretty slowly (first 30 mins or so), but after that it just gets better and better. The combination of platforming and puzzle solving (slightly more of the former) is just fantastic, a joy to experience and really well implemented. The feeling when you nail a tricky looking section is just great and, trust me, there are quite a few of them! Pretty much all of them are fair though, you never really feel “cheated” which a testament to how well designed the game is.
The gameplay pretty much follows the blueprint The Sands of Time left behind, but with some new additions. For instance, the platforming and puzzles now also take into consideration elements such as water. I don’t want to spoil things for you lovely folks so I won’t say exactly how they are blended into the gameplay, but needless to say they are well thought out and, more importantly, highly enjoyable.
The combat, whilst not spectacular, is also pretty good. I wouldn’t go into the game expecting something on par with God of War III or Bayonetta, it’s quite simplistic compared to those games but still fun. I’m repeating myself here, but the basic combat is not too dissimilar to The Sands of Time. You have your normal attacks, aerial attacks and so on, but Ubisoft have also introduced a system which allows you to “purchase” (you don’t actually go to a shop and buy them) and upgrade certain elemental based abilities. You upgrade these abilities by using “XP” which is gained from fallen enemies. The inclusion of these abilities is a nice touch, but is kind of negated by the fact that you don’t really need to use them. During my playthrough, I only really used one of them and that was on the odd rare occasion. This is not a huge complaint by any means, but something worth mentioning anyway.
When you do actually get into combat situations the enemies you come across won’t give you a huge amount of trouble. Only when attacked by different types of enemies at the the same time will you have to actually think about what you’re doing, everything else is just a walk in the park. If the gameplay was combat heavy then this would be a bit of an issue, but in The Forgotten Sands the pendulum swings heavily in the favour of the platforming and puzzles whilst the combat takes a back seat.
LONGEVITY: The Forgotten Sands isn’t that long and should take you around 8 or 9 hours to complete on the normal difficulty setting. A second playthrough isn’t a huge incentive unless you want to get all the achievements or trophies. The game does include a challenge mode which has two game types (enemy tides and time trial), but I can’t see anyone spending more than an hour or two playing those.
VERDICT: Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands falls ever so slightly short of the high standards set by the wonderful The Sands of Time, but that doesn’t stop it from being a highly enjoyable game. The combination of platforming and puzzle solving is just fantastic, truly a joy to experience. If a little more polish was applied to the visuals and combat, it could have been something special. Still, it’s a must for fans of the original trilogy.