Prince of Persia has gone through its fair share of changes in the past, with each reiteration bringing something new. This time around is no different as Ubisoft gives the franchise yet another facelift, with some new gameplay. This time the Prince is a smart mouthed tomb raider who’s given a side kick to help him along the way.
The game starts with the Prince on the hunt for his lost donkey, which is carrying a very large amount of gold he’s procured. He comes across a fleeing maiden who’s trying to outrun her father’s guards. The Prince decides to give the maiden, Princess Elika, a hand in escaping her pursuers. Unfortunately the duo manages to meet up with the Princesses father, who sets free the dark god Ahriman. Having been entombed in his prison for thousands of years, the dark god releases the corruption which floods the land in darkness. The Princess must now heal the lands in order to recapture Ahriman and save her kingdom. Not one to shy from adventure, the Prince helps her in her task. It’s a match made in heaven, with Princess Elika being infused with the power of a god and the Prince having the uncanny ability to climb, run and jump walls like a spider.
Almost immediately you’ll notice the Prince’s American accent and mannerisms, and it feels a bit out of place. There’s nothing Persian about the way he talks or acts, or the Princess for that matter either. With talk of boyfriends, dating, looking at each others asses etc. you’ll wonder just when this is taking place. Thankfully it doesn’t distract from the game too much. You’ll also see a physical interaction between the two that’s unseen in other games. Elika will grab a piggyback while you climb vines, when switching places on a beam they perform a little hand-in-hand dance and if she drops onto the Prince’s position, he will catch her with a flirty remark. You can see the attraction building between the two as the game progresses.
This platforming aspect is the foundation upon which the game is built. Playing as the Prince you’ll glide from wall-to-wall, swing from poles, use hooks to propel yourself and use any nook and cranny that will help along the way. One of the most noticeable aspects of gameplay is how graceful the Prince moves, using a combination of leaps runs. You’re aided by a simple control system that’s easy to master as you leap from ledge to ledge, scrape down walls and glide through the air with the assistance of Elika. While it might all seem effortless it’s far from it. Combinations are a test of instinct and timing. If you get it wrong you’ll have to start it over again, but thankfully you’ll never die. Unfortunately the drawback is how repetitive it becomes, with every level being the same gameplay wise.
This leads to an interesting feature of the game, having Elika rescue you every time you misstep or are about to be smashed into oblivion. Having god like powers can come in handy, it’s as easy as Elika reaching out with her hand and using her magical powers to pull you up as you plummet to your death or pushing away one of the evil minions as they’re about to flatten you. You’re effectively unable to die, and while it might lessen any sense of frustration you may have it cheapens the experience. You don’t worry about restarting a level because you know you’re guaranteed safety.
Elika also assists you in combat, casting spells that inflict damage to the corrupted solider or one of the four bosses. More often than not she gets in the way and at times is downright useless. Unfortunately the combat feature doesn’t measure up to the rest of the game. The controls are streamlined, one button to control the sword, one to grab and one or Elika’s magic. You have the ability to mix up the moves, which can lead to devastating combos. When it works, it’s great, but unfortunately it doesn’t always work well. You’ll also find that Elika protects you from death, and in turn your enemy regains some health. Couple these together and most fights have you simply grinding the enemies life bar down which for some bosses can take too long. Fortunately, the combat makes up a small portion of the game.
While Prince of Persia may not be the first game to use the cel-shading technique, it’s probably the best use of it to date. The entire game looks as though it’s one giant watercolor painting, from the environment to the characters. And it looks wonderful. Near perfect camera work helps players to appreciate the view as the prince swings around corners, leaps over ledges and soars through the air. Whether it’s a cut-scene or the in game engine, the graphics look superb and add a level to the game previously unseen.
Overall, Prince of Persia is a fun game despite its repetitiveness. The graphics are beautiful to look at the ease of controlling the game makes for an instant liking. Ubisoft’s new direction for the franchise is a successful one, and you can be rest assured one that will be continued in the future.