The prince has returned! Aside from making a brief appearance back in the
90s on Sega's Dreamcast system, the beloved Prince of Persia has been absent from
gaming for some time now. Returning to all consoles by way of Ubisoft, his latest
adventure is one that does the series' history proud.
I have to say, out of a cat with a love for the custodial arts or a
prince of an ancient empire, I'd have to go with the prince for some time-bending
fun. Unlike Blinx: The Time Sweeper some time ago, Prince of Persia:
The Sands of Time takes the micromanagement out of time travel and makes its
necessity one of luxury rather than design.
game opens up with the Prince riding along with his father's army and taking down
the Maharajah. Ignoring why they are attacking them, he simply does his bidding
to make his father proud and secure a name for himself. During the fighting, he
makes his way inside and finds not only the sands of time, but also a powerful
dagger that can wield its power. While sharing the goods with an ally, the King
offers the sands of time as a token of his friendship, but the Prince is tricked
by a traitorous Vizier, the one that opened the gates of the Maharajah's fortress
that allowed for the Prince and his father's men to storm in, and has him unleash
the sands of time on all. Now, men have become demons, and it's up the Prince
to set things right.
In setting things
right, it's fortunate for the Prince that his mysterious dagger also controls
time. By absorbing sand from fallen foes and from small deposits on the ground,
the dagger can grow stronger in how much it can hold, while using the sand to
slow down and reverse time itself. Instead of gaining lives through points or
power-ups, going back through time to escape the already-happened death is used
as the alternative to the standard system. Slowing down time can not only preserve
the player's life, but is also instrumental in getting through many of the game's
puzzles as well.
If there is one thing
that Sands of Time's developers can jot down as a success, it is their
transforming 2D platforming puzzles into a 3D game world. Each level is broken
down into little sections of puzzles, with the endings tending to have small portions
of combat; sometimes a little action is thrown in the middle of a puzzle portion,
for good measure and all. Save points are generous enough, with most being at
the end of a series of obstacles, and they also provide the helpful service of
forshadowing upcoming events of upcoming obstacles. The aformention sections of
puzzles involve navigating through areas with obstacles, be it a booby trap or
debris, and using various objects to reach the unreachable.
Prince is more fortunate than most of his platforming counterparts as he doesn't
simply jump, but he can also run along the side and up walls, jump from ledges,
and swing from poles, plus the ability to slow down time comes in handy for time-sensitive
objects. Aside from the foreshadowing portions, the player can also utilize a
first-person camera view and an environmental shot that pulls the camera back,
both of which greatly help in figuring out where to go and how to proceed. Since
these sections seemed to be broken up in chunks, it seems like every time the
player gets a break to catch their breath, their up against another series of
hazards that are just as nerve-racking as the last.
it comes time to fight, the combat in Sands of Time is much cooler than
it is to look at than it is to participate in. Even with the ability to run alongside
walls, jump off of them, and also jumping over opponents, complete with a deadly
slash attack when coming down behind them, the actual system is pretty limited.
There is the ability to block, as well as a back-flip and side-rolls to evade,
and the ways to work off the environment, but his combat skills are limited to
a small set of slashes and a basic combo. The demons have the ability to teleport
around, so each situation basically has the player circling enemies, picking one
out, doing a the strong flip move that incapacitates the demons with one hit,
and following up with dagger strike to suck up their sand. It isn't bad, and it
certainly looks cool to others, but it can make the fights feel boring after a
As the story unfolds the Prince
will have the standard love interest and elusive enemy. The game is fun, with
solid puzzles, a great atmosphere, and fast action. Something about the game really
didn't grab and hold me, though. It's a short game, less than 10 hours, and I
did enjoy how it was broken up in such a seamless way, but I never found myself
having to play it - I would have to go through in 20-minute spurts because I just
get tired of playing. It also has Xbox Live support, for those card-carrying Live
members. It's a quality product to be sure, but not the unnaturally addictive
title it seems to be.
From Steel Battalion to Wreckless, whenever someone pulls
off a good filter trick, it really makes the game look like something special.
Sands of Time sports some of the best uses of a filter I've seen. The game
has a hazy look that is broken up with sparks from clashing steels, dim light
from torches, and some surreal environments. The animation is smooth, the character
models are good, if a bit repetitive on the demon side, and the detail is outstanding.
This is one of the better looking titles on the Xbox and is sure to impress friends.
Like the graphics, the
audio is done very well. With an updated variation of the standard Middle Eastern
sound, the techno-infused soundtrack is surprisingly fitting. The sound effects
aren't as strong as the music, but they do the job. The voice-overs are high quality,
with appropriate voices for the characters and good synching with the models.
Catchy tunes and the solid voice acting go a long way in providing the rich game
world Sands of Time provides.
It's pretty impressive how well the controls handle the various environment
aerobatics. That isn't to say that there aren't problems, because there certainly
are: whenever the player is in a corner it can be difficult to run the appropriate
way along a surface and leaping from one wall to another also posses some problems.
For the most part, however, it's handled remarkably well. Also, while combat may
be fairly basic, pulling off wall drills and quick escapes is implemented smoothly
with combat moves.
I enjoyed my time with Sands of Time; the atmosphere, puzzles, and
overall design was very well done, but it was never enough to hold my interest
for long periods of play - some more variety in the fighting system wouldn't have
hurt, though. Not compelling me to play for a long time might have been a good
thing, because the game is less than 10 hours long. It's a definite rental, if