An Ico Shadow of the Colossus Assassin’s Creed Okami Gerudo Valley.
The long-running series Prince of Persia has returned to its original title with no subtitle (we actually had to call this “Prince of Persia 2008”) and no number (it would actually be
number ”7”). I didn’t know you were allowed to do that… But hey, it’s fair enough as they went with a whole new look, fundamentally changed gameplay, and a female companion who’s constantly by your side and whose name fully deserves to be in the title as much as Daxter, Kazooie, or Clank.
[image1]In fact, according to the manual, the Prince is not even a prince at all, just a smart-aleck adventurer or possibly a thief who is looking for his donkey that he claims is laden with gold. One magical sandstorm later, he finds himself in the middle of a celestial war, teamed up with a hottie named Elika who actually is a princess.
Once upon a time, the magical land in which the “Prince” now finds himself trapped was balanced between the god of light, Ormazd, and the god of darkness, Ahriman. But Ahriman got greedy and there was a terrible war. Ormazd tricked Ahriman into the Tree of Life, where he became trapped; however, Ormazd was so disgusted by the whole thing that he just took off sulking into the universe, leaving his brother bound.
Of course that never lasts, and Ahriman is beginning to escape his prison as evidenced by the “corruption” spreading everywhere. The Prince, of course, must battle that corruption and slam the cell door closed again. True to the game’s roots, he does this by leaping, swinging, running along walls, and performing other acrobatic feats that are just this side of slightly impossible.
However, this time he’s not alone. Have you ever wondered why you could double jump in games? Get up and try it. You can’t do it. But now I’ve figured it out. In all those games, you had a partner Elika along with you, only she was invisible. Yes, Elika is your double jump, your magical weapon, your power-up at certain glyphs dotting the landscape, but more importantly, your savior.
[image2]You cannot die in Prince of Persia, not under any circumstances, because Elika always saves you. Falling off a cliff? She flies in and grabs you. Sinking into corruption? She pulls you out. About to get stabbed? She blasts the enemy off you. Ran out of toilet paper? She… never mind.
It’s a nice game mechanic because while it fundamentally is no different from the die-try-again, die-try-again, die-try-again game (Mirror’s Edge, I’m looking at you), it feels different. With no loading time and no “you just failed” attitude, it makes the whole thing a happier, more fun experience.
And you can count on Elika to save you time and time again, especially if you try and play like previous Prince of Persia games. While there may be two or three paths to get to where you are going, and you can tackle the game’s challenges in any order you choose, the path you end up choosing only has one exact way through it. So if it’s Run, Jump, Swing, Double Jump, Swing, Wall Run, Taa Daa!, that’s the only combo that will get you down the hallway. Try it until you succeed.
This makes PoP play a lot like a three-button rhythm game with environmental clues coming at you instead of colored dots. Imagine Bike Hero except without all the ground markings, which then I guess is just like imagining a Bike Ride. Not all that exciting, is it?
[image3]The only other gameplay element is the combat, which is fairly infrequent and entirely duel-based. Yes, the Prince’s battles are always one on one. Actually, it’s two on one if you count Elika, and of course since she’s around, you cannot die. If I were Ahriman, I’d cry foul. Like the wall running, it’s also timing intensive and revolves around enemies going into particular “states” which can only be broken by a
specific button press particular kind of attack. It’s not brilliant, but it allows for some cinematic moments.
Speaking of which, the whole game is very, very pretty. Ubisoft remade the look with a semi-cel-shaded effect that makes everything look like a combination of a cartoon, a stained glass window, and a painting. It doesn’t work quite as well as Okami, but it works very well indeed. Both the Prince and Elika look great, as do the varied environments, especially after they’ve been cleansed of corruption.
The sound also excels, with a terrific score that varies from vaguely Middle Eastern soft tones to vaulting symphonic pieces clearly inspired by the soundtrack of Laurence of Arabia. Also there’s great voice-acting for the frat-boy sense of humor Prince and the more earnest Elika. There’s even a talk button for people who want more dialogue with their action.
Unlocking areas is one of the places where the game breaks down a bit. In order to get to every area of the map and restore all the fertile grounds, you’ll need to collect all of Elika’s four magic powers. In order to get those, you need to collect the “light orbs/seeds/stationary spherical fireflies” that appear after a land has been cleansed. It just feels like a cheap way to get you to run through the same paths a second time. And they’re exactly the same too, with all the same jumps and falls, just prettier since all the corruption is gone. So it’s still less of an open environment and more like that game you played as a kid where the floor was poison and you all had to run around the house on the furniture (and your house was only two hallways leading to the same door).
[image4]And why am I helping to cleanse these lands anyway? (Other than to perhaps impress the hot chick.) There’s nobody in them. They’re empty, so who cares if they’re corrupt? The crumbling city has been abandoned for a thousand years. Let it go.
And with no multiplayer, PoP is about a 12-hour single-player experience, and only masochists will try and find all 1001 light orbs (you get new costumes).
Even if there’s no particular reason for it, Prince of Persia is a fun romp through a desert temple. The parkour-heavy gameplay looks impressive and is satisfying without being too frustrating. So head on over to your local store and pick up a copy of Princess Elika and That Nameless Drifter Guy Looking For His Donkey.