Prince of Persia Reader Review
I have never really got in to action-adventure games. I played the Devil May Cry demo and found it repetitive. I played Assassin�s Creed for about an hour before getting bored. But the hype surrounding Prince of Persia (POP) at the time of launch piqued my interest. After a pretty damning review by EG and mixed opinions on other websites, I thought a rental would be worth a go.
The game kicks off with the Prince (who isn�t actually a Prince, by the way) wandering through the desert looking for his donkey. He blunders his way in to a "lost" kingdom and in to the presence of a young princess by the name of Elika. The kingdom�s glorified past is long forgotten and is in the imminent grip of an evil God and his demonic dominions. The Prince is swept up in the struggle and decides to help Elika defeat the God and restore her world to its former brilliance.
The game world is made up of 4 areas that are under the control of different boss characters, which are each helping to free the evil God from his prison. By traversing the environment to the boss and defeating them in battle, you can then "heal" that area, which weakens the God and strengthens the prison within which he is held captive.
The Prince traverses environments by jumping from pillars to posts, clambering up and sliding down walls using his gauntlet, springing and flipping between trapezes and beams and using hooks to extend wall runs, move around corners and run on ceilings. All of these moves can be strung together by timely button presses. When you get in to a groove it feels extremely intuitive and looks highly impressive. The controls are instantly accessible and, although they are developed very little through the game, it�s fun and the stunning graphics make traversing the universe a pleasure.
At first it feels like a dumbed down Mirror�s Edge (which may not be the perfect comparison, but it�s a good base to build on!). But unlike Mirror�s Edge, where playing is very technical and the accuracy required to hit the exact pixel is quite demanding, POP flows with the player to make the whole experience more relaxing and enjoyable.
There is one aspect of the game that will divide opinion: you cannot die� ever. If you fall off a ledge, Elika will save you and deposit you on the last bit of solid ground you were standing on. If you do not block an enemy�s attack, Elika will intervene at the cost of adding some more life to your enemy�s health bar. Although this does take a lot of the challenge away from the game, there are parts where the Prince will not touch solid ground for a long period. Falling during one of these sections means you will have to repeat it all. But the freedom that this approach gives to the player is liberating and the frustration that it negates is very welcome.
Before an area is healed it is dark, foreboding, and covered in "corruption" - an evil goo would kill you if you get too close� if it wasn�t for Elika�s interventions. Moving pieces of corruption - and corruption that explodes out of walls in the form of tentacles - add to the platforming aspect of the game, requiring you to time you moves more precisely. But, in reality, it adds little depth to the gameplay.
Whereas the mood of corrupted areas is extremely oppressive, once you have defeated the boss and healed an area, it becomes a bright, colourful place that travelling through is a delight. Healed areas are scattered with "light seeds" that need to be collected to give Elika strength. These light seeds are often hidden up walls or down ledges that were not previously accessible due to being covered in corruption, so finding all of the light seeds provides a new challenge. Some may find backtracking across areas to collect light seeds rather repetitive, but the difference in mood between corrupted and healed areas is so vast that it never gets stale.
There are 3 or 4 puzzles scattered throughout the game, but none of them are particularly challenging and are barely worth a mention. Each involves the Prince and Elika turning levers to line up different aspects of the environment so that the Prince can progress. To be honest, in a game that is so fluid and flowing, the puzzles really jar with the dynamic of POP. Enough said about that.
The camera, which can often break an action-adventure game, is superb and works so perfectly that I only thought to mention it after reading the EG review (which praises it equally highly). There were only one or two times during a boss fight that a pillar blocked the view of the enemy, but that was easy to fix with a quick change of position.
Combat takes a backseat to traversing, as a lot of battles can be avoided. The boss fights mix things up by throwing in environmental elements (push them off a ledge, smash them in to a pillar etc.) and restricting the moves that you can use at certain times, which helps to keep these battles challenging and fresh.
Elika also helps out in battle as sword, acrobatic, gauntlet and Elika attacks can all be used in combo to generate some devastating and impressive move sets.
But one of the biggest failings of POP is that there is a huge combo list to uncover, but the game does very little to help or encourage you in exploring the possibilities. Most combos are listed in a section of the pause menu, but it is too complex to spend time looking through. Once you have found a combo that does a lot of damage, there is little to stop you repeating it ad nauseam.
Once the game gets in to its flow - and the Prince finally shuts up about his f*cking donkey - the story begins to flourish and the characters and the world you are in really come to life.
You can kick of in-game cut scenes at certain points throughout the game by pressing the L2 button, which delves in to the back stories of Elika, the Prince and the kingdom you are helping to liberate from evil. But these are optional, so you can explore the story to whatever depth you wish, but as you are pulled in to this world more and more as the game progresses, you will want to watch all of them - at least on the first play through.
The acting is rather clichéd (especially the Prince) and the script can be cheesy but, on the whole, it sells the story extremely well. It is paced superbly, hinting at things to encourage you to keep exploring, but not dragging out the story before your interest wanes. The relationship between the Prince and Elika develops throughout the game and the chemistry between the two characters is truly palpable. Each of the four bosses has an intriguing back story that is explored as you progress through each area. I haven�t felt this much connection with videogame characters since Final Fantasy VII (which is saying a hell of a lot!).
The ending is also one of the best I have ever seen in a videogame. I won�t give anything away, but it is tense and stunningly executed.
I would recommend POP to everyone. As I�ve already mentioned, I was never a fan of the action-adventure genre, but I enjoyed POP more than any game I�ve played over the last 5 years. It is the perfect game for rental as I completed it in about a week, it if it isn�t to your tastes, then no great loss. POP may not do much to encourage a second play through - I can see how the gameplay could get repetitive after a while - but there are a huge number of trophies to collect if that�s your bag.
But please give it a go, you may be missing out on one the greatest games of this generation.
9 / 10