Alas though, having called to mind Assassin's Creed with its ambitious platforming, open levels and initially cool and efficient combat, Prince of Persia then calls to mind its greatest failing; it runs out of ideas, so it just does the first ones again and again. There's a bit of evolution in combat, as enemies move between states that require you to focus on particular attacks, and a circle of oozing corruption at the edge of the battlefield forces you to take more notice of your position, but despite a variety of available combinations the designers struggle to educate you, relying on a combo list in the menu beyond the basic tutorial, and throwing up enemies far too capable of blocking and countering whatever you do.
Platforming also evolves poorly, or not at all, and soon it's all too easy. Timing and preloading is immaterial, as a few vaguely accurate stabs send the Prince clambering and swooping through even the most outrageous combination of obstacles, and any lingering tension dissipates until every level feels like a procession. As this feeling settles in, it's compounded by ill-judged additions like corruption tendrils and moving blobs (think exhaust pipes that flare in sequence and moving saw blades). There are a few occasions when they're used to good effect, as you embark on a simple but exotic-looking sequence of wall-runs and trapeze-swings and the corruption is timed to snap conveniently at your heels, but for the most part they just break up the flow.
The Prince does gain a few new abilities as the game wears on, allowing him to spring magically from wall-pads across vast distances (think back to Sonic's bounce pads), or sprint up or along walls dodging left and right to avoid jutting edges, but these elements are simply more window-dressing for the core procession. Puzzles, meanwhile, are almost non-existent for the first five or six hours, and hit-and-miss after that, occasionally involving the level layout but seldom to the same extent as past games, Tomb Raider or ICO - whose influence lives in details like Elika's flapping blouse and the hazy desert visuals but nowhere else.
Elika can also point the way, sending a glowing orb off to direct you to your destination, and fans of elder POPs might wonder how this reconciles with the elaborate jungles of ledges, poles and trapeze that were puzzles themselves, but the answer is that it doesn't have to, because there's nothing like that either. You sometimes need to be told which path to take, but it's only ever a path, never a puzzle. Where there is exploration, it also falls flat - and then back on itself. Each vanquished boss leaves reawakened surroundings filled with light seeds - glowing orbs that need to be collected in their hundreds to unlock later levels - and their distribution prompts you to circle areas already explored and traipse this way and that.
With all these things in combination, the result is a game where you pick an area to save from the corruption, go there, run to the top, do a fight, gather some orbs and then repeat. The platforming fluency is seductive, but it's a language of indifferent thumbing yawned through timing windows as wide as a house. The crushing thing about Prince of Persia, however, isn't this. It's that we're faced with yet another poor game planted in a bed of fantastic technology and interesting mechanics, which, rather than empowering the player to solve interesting problems in new and exciting ways, merely sends you for a long and elaborate stroll through a beautiful world devoid of challenge or variation, and marred by excessive repetition.