Prince Of Persia // PS3
December 28, 2009
Prince of Persia, the 2008 re-imagining of the series from Ubisoft Montreal, is a strange beast. It’s not a particularly good game, and it’s certainly not a challenging one. Yet despite that, I have been playing it to death, and have enjoyed (nearly) every minute of it.
Released last year to lukewarm reviews, Prince of Persia was a game always on my radar, but I kept avoiding picking it up due to its lacklustre 5’s and 6’s from respected videogame sites. As it was included in my Christmas haul (I was spoilt rotten), I finally had a chance to boot it up. The first thing that struck me was how beautiful the game looked. Eschewing photo-realism, Prince of Persia is rendered in an art style that is one part Wind Waker to two parts Borderlands; with flat, almost cel-shaded surfaces and crisp black outlines to make its gorgeous colour palette pop. Particle effects are sumptuous – black flakes of corruption float listlessly on an unseen breeze, the globe of light that serves as your compass leaves an ethereal glowing trail, and the power plates shimmer and sparkle once activated. In short, Prince of Persia has had a lot of graphical polish.
If the production values delight, then the gameplay confuses. In a nutshell, you clamber up to an area (a Fertile Ground), defeat a boss there, heal the ground and then collect one of the 1001 light seeds scattered throughout the entire world in order to unlock new powers and then do the same thing again and again and again. The game only comprises four bosses, which you’ll be facing off against at least five times apiece, and the differences between them are negligible to say the least. To put it bluntly, Prince of Persia is crushingly repetitive. Even the new powers, which require a different coloured plate to activate, add very little functionality. The game dumps its entire move set on you at the beginning of the game and then fails to add anything new to the mix throughout.
So, why the intense enjoyment? It’s the platforming element underpinning the entire experience that saves it. Ubisoft already made in-roads with this in the original Assassin’s Creed but Prince of Persia cranks the free-running up a notch. The Prince is an agile hero, running along walls, clambering up columns and leaping across chasms as if they weren’t even there, and using the magical touch of his companion Elika to save him should a gap prove to be too much for him alone. Indeed, it is Elika’s presence that gives the game its most surprising detail – the absolute inability to die. Miss a crucial handhold on a sheer cliff-face and the flaxen-haired sidekick rescues you from oblivion. Be struck down in combat, with a blade at your throat, and she is there again, saving your hide at the expense of increasing the monster’s health. The lack of death is refreshing, eliminating frustration and ensuring that prolonged platforming sections are an exhilirating experience; an unbroken series of leaps, twists and turns tracked expertly by a cinematic camera that frames the action beautifully. Unfortunately, it also removes the challenge, making this version of Prince of Persia one of the easiest games I’ve ever played.
There are major flaws here, make no mistake. The repetition mars the entire experience, and the dearth of fresh ideas denies the game a shot at genuine greatness. But the sheer flow of the platforming should not be sniffed at and if you, like me, were put off by the low review scores when Prince of Persia was originally released, you shouldn’t let that stop you from picking it up from a bargain bin near you and whiling away a couple of days with its free-running charms.