Perhaps a bit too stuck in the past
If you stop reading and have a short montage sequence of your landmark moments in life, chances are there are things you’d go back and change. Placing the milk you left out back in the fridge. Making a stand and not tipping the waiter responsible for the suspicious silky white in your gravy. Getting rid of the misfire on the toilet seat that lead to a subsequent divorce. All are scenarios deemed preferably avoidable, yet the average persons need of time travel all seem bereft compared to that of the Prince’s need to remove one buzz saw too many from his skull.
If it wasn’t for a scarf engulfed Prince appearing a couple of years ago, ‘Time Lord Prince’ wouldn’t need much of an introduction. In a previous generation, the Prince would bend time to his will to achieve his goals, yet also remind us that we’re all human and can completely cock-up from time to time. Coinciding with (but not based upon) the release of the new film Prince Of Persia film, Prince Of Persia: The Forgotten Sands is set inside the seven year gap between The Sands Of Time and The Two Thrones. During a visit to his brothers kingdom, The Prince lands in the first mistake of great protagonist nature and arrives in the midst of a full on war. In a last bid attempt to save the kingdom, the naive move of calling upon an army of an unstoppable magical force is made, spawning forth infinite amounts of monstrous warriors from grains of sand and throwing everything into utter turmoil. With his brother becoming slowly corrupted by the forces working against him, it’s up to the Prince to gather powers beyond his signature rewind to undo the chaos.
The second protagonist trap that the Prince falls into before he has even left the start line is the fact that he seems to have forgotten all the abilities that aided him in the previous game. In order to rewrite the bizarre narrative inconsistency, the Prince must rely on the powers of the ‘Djinn’ to not only help him regain his power of time control, but also treat him to some new dimension bending techniques to get about. The Prince can now glide into enemies situated over chasms and freeze water to make walls out of waterfalls, pillars out of leaks and serve to add more depth to the standard platforming segments.
Though strictly linear, gravity defying progress of utilising the walls and ceilings from beginning to end never gets dull. As you get further into the journey, the surroundings become suitably more tricky to traverse and your fingers will progressively gift wrap your controller. Any time the Prince may slip and fall, players can always rely on the power of time to rewind the penultimate seconds of death to safety and edit them out of some sticky situations. Even when the inevitable trip occurs, acrobatic leaping and swinging flows together incredibly well, providing a rather flexible backbone for the game as a whole.
The fluid acrobatics and great puzzle solving elements make the game a steady thrill ride
Great platforming and time twisting is something for a staple of a series however, and are expected to reach a certain par as signature trademarks should. Some fresher cards brought to the table come in the form of elemental powers unlocked through the basic evolution system. Slaying one of the sand beasts that come your way will give you experience to spend on one of four elemental powers; fire, water, ice and earth. Unfortunately none of these come into effect for the exceptional platforming, rather for the duller core segment of gameplay; the combat.
Once your feet are steady on the ground, a legion of enemies will usually spawn in an attempt to chop them off. To begin with, an army can consist of 20 enemies all coming for your head, yet as the conclusion approaches, up to 50 enemies can crowd up the screen at the same time. Though such quantities can panic the pupils at first, it soon transpires that the hordes are so easy to get through that you might as well have been given a scythe to tackle a bag of Twiglets. Enemies will raise their weapons and apparently freeze for about 5 seconds before attempting to strike, giving you more that enough time to dodge the pain. Simply tapping away at the attack button will allow you to slice up anything that comes your way efficiently, and even though using an elemental power will look pretty, it will only decimate the surroundings even quicker, and are almost limitless in supply. Even huge titans quiver at the prospect of a few bashes of your sword, and it’s a shame that the combat system could not be more inventive taking into account the Prince’s agile manoeuvres.
The second platforming intervals come in the form of clever environmental puzzles, which although aren’t quite enough to completely hinder your progress, do present enough of a challenge to get the gears in your head churning. The only severe issue is they are just not implemented enough, favouring the mediocre fighting instead of the clever puzzling.
Even with so much happening on screen, The Forgotten Sands never skimps on the vanity and can facilitate for such huge numbers without forgetting to look good in the process. The sand torn palace and decimated interiors all look impressive amongst the chaos, especially when coupled with the excellent lighting effects. Though the characters faces sometimes look like cardboard cut-outs trying to grasp souls with their mouths, everything is rendered nicely enough to grasp hold of your eyes.
There are many a positive aspect and idea in The Forgotten Sands, yet there’s a constant itch that irritates more through progression that such elements will never be developed into something truly special. With a short lifespan and nothing but an arena for you to dice waves of enemies as quickly as you can after completion, you can’t help but feel Ubisoft had enough room to fill with some more innovation and originality.
With a short lifespan and unremarkable, yet still fundamentally enjoyable gameplay, I have no doubts that Prince Of Persia: The Forgotten Sands will win ‘Rental Game Of The Year’ at next years Video Game BAFTAs. The fluid acrobatics and great puzzle solving elements make the game a steady thrill ride, but seeing as it never really pulls anything fresh out of the bag, it leaves something of a craving for more at the finale. Some of the new ideas presented are nice, but feel so clich� and last-gen that it embarrasses everything about this game which is so good. Whereas some elements have moved along nicely, others are determined to stick in the past, with complex exploration far surpassing the basic combat. Top grade acrobatics and a playground designed to facilitate them will certainly make this an enjoyable romp, yet one which is more about the brains rather than the brawn. A nice addition to the franchise that will at least entert
ain newcomers and veterans alike, but one which can’t quite shine amongst its brethren.
The Bad: Not enough puzzles, Too short with little replay value, Run of the mill combat that barely ever excites