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Prince of Persia Review

Genres: Platformer
Year of Release: 2008
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft
Review Date: 16-7-2009
Review Platform: XBOX360
Review Region: AU Available In Australia
Est Playtime: 12+ hours
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Review By: Bradley Beeck

Elika is the Princess of the City of Light, a city dedicated to protecting the Tree of Life which imprisons the evil god Ahriman. Over the centuries it has fallen into ruin and now the dark god threatens to escape. The Prince, an adventurer, tomb raider and wanderer happens upon the city in its hour of need. Now Elika, forever bound by duty, and the Prince, free from any bonds, team up to restore the land and protect the world from this great evil.

prince_persia025Sometimes when you first play a game you can almost immediately tell if youíre going to like it. This was the case with Prince of Persia; its appeal took hold within moments of the game starting. Even before that I was impressed with the artistic quality present in the menu and load screens. The game turned out to be a god send after the frustrating experience I had with Mirrorís Edge.

prince_persia008Prince of Persia is a third person platformer that has been simplified. Much of the game is based on Quick Time Events (press a certain button in a limited time) and unusually you canít die by failing a jump. This is due to your constant companion, Elika, who will return you to the last solid area you touched. I loved this part of the game because I was free to be as careless as I pleased. Some of the mechanics that would normally require player interaction are done automatically. Such as when the Prince jumps onto a wall he climbs a little higher or when going from a wall run to climbing a vine. Typically this would require pressing the A button or something similar and I actually kept foolishly doing just that which resulted in me leaping into thin air. Thankfully Elika was always there to save me.

prince_persia016This simplification also extends to an in game help system which seems to be the trend these days. I appreciate it as I donít like to waste my time getting lost. The help system takes the form of a glowing orb that traces the route to a desired location. Which is selected through a map screen and the same map screen can be used to teleport to unlocked areas. Unlocking areas or fertile grounds is achieved through collecting light seeds and there are 1001 of them. Youíre going to need to collect most of them to finish the game. In standard platformer fashion the light seeds themselves give you access to new abilities or more specifically power pads. There are four types of pads and each is strategically located around the main areas. Thereís dash, fly, grapple and rebound which work to varying degrees. Dash involves moving the Prince through an obstacle course but itís too simple at times and the collision detection is far too sensitive. Fly is what you would expect - Supermaning the Prince again through an obstacle course. However I use inverted controls and for some reason the Y axis inversion didnít carry over into this part of the game. The other two powers, grapple and rebound, are often chained together with other pads of their type creating a Quick Time Sequence. These sections are fun because they look spectacular as you flow from one pad to the next.

prince_persia030The one serious flaw in Prince of Persia is the combat system. The Prince is locked onto the enemy but can still move around at a slow pace. He can also block and like the rest of the game canít die. The issue is the enemy has a better range than you, chains their attacks, and if you get hit a few times then fail a QTE, the enemy regains health. So you can get stuck in some fights and forced through an endless series of QTEs. This is especially evident in Boss fights where they initiate special moves that require a button press to avoid. The Warrior stands out in memory because I had trouble performing his QTE which is needed to beat him. Aside from this the combat system has some depth to it. Elika accompanies you into battle and you can choose to perform combos with her or just chain your own attacks. Her attacks are magical and some enemies are vulnerable or invulnerable to her abilities. I just settled on a series of moves and used that throughout the game Ė grapple them into the air and then pound them with the Princeís sword. While the combat system has its problems battles are infrequent so itís only a minor dampener on the game as a whole.

prince_persia031The story of Prince of Persia is pretty standard as you would have read from the description at the top of this review. The difference here is while playing the game the Prince can talk to Elika. The conversations are insightful revealing the nature of both characters. Thatís good writing and I hammered the conversation button where ever I went as the discussions are context sensitive. The main goal of Elika and the Princeís quest is to restore the fertile grounds that feed the Tree of Life. Only Elika has the power to do this and each area has four fertile grounds which are prefixed by a boss battle. Itís the same boss for each fertile ground within an area and following that thereís a final fight to seal/destroy the boss. This does get boring sometimes and also frustrating as was the case with the Warrior boss. Lastly the gameís ending is a real surprise although it would have been excellent if it was offering you a real choice; that is one which you can perform in game.

prince_persia027The artistic quality of Prince of Persia is amazing. The ruined remains of Elikaís city at times looks straight out of a One Thousand and One Nights/Arabian Nights. The world is beautifully presented in semi-cell shaded fashion and the movements of Elika and the Prince flow seamlessly together. One animation I liked is when Elika and the Prince move past each other on a small platform they swing around each other. The music isnít at the same level as the art work. Itís unobtrusive and I can hardly recall any as a result. Another thing that needs mentioning in relation to the audio is the Princeís voice. It takes getting use to but Iíve heard much worse as an anime dub watcher.

Prince of Persia is a platformer that has been simplified to depend primarily on Quick Time Events. It has a help system and your companion Elika saves you from ever dying. Sometimes it takes this simplification too far, such as with some power pads, but it does create a sense of flow and freedom. It does this through a third person camera and spectacular environments. Also by allowing you to continually move forward and not forcing you to replay large sections it alleviates a lot of the frustration that comes with platformers. The writing and artwork are excellent and although the combat system is problematic battles are infrequent. Prince of Persia is a game that I liked right from the start and any problems that surfaced were blown away by the sheer fun of it all.