|Review By: Bradley Beeck
The Prince travels to Malik's Kingdom, his brother, and finds it on the verge of defeat. Desperate to defeat the invaders Malik turns to the sealed power of Solomon's Army, but everything goes wrong. The army made entirely of sand was not Solomon's, but a demon's by the name of Ratash who tried to destroy Solomon. The Prince must re-seal the Sands and defeat Ratash, to save the Kingdom and his brother.
Prince of Persia is a venerable gaming series, dating back to the Apple II computer, but today The Forgotten Sands just feels like Assassins' Creeds poor cousin. This iteration in the series goes back to the formula of the 2003 era games, ignoring the more casual 2008 incarnation. In doing so it's an oldschool kind of game, requiring precise timings in quick succession. It's not unforgiving though, due to the time rewinding mechanic. It also needs mentioning that it has nothing to do with the Disney movie released at the same time, and I pity any casual player who picked it up thinking it was made for them.
The Forgotten Sands is a traditional platformer, it's about figuring out what to do and having the skills to do it. To that end there are only a few objects that are climbable, and the camera is fixed in position when not in combat. This is why it feels like Assassins' Creeds poor cousin because you're not free to roam around, or climb on anything you see, it's an artificial environment. It's oldschool. However it does have some new features: freezing water, restoring objects to their former glory, power jumping and reversing time, in addition to the Prince's standard wall running and climbing abilities. Reversing time works like Elika in the 2008 Prince of Persia, saving you from certain doom. Although it doesn't always work because it only rewinds time so far. It's also abused by the developers in that the levels are occasionally designed to kill you the first time you experience them, such as floors falling out from under you. Freezing water and restoring objects are used extensively in challenging ways; some runs require switching them on and off multiple times as you're jumping from one frozen or restored object to another. The powered jump is only used occasionally, and only works in situations the developer wants, so it's another artificial element. The way these abilities are used, the level design, increases in complexity steadily but things are still repeated several times throughout the game.
The combat system is one area that's hugely improved over the 2008 Prince of Persia, even if it is generic. It's a standard hack and slash system where you can charge the Prince's attacks, or chain them, or perform leap attacks against a large group of enemies or dodge their counter attacks. There are also four different spells that the Prince can learn through the game's leveling up feature. Iceblast, Whirlwind, Trail of Flame, and Stone Armour, of which Trail of Flame is the most disappointing. With it you have to run through the enemies hoping they will step on the trail, and it's graphical effect is just a red pattern on the floor. As I said these spells are unlocked and upgraded through a level up feature, with experience points earned from slain enemies. The power of the Prince's attacks, his health and energy bar (used for time reversing and spells) can also be upgraded. Which is again a standard feature of hack and slash games.
The story is another disappointing aspect of the game and a big part of that is the lack of a companion, like Elika in the 2008 Prince of Persia. In that game there was constant banter, and in-depth discussions between the two characters which gave the game a lot of charm. That's completely absent here and at best the Prince's dialogue is functionary, such as 'This is the royal bath'. The story in general is generic, much like the combat system, involving awakened evil. Although from what I understand it fits inbetween Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and Prince of Persia: Warrior Within.
The controls in a platformer/hack and slash game are extremely important, and they aren't up to spec here. They lock the Prince into an action, and the direction controls don't perform how I expect in combat. Strangely after a cutscene the directions get reversed momentarily and sometimes the powered jump doesn't activate when it should. I also don't like not being able to control the angle of a jump and the camera is annoying as well. It's fixed when not in combat, and it doesn't always give you the best angle to judge distance. The Prince automatically climbing back onto a surface when he's hanging from something is another thing that annoyed me and lead to my death a few times.
From a polygon point of view Forgotten Sands looks good, but from an aesthetic point of view it's almost universally dull and boring. A brown boring palace with lots of sand making it look even more brown. Prince of Persia 2008 was full of wondrous sights, bright and colourful, like something out of Arabian Nights. Next to that this doesn't even compare. The dreary graphics also extend to the Prince himself, who's resolutely expressionless. The music is serviceable, but nothing stood out when I was playing the game. Apart from the Prince's incredibly British accent, which is wholly out of place in this Persian environment.
Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands harkens back to the older games in the series, ignoring the more recent game from 2008. It's oldschool with an artificial environment with spiked pits, and swinging blades. Accordingly it requires precise timings in sequence but thanks to the time reversing function it's not totally unforgiving. However it's 2010, where we have games like Red Faction Guerrilla and Assassins Creed, it just feels so ordinary. The generic combat system, the dull story and characters, don't help either. It also has a lot of minor faults and coupled with it's uninspiring design it's ironically entirely forgettable.