The Average Gamer

Prince of Persia Review Part 2 (360)

In part 1 of this review I talked about the plot exposition and death. Here, I’m going to talk about controls and movement.

Movement and Environment

I have to admit, when I first saw the visual style of this game, I thought it looked absolutely bollocks. The characters appear to be 2D cartoon models against 3D backgrounds (okay, yes, just like one of my favourite films, Titan A.E.). It looks so jarring in the screenshots. Surprisingly enough, it actually works well in-game. Great job by the art and animation teams.

Prince of Persia - Climbing WallThe 3D environment itself is, frankly, amazing. Click on the screenshots to see bigger versions. The stuff in the background isn’t background matte-painting-style art. It’s the actual gameworld in the distance and you can run right up to it, for the most part. The only time you’ll see load load screens is during map travel, which isn’t really necessary if you plan where you’re going. The world is technically free-reign but really it follows the standard platformer design with the slight twist of “power plates” that let you fly or run from A to B. Along with Elika’s ability to point you in the right direction it’s pretty much impossible to get lost. All good by my standards.

Game controls are absolutely brilliant. Everything has been carefully designed to streamline the experience. Where moving Altair in Assassins Creed is can be painful, jumping from pole to pole is a joy in this game. The Prince is intelligent enough to automatically swing round to the other side of the pole on landing. You don’t have to jump, rotate 90 degrees, rotate another 90 degrees, jump, rotate, rotate just to proceed in a straight line. It’s jump, jump, jump all the way.

Prince of Persia - WindmillThe camera does a nice job of following and if it ever moves when you’re in the middle of lining up a jump, I didn’t notice. You get a good locus of control over it and can look pretty much everywhere that is reasonable for the Prince to see. In other words, when he’s clinging to a rock face, no you can’t see what’s behind him even though it would sometimes be really, really useful. His running speed is suited to the world size as well, which is a nice and unusual touch. I even managed to get all the Time Trial achievements.

Challenge

The one thing that really affected my view of this game was the thinking. It’s wild! There are like, actual puzzles that you have to like, solve… all by yourself and everything. Nothing too mind-boggling – they’re mostly about pulling combinations of levers in the correct order to manipulate some machinery. Still, the sheer novelty of not being able to just open a locker and get a combination was impressive in a console game. Even better, Elika doesn’t nag you if you haven’t solved it within 30 seconds.

The other requirement for thinking was collecting the light seeds. (When you clear an area, glowing balls of light appear in both obvious and almost-inaccessible places. It’s apparently good to collect them, though I’m not really sure why.) Not all the light seeds were near the beaten path and some of them were postively evil to track down. I got all 1001 in the end without any help from the interweb or game guides :) See?

Prince of Persia Altair 1001 Light Seeds

You can unlock the Altair costume by signing up to Ubisoft’s website and linking your account to your gamertag.

The Downside

My only real complaint is that the wall-running routes are too blatantly signposted, which takes most of the early challenge out of working out the route. There are bloody obvious scratch marks across the wall of every major path and a lot of the less-travelled ones as well. This aren’t as much help when you’re collecting light seds later in the game, but I do think they detract more from the game than they add to it.

In Summary

I love this game. You have to think a little and the penalty for failure isn’t the rage-inducing annoyance that it is in so many other games. Prince of Persia is just relaxing and fun. Everyone should buy it.

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3 Comments

  1. GiantHaystax

    8th Mar, 2009 at 3:29 am

    Interesting review. mainly because I had the total opposite opinion. I enjoyed it for the first 2 hours then realised I'd seen all the game had to offer and was bored. The setting was bizzare, with the places you go to supposedly people living there in the past yet are actually just lots of random platforms and cliffs. Unlike most people I did like the quick death/revival thing though like you. Ultimately it's probably that I'm no good at and don't really like platformers. I guess that didn't help it's cause much….

    • Weefz

      8th Mar, 2009 at 4:26 pm

      True, it's pretty repetitive and the Prince doesn't develop skills, so if you're not invested in the story there's not a lot of incentive to continue. That's why I enjoy the fluid movement so much. Iit lets me explore and get on with things without having to reload every 5 minutes like the Tomb Raider Underworld demo. Simplistic combat soon became more of a tedious chore than anything resembling fun.

      The paths that the Prince can travel are pretty much platforms and cliffs. Depending on the order you played them in, you might not have reached the city levels – it's pretty clear that there used to be normal paths and buildings but they were destroyed by the big evil.

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