Platforms: PS3, XBox360, Windows, OSX
Platforms Played: PS3
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
7/10 – A unique blend of platforming, timing, exploration, and beautiful visuals.
Flow of movement is paramount to this game, and that is when Prince of Persia is at its best: you feel like an agile bad-ass, wall-running, swinging on rings like a monkey, flying through the air, running up walls, and generally gliding effortlessly over the landscape and obstacles. Some timing is required for the correct buttons but it’s fairly forgiving, it’s almost like a platforming rhythm game with some adventure thrown in. It’s quite unique, and when things are going well, it’s very satisfying.
However, this makes moments when the game’s flow is interrupted particularly jarring. At any moment during the game, you can say something to Elika, the princess you’re assisting. I’m interested in what she has to say, but instead of queuing a mini cut-scene and forcing the characters to stand there, I’d like to be leaping to my next destination while listening to the dialogue. The animation of the characters is really nice, but can also get in the way. You learn to buffer commands during animations, expecting them to carry out when the animation is done (much like the original Prince of Persia from 1989). Unfortunately, I repeatedly found myself being betrayed by this mechanic. As my character jumps and grabs onto a ledge, I hold left and the jump button. In my mind, the timing was perfect, but in the game, because the location of the characters and the size of the ledge, there was an extra animation thrown in of my character helping Elika up, and *then* running along the wall… but at this point, he hits the obstacle I was trying to avoid, my character falls, and I must restart at the last platform.
Restarting at the last platform is this game’s form of checkpoints. There is no death. In fact, there’s not even a choice of difficulty setting in the game. If you fall or hit an obstacle, you will simply restart at the last platform. But there are parts where you’re running along walls, climbing posts, and swinging off poles for the greater part of a minute. If you fall or hit an obstacle near the end of this fantastical parkour session, you have to do it all over again. This can be frustrating.
The game is very cyclic: you enter a “corrupted” area, carefully climb around it’s obstacles, fight a generic bad guy or two, fight the area guardian and heal the area, then parkour around the now healed area and collect “light seeds.” (Get enough light seeds and you can get new powers that allow you to enter other areas.) Repeat 4 times, fighting the same guardian, then fight that guardian a fifth time to destroy it. There are 4 guardians, each with their own set of areas. The game isn’t long, but with it’s limited mechanics, I started to feel like it was too long for its depth.
There is not much combat in the game, and it doesn’t vary too much between the different enemies. You parry, counter, and string combos together to defeat the enemy. The enemy will have canned animations for attacks to which you must respond with the correct button. If the enemy “defeats” you, they regain a large chunk of health that you’ve managed to widdle away. Some fights can be frustrating because they seem to drag on forever, but the mechanics generally work well.
What it does, it does well. The game is very pretty with a cell-shaded water-colour art style and great animation. Transitions from corrupted land to healed land are particularly pleasant. The soundtrack is fitting, and the voice acting is well done and entertaining (though it was a little strange to have Nathan Drake as the Prince….) Combat and traversal are done well, but I felt they were stretched a little too thin across the game with not enough story or variety to spice it up.