Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Look back - Prince of Persia: Sands of Time (PS2, 2003)

A retrospective videogame review

Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, is a platformer for the PS2. The gameplay revolved around gravity-defying, Parkour-style, free-running platforming, allowing you to run along and up walls, in rder to climb high up and avoid murderous traps. Due to the likelihood of dieing repeatedly, time-reversing mechanics where introduced via the "dagger of time." The game also involved sword-fighting with sand zombies in a huge arabian palace, and it is, simply one of the best games ever made.

Advantages: Story, characters, visuals, fluid and brilliant platforming

Disadvantages: Poor combat that feels dull and repetitive

The story revloves around the Prince (his name is never revealed) who accidently unleashed the "sands of time" from a magic hourglass, which has transformed everyone in a huge palace into a villain. The prince tries to do this, despite oppoesition from the sinister Vizier, who wants to use the hourglass and its magic to achieve total power. The story is presented very much like "Laurence of Arabia," Our prince even has a Errol Flynn-esque British accent. The story is brilliantly told through dialogue between characters, narration from the prince, and soliloques from the princes mind. The prince is a complex character, who grows throughout the story, along with his growing love for Princess Farah.

But in video games, a story welltold is nothing without engaging gameplay (and vice-versa). Thankfully, the platforming sections of the game are fantastic. They are experimental, huge in scale and complex, but the free-running gives you a strong sense of freedom, making the platforming very engaging. While the platforming itself is challengin, it is helped by tight, simple controls. the Prince's acrobats are accomplished just the joystick and two buttons. Minimising the potential inputs makes the game more immersive, and thus enjoyable, and the time powers mean that failure is not frustrating, as you can zip right back to the instant before you screwed up.

However, to balance the fantastic platforming is the boring and repetitive sword-fighting. You fight lots of different enemies, but they all look and feel the same, and most of them are dealt with in exactly the same way. The counter attacks are too fiddly and loose, as its impossible to get the timing, which leaves you with basic sword swipes or bouncing off walls. Its very dull and you just want to get through it quickly so you can enjoy more platforming and story. Although to be fair, voulting over enemies is quite fun and looks brilliant, due to the fantastic camera.

Camera controls make or break a platformer. Actually, a bad camera can ruin any game. It was one of the main problems I had with Madworld. In PoP, the camera is brilliant. You can have the camera as tight or as far away as you want, and you can switch to a landscape view, to get a sense of scale and where you need to go. During fights, the camera knows to stay where you can see enemies, before switching to a cinematic closeup when you pull off a finished or a cool looking movie. Its one of the few things that improved the combat.

I loved this game, and it is a shame it took me seven years to get round to playing it. Don't wait any longer, experience it for yourself.

Summary: A must play. Absolutely brilliant.

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