Prince of Persia Review
Fresh and consistent art style matches the fluid platforming gameplay
Posted by Ben Thomas (nutcrackr) on Jan 19, 2009 - 12:00pm EST (Jan 19, 2009 12:00)
Creating a fresh spin on a franchise that spans as many games as Prince of Persia does isn’t easy, which is why Ubisoft have done a great job with its recent PoP game. The basic elements of jumping along ledges and sword fighting against foes exist from previous versions but the art style, characters and setting make it feel almost like a new franchise.
During the start of the game you will meet up with Elika who is running from guards and her father, you and her will join forces to set things right. You eventually learn that the land has become corrupted, and soon an evil force will be let loose on the world. Naturally it’s going to be your job to save the day, or at least try to help. Elika is a servant for good, and she needs to heal the lands and defeat four unique corrupted before she can stop the evil from being set free. The Prince and Elika will engage in conversations, often humorous throughout their exploration. Many of these can simply be initiated whenever an icon appears. The story is light and the dialogue is usually pretty good for all of the characters.
The first thing you’ll notice is the slightly unusual art style, characters are outlined, colours are saturated when the land is healed and effects are exaggerated. Just about every art choice in the game works, nothing feels overdone and contrasting is brilliant between the corruption and the healed world. Corruption is shown as black goo in the world, it will cover areas and move between jumps halting your progress, and corrupted bosses (the unique four) use their powers in this corrupted mode to their advantage. In this mode you will need to use Elika to revert them back to a mode where they can be damaged using your sword.
Thankfully landing in corruption during platforming or falling from a very high ledge doesn’t spell the end for our Prince. Elika, the very beautiful and well acted character comes to your rescue with the powers of good she received from Ormazd. She saves you before death, propelling you back to the last spot you were on safe and level ground, in other words you can’t die. The added bonus to this is that it removes all frustration, you will still need to complete long sections without error, but you don’t need to worry about saving so your focus shifts completely to the game world. Yes this does mean the game becomes easier, and it does become a bit more of an adventure than a challenging platformer.
Corrupted lands need to be healed, and to heal them you first need to get powers in order to get to the healing grounds. The powers can be unlocked using your collection of light seeds which are found near the areas of previously healed ground. As soon as an area is healed plants appear, corruption vanishes and the mood lifts, even the characters are more optimistic when they chat adding some positive incentive to heal lands quickly. You’ll need to collect roughly half the light seeds, and the majority of these will simply be on the path ways between the various areas. Only a few times did I need to do some backtracking to find more seeds to unlock my next power, thankfully the game tells you how many you’ve collected in each area so you can optimise your search. Some seeds will be visible but will be located in places where you need to do some obscure jumping to get. It only serves to highlight just how smooth the platforming elements are, the controls will not get in your way and the game works well with a mouse and keyboard.
The powers you gain are simple effects you activate when you hit power plates; they magically take you to other areas inaccessible without them. One power is wall walking, allowing you to cling to walls and traverse up, around or along obstacles to get to other plates, you will have to guide the Prince, one bump and he’ll need Elika’s hand to restart the sequence. Another power is flying, you’ll simply take off in a predetermined direction and will need to steer yourself to avoid obstacles. The final two powers are similar, only differing in looks. They pounce or fling you and Elika from one plate to the next, sometimes with conventional jumping in between plates. The longest and perhaps the most repeated segments usually involve these powers, as there is generally very little safe stationary ground between the start and end of a series of plates. There is definitely some room to move with powers especially with the similarity between the existing ones.
Combat is simple but rewarding; you’ll need to time blocks and attacks well. The display will help you considerably, alerting you what state enemies are in, and what to do for key attacks. The four corrupted bosses will change state, requiring the use of Elika, your sword or gauntlet to “break” the modes and allow you to attack freely. You’ll also need to be quick on the buttons in order to block special cutscene type attacks. Combos will do extra damage and look pretty good at the same time, you can use the environment such as columns to defeat enemies. Again you can’t die in fights as Elika will call upon Ormazd to save you at the same time restoring some of the enemies’ health. You’ll be fighting the bosses more than a few times, but not for too long each time.
The game does have a few puzzles, usually involving cranks / gears and plates. The puzzles can be completed with some dumb luck if you just go through various combinations without thinking too much. In general though there isn’t a lot of thinking, you’ll be enjoying the vistas, the very fluid platforming and the wonderful consistent art style of the world. There is a bit of repetition going between areas that you’ve already traversed, but there is usually a few ways to get through them using a combination of jumps so it’s not a big issue. Prince of Persia 2008 is a wonderful game that sparks more life into the franchise.