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Friday, October 28, 2011

Prince of Persia Review

Written 05/10/2011
Note: This review is for the PC version of the game. Screenshot and video taken from my machine.
On occasion, I like to try something different. I’ve never played any of the Prince of Persia games save for about an hour of a few intros. So when I saw the more cell-shaded Prince of Persia in GameStop for $10, I figured it would be worth giving it a go. To someone uninitiated to the franchise, was it worth the money? I’d say!

Visuals and Presentation

From what I can tell with my limited knowledge of the franchise, this Prince of Persia takes a much more stylized approach than the games before it. The colors are bright and vivid, with textures that make everything look just like a piece of concept art. I wouldn’t exactly call it cell-shading, but that’s probably the best way I can describe it. This “loud” art style also shows itself in the character models and textures, particularly in the Prince himself with his blue and orange scarf. The animations are also quite fluid and you can feel a certain rhythm when you begin chaining together different acrobatic feats successfully. The environments, both the corrupted and healed versions, are well designed and rarely leave you guessing where to go next. Enemy variation is pretty limited, but considering that you’re struggling against one enemy at a time for long stretches of time, it’s not that bad. The camera, while intuitive and manageable, will at times lock itself in a position that makes figuring out where to jump next difficult. It happens so infrequently though, that it really doesn’t distract from the beauty of the moving concept art piece that is Prince of Persia.

Visuals and Presentation Rating:4.5 Star

The sound of Prince of Persia is really quite solid. The music could easily fit in an Arabian Knights movie, and it’s a nice change of pace, at least for me. The running, jumping, sliding, swinging, flying, and all the other sounds, including those in combat, never disappoint either. The real star here though is the voice-acting. For those of you interested in such things, the voice-actor for the Prince is Nolan North. That’s the same fellow who voiced Nathan Drake from the Uncharted series and Desmond Miles from the Assassin’s Creed series. The Prince’s attitude and demeanor are very similar to Drake’s, and if you’ve read either of my Uncharted reviews, you know how much I like Drake. If you take the time to talk to Elika, you’ll be treated to a great deal of the game’s history, her personal feelings, a growing relationship between herself and the Prince, and some chuckle-worthy banter. While the whole package isn’t always stellar, it’s definitely never painful to listen to. Oh, and make sure your turn your sound up a bit if you hope to hear the voice-acting.

Sound Rating:4.5 Star

The gameplay in Prince of Persia is distinctly separated into platforming and combat. You’ll spend most of your time jumping, wall running, climbing, holding on to ledges and vines, using power plates, and flying through air. It’s a great deal of fun, as it’s almost like playing a rhythm based game without the music. I can’t really say I’ve played a game with platforming quite like this. The next closest thing to this I’ve played is both Uncharted games, and that’s still not exactly the same. Aside from his hands, feet, and agility, the Prince also has a gauntlet which he can use to slowly descend walls. It may not seem that great at first, but you’ll soon find that it can be an invaluable tool.

If the Prince can’t reach an area on his own, he can call on Elika to compliment his abilities with her magic. If a gap is just too far to jump, Elika can help the Prince jump a second time in mid-air and thus make such gaps insignificant. She can also use power-plates, which allow her to hurl both of them great distances, run up walls temporarily, and even fly. When you combine the Prince’s acrobatic abilities with Elika’s power plates, you have yourself a very fun and visually entertaining platforming system.

The game’s combat is also pretty unique. It revolves around two on one battles at all times, with the Prince and Elika facing off against one foe. You will never face more than one enemy at a time. To prevent the combat from quickly becoming stale, it focuses on chaining together as long of a combo as you can, and random quick-time events. You can jump, have Elika jump in for a magical attack, use the Prince’s sword and gauntlet, and block. To effectively chain together combos, you need to constantly be switching between Elika, the Prince, his gauntlet, and jumping. The Prince’s gauntlet throws enemies in the air and allows you to juggle it for a moment before spiking it to the ground. Chaining together combos is also slightly more difficult than you might think until you figure out the mechanics, and could almost be considered a meta-game.

As great as the gameplay is, there are also no real consequences for failure. You will not die in Prince of Persia, not even once. It’s not because the game is too easy, as it’s not, but because Elika will always save you just before your death, guaranteed. This gives no real consequence of failure, as it is absolutely, unequivocally, impossible to die. The only consequence for failure when platforming is being forced to restart your acrobatics where you began them, which is never too far away. In combat, failure only means that your enemy regains a portion of its health, which can easily be taken away again with a moderately executed combo.

There is also no real sense of character advancement in the game aside from unlocking the use of power plates. You keep the same weapons, armor, and skills throughout the entire game. There are no unlockables that I know of, and you never gain any new abilities in combat. While I can somewhat understand why these choices were made, I also feel like more could have been done to give the player a better sense of advancement and more incentive to not fail.

Gameplay Rating:4 Star
WARNING! Spoiler Alert!
The basic premise of the story is that a dark deity is attempting to break free of its generations long imprisonment and has corrupted the world around its prison. Elika is the last person of the tribe tasked with maintaining the deity’s prison in the area. She liberally falls on the Prince, who is dragged into circumstances beyond his control. After that, you hunt down and eliminate four of the dark deity’s top servants and heal the lands of their corruption. I won’t say anymore for fear of ruining the ending, but I will say that things take a very unexpected turn toward the game’s conclusion. Overall though, the story isn’t actually as great as it might sound. It’s by no means bad, but I felt like it wasn’t very far beyond average, if that.

Story Rating:3 Star
Replay Value

Because of the lack of progression and unlockables, the replay value of Prince of Persia is highly dependent on how much you want to replay the same content in possibly a different order. There’s really not anything beyond that. Granted, the game is enjoyable, but you may want to wait a few years and forget the finer details of the game before replaying it. That way you can enjoy it more as a new experience again, instead of knowing exactly what to do throughout the entire game.

Replay Value Rating:1 Star
Final Thoughts and Overall Score

Having never played a Prince of Persia game to completion before this one, Ubisoft definitely has me interested in trying out the rest of the games now. Maybe I’ll pick up the HD remakes of the first three games on PS3. Overall though, this Prince of Persia seems like an excellent introduction to the series! The game is available for PCPS3, and 360.

Prince of Persia Overall Score:4 Star

System Requirements:

    • OS: Windows® XP/Windows Vista® (only)
    • Processor: Dual core processor 2.6 GHz Intel® Pentium® D or AMD Athlon™ 64 X2 3800+ (Intel Core® 2 Duo 2.2 GHz or AMD Athlon 64 X2 4400+ or better recommended)
    • Memory: 1 GB Windows XP/2 GB Windows Vista
    • Graphics: 256 MB DirectX® 10.0–compliant video card or DirectX 9.0–compliant card with Shader Model 3.0 or higher (see supported list)*
    • DirectX Version: DirectX 9.0 or 10.0 libraries
    • Hard Drive: 9 GB
    • Sound Card: DirectX 9.0 or 10.0–compliant sound card (5.1 sound card recommended)
    • Input: Windows-compliant keyboard, mouse, optional controller (Xbox 360® Controller for Windows recommended) 
    *Supported Video Cards at Time of Release: ATI® RADEON® X1600*/1650*-1950/HD 2000–4000 series NVIDIA GeForce® 6800*/7/8/9/GTX 260–280 series *PCI Express only supported Laptop versions of these cards may work but are NOT supported. These chipsets are the only ones that will run this game. For the most up-to-date minimum requirement listings, please visit the FAQ for this game on our support website at: NVIDIA® nForce™ or other motherboards/soundcards containing the Dolby® Digital Interactive Content Encoder required for Dolby Digital audio.

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