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Prince of Persia Sands of Time Review

The original Prince of Persia was a monumental game at its time. The game focused mainly on platforming and navigating traps, with a few combat encounters. All this was made more intense with the inclusion of a strict timer. You had exactly 60 minutes to rescue the princess locked in the tower. In a time where most games suffered through animatronix like movement, this was the game that brought life back into them. The prince moved with momentum, he was affected by inertia. The creator Jordan Mechner used a technique called rotoscoping to create the character sprites. He asked his brother to run around while he recorded it and traced over it. In the end he made a character that moved (for the most part) like an actual human being.

Stop standing around and start running you barely have any time.
The game was remade as Prince Classic and its worth playing to anyone interested, the controls are tighter and graphics are more story-bookish. Anyway, one successful sequel and a failed 3D game later, the renowned publisher Ubisoft took charge. And thus we got one of the greatest trilogies in gaming, the sands of time trilogy.

Prince of Persia sands of time starts with the prince narrating to an unknown listener. As the army of his father Shahraman attacks India tempted by its riches at the words of the vizier, the young prince wishing to prove himself sets off into the midst.

With some basic info on the controls you are free to play the game and make mistakes.  The game was released back in the days when tutorials were integrated into the level design itself. You are not hand-held through it. Making mistakes in the beginning area doesn’t set you back much and neither do you have to sit through a loading screen.  The prince is capable of many things, he can jump, wallrun in a horizontal arc and straight up vertically. And many more things such as pole swinging, pillar/ledge climbing etc. depending on the situation requirement. The tutorial goes through all the basics for the core elements in the game.

And then you get the Dagger of time, and along with this come the ability to rewind time using the sands of time. The prince can rewind his actions roughly around 10 seconds, what this provides is the solution to all those loading screens and tedium that plague most platforming games. You can rewind any part of gameplay and retry only the segment that you made a mistake at. This is an ingenious solution, and they integrated this without creating ludonarrative dissonance (disconnect between gameplay and story).

The ‘sands of time’ is an integral part of the story and the gameplay. The prince unleashes the sands due to the treacherous words of the vizier and chaos ensues. And thus begins the journey of the prince to set things right with some help from the Maharaja’s daughter along the way.

Here you have the game’s first proper combat encounter. Once the weapon is pulled out the controls become a sort of hybrid. The prince only jumps if he is stationary combining it with directional input turns it into a roll and if this is towards an enemy then it becomes a vault. It works well; the game uses a soft-lock system whereas all your moves are relative to the enemy position similar to one used in Assassins Creed. The prince has two weapons, the sword and the dagger of time. Attacks with the sword are used to stun the enemy, once the enemy is stunned you use the dagger to absorb his sand. You can massively slow down the enemies’ ‘time’ by stabbing with the dagger. And slow down time for all enemies to simpler extent by taping the rewind button. You can ofcourse block too; combining all these together creates really fluid combat. Throw in some few different types of enemies and you get a combat that for the most part stays entertaining to an arguable degree. 

Ofcourse this all looks incredible due to the game’s great art design and incredible animations. Prince of Persia Sands of Time achieved once again what the original achieved back at its time. The game brought an incredibly amount of fluidity to its animations, a lot of it was motion captured. The prince moves with incredible fluidly, with details like his hair affected by momentum, dust kicking up as he runs, slipping when his feet is wet. ..the game made the prince feel like a human. The art design gives everything a story-book feel, along with the music that just fits. Prince of Persia is a game that still evokes a feeling of place and wonder. And all these details are woven into every part of the game, from platforming to the combat encounters; everything feels seamless, fluid and pleasing.The combat encounters are quite easy in the beginning and once you start feeling it’s getting tedious, don’t worry that means you are almost at the end of all the proper combat encounters in the game. It is just used to break up the pace and the core gameplay tend to revolve around platforming and puzzle solving.

And the platforming and puzzle solving are the meat of the game and they go hand in hand. Besides a lever revolving puzzle early in the game (which was actually fun), most of the puzzles involve some form of platforming. The puzzles are usually quite simple but not too simple as they take just the right amount of time to figure out and solve them. They never overstay their welcome and never get in the way of the pacing of the game unlike the combat which sometimes feel obtrusive. 

The platforming is admittedly the best thing in the game(along with the prince’s cheeky lines). The variety of actions the prince can do and the weight of every movement makes it one of the most satisfying realistic platformer. Even the most absurd stunts the prince does looks grounded in reality. Navigating while avoiding the million traps keeps the platforming from feeling monotonous. The game further elevates the platforming by providing well-made set-pieces along with interesting environments.

Easy, easy.. ..
Unlike modern games, the set pieces in Sands of Time are not contextual; the game adheres to its established rules in all these section, so the game always feels incredible and never like a cheap experience. It accomplishes this by adapting the breakage(of platforms/pillars etc) to the players gameplay speed, unlike modern games where the player is slowed down for the set-piece. If the player is swinging on a soon to break pole, the pole breaks after a set-amount of time or if the player jumps off. This makes everything flow incredibly well. The platforming is very varied, and the way it integrates itself into the puzzles are seamless.

But what makes Sands of Time one of the best platformer is the fact that it allows a mastery of sorts to the competent player. Holding a direction and timing a jump usually creates a seamless animation. For example if you time your jumps right on poles you can jump from pole to pole in any direction without the extra stop and turn, as for pillars you can hold the direction of the next pillar and jump, then the prince uses an alternate seamless animation. This degree of control lets the experienced player blaze through the platforming sections creating seamless movement that looks beautiful. Since the game also allows for the extra timing and the convenient rewinding ability, it ensures no competent player will be left behind.  And for those rare moments of death, you get one or two cheeky lines from the Prince to get you back to it and give it another try.

Combine this with some excellent level design and varied environments you get one memorable game. Most of the areas feel connected correctly giving a sense of place. The verticality is never forgotten, giving you a feeling of proper grounding and meaningful world. Throughout your journey you are given visual and audio cues for upgrades to the sand tank and health, all you have to do is look and listen. The game can be beaten regardless, but it’s a nice advantage to have due to the tedious combat. The camera is competent, there are times when you can’t clearly see your next objective but manual control averts this problem.

The game is brilliant itself, but due to its slightly short length many mechanics are forgotten after their initial few uses. So, the game never reaches the stage where you combine every element together to create an incredible moment. It does not fully utilize the possibilities and potential of the controls and design. Luckily they do just that in its two sequels.

The story and gameplay marries perfectly to give one of the best gaming experiences. With characters that change and get better as the games goes on to create a nice tale. When you finish the game you can’t help but smile at the cheeky prince. For many, the sequels lost the charm and for them the game narratively ties itself up. For the rest of us however, this is just the beginning chapter for the prince’s journey.

Image1: Prince of Persia: The sands of time HD - video game news, videos, and file Downloads for PC and console games at Shacknews.com (2010) Available at: http://www.shacknews.com/game/prince-of-persia-the-sands-of-time-hd (Accessed: 12 August 2016).
Image2: Inc, C.I. (2007) Prince of Persia classic. Available at: http://www.giantbomb.com/prince-of-persia-classic/3030-18940/ (Accessed: 12 August 2016).
Image3: http://image.jeuxvideo.com/images/p3/p/r/prince-of-persia-trilogy-playstation-3-ps3-024.jpg (Accessed: 12 August 2016).
Image4: World of Longplays (2010) PC Longplay [078] prince of Persia: The sands of time (part 1 of 5). Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wpyzgOMsmIo (Accessed: 12 August 2016).
Image5: First screen shots of prince of Persia sands of time trilogy and Europe only?! (2005) Available at: http://forums.ubi.com/showthread.php/420524-First-Screen-Shots-of-Prince-of-Persia-Sands-of-Time-Trilogy-and-Europe-only-!-Forums (Accessed: 12 August 2016).
Image6: Evans-Thirlwell, E. (2016) A different creed: The legacy of prince of Persia: Sands of time. Available at: http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2016-01-24-a-different-creed-the-legacy-of-prince-of-persia-sands-of-time (Accessed: 12 August 2016). –I recommend a read if you don’t know the legacy of POP and AC.
Image7: EightBitHD (2012) Prince of Persia: The sands of time trilogy 3D Walkthrough/Gameplay PS3 #2. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKq69-d2c0Y (Accessed: 12 August 2016).
Image8: Network, G. (no date) Prince of Persia: The sands of time desktop wallpaper from video-game-wallpapers.Com. Available at: http://www.video-game-wallpapers.com/38675?in-series=prince-persia-sands-time (Accessed: 12 August 2016).

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