Games Meet Metal: DJ's All Time Favorites: Prince of Persia Sands of Time

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

DJ's All Time Favorites: Prince of Persia Sands of Time

I finally got this done, but it probably would have taken longer had I not been ill. I guess being sick at home has its share of benefits too.

The second game in my series is none other than Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. It is best known as the first Prince of Persia title to be developed by Ubisoft, the first 3D game in the franchise (to say nothing of the unspeakably awful Prince of Persia 3D), and also one of the best games to come out on the last generation of consoles. Unfortunately, it is also the last Prince game to have the full attention of series creator Jordan Mechner, who subsequently went off to produce the recently released Prince of Persia movie. Comparatively speaking, Mechner is to PoP what Miyamoto is to Super Mario and Legend of Zelda, and arguably every Prince of Persia title since Sands has taken a turn for the worse in one way or another as a result of his absence. While the gameplay in the post-Sands releases may have been improved upon in some aspects, they also have more bugs than an ant farm, in addition to being plagued with art and design decisions that only a meathead could love. Warrior Within almost completely obliterated the good will I had towards the series after playing Sands. Two Thrones suffered from similar problems, albeit to a much lesser extent. The 2008 Prince game had a gorgeous cel-shaded aesthetic and was a good return to form in some ways, but it felt very automated and took a good chunk of the controls away from the player.

I love this game because it knows exactly what it is, and doesn't try to be something it's not. I feel that's the perennial mistake that Ubisoft have made with every post-Sands release. In Sands of Time, there's no "goth bitches", no blood, no guts, no out of place dialog, and no Nolan North. All you will find here is a brisk and exhilarating platformer adorned with a beautiful Arabian Nights backdrop (an anomaly in our currently anti-Middle Eastern climate), simple yet well done storytelling, and a funny, witty protagonist. It even brings Disney's version of Aladdin to mind in some respects.

As far as the game itself goes, it's very well designed. There's a reason why I've been playing this game religiously for the past 3 years or so. Like Sonic, there is an apparent emphasis on rhythm and flow as you progress through the game. In any of the earlier Sonic the Hedgehog games, the speed was contingent on how well you memorized enemy placements, chasms, and traps. If you messed up, the game would bring you to an abrupt halt, and you would have to pick up speed all over again. The same principles apply here, whereas if you can maintain momentum, plowing through the levels can be a blast. However, unlike Sonic, there's still plenty of fun to be had even if you can't flip and wall run across the levels in one extended blast of parkour. A point of contention for many is the combat system, which can be repetitive. Overall, I never had a huge problem with it. It's fast, fluid, and makes adequate use of the Prince's gymnastic capabilities.

The premise found in Sands is relatively basic compared to the more complex storylines gamers are now accustomed to. In summary, the Prince steals the Dagger of Time and is tricked by the Vizier into opening the hourglass with it, thereby turning the entire kingdom into monsters. He falls in love with a princess along the way too, as he rushes to undo his mistake by returning the sands he collects from the monsters to the hourglass. There are very few cut scenes in the game, and the dialog is brought to you through back and forth banter between the Prince and Farah as they explore the palace of Azad. Albeit unintelligible at times, the writing is entertaining and occasionally clever.

The Prince is voiced by Yuri Lowenthal, a British actor whose accent provides an appropriately royal air to the character. Apparently, he did so well with the Prince, people can't imagine anybody else taking up the role, myself included. I think Tobey MacGuire and Spiderman should provide a good analogy to what I'm saying here. The soundtrack retains it's Middle Eastern roots, lightly incorporating elements of hard rock into the mix. Best of all, Godsmack is nowhere to be found here.

This game provides sufficient evidence that Ubisoft can be a great developer when they really want to be. They may not always have their hearts in the right place, but they have some undeniably talented individuals under their roof. At times it's hard for me to fathom that the same people who gave us this and Rayman 2, also continue to shamelessly peddle half-hearted, buggy, and in many cases, truly awful software that shall remain unnamed.


  1. I agree so much about the combat. I think it's the best from the trilogy, because it has the fluency only matched by latter Batman games. Warrior Within had a thousand different combos, but I spent 2/3 of my combat time missing the enemies and hitting air. In the meantime, while playing the Sands of Time, it was a beautiful thing to watch no matter how I played it. And it did have its own fair ammount of combos too, not to say using the dagger added a very missed mix of strategy, skill and urgence to the combat.

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