Review by ElmanPRIME

Reviewed: 01/21/09

Mindless, empty gameplay and a scumbag for a lead character ruin what could have been a beautiful game.

You can at least appreciate what Ubisoft was trying to accomplish: they wanted to break out of the gritty, next-gen mold of shooters and gunmetal gray skies and provide an accessible platforming experience.

Unfortunately, beautiful vistas are not enough to justify a $40-$50 purchase for an inherently worthless 10 hour gameplay experience. Fans of any platformer should be disappointed to find that the player is so far removed from any sort of challenge in Prince of Persia that running on walls and swinging from poles becomes a mind-numbing rhythm game. Combine that with combat that amounts to nothing more than Rock-Paper-Scissors with edgy camera angles, along with two of the absolute worst lead characters to crap on a franchise, and you get the most disappointing multiplatform title of 2008.

Because it has acquired a decent amount of critical praise, I’m not going to waste your time with a an extensive analysis of where the game succeeds. Yes, the artistic design and overall execution with the incredibly detailed visuals is something to be seen, and whoever’s working in the sound department at Ubisoft needs a bonus and raise. Other than that, this review is solely designed to convince you not to buy or rent this deceitful, empty shell of a game.


The basic premise is that you play as the “Prince” and guide the princess Elika through her kingdom to heal the corrupted lands, defeat four manifestations of the Corruption, and seal the dark god Ahriman for another 1000 years. The story is developed further by collecting Light Seeds to gain new powers, which in turn allow access to different areas on the map. When obtaining one of the four powers, the player is free to choose any of them in any order, establishing the open-world nature of the game. Developing the relationship between Elika and the Prince is similar in nature; press either of the L shoulder buttons at any time outside of battle and they will engage in a conversation. This is where things fall apart.


Unfortunately, the voice acting is a casualty of circumstances and it was the first sign of trouble when I started playing. Nolan North, voice of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune’s Nathan Drake, delivers his lines well enough to be convincing, but the cocky-American Nathan Drake accent seems exorbitantly out of place for someone in Persia of all places. Elika’s voice actor is at fault for the same reason. It’s understandable that Ubisoft may not have wanted to alienate U.S. consumers by using the appropriate accents, or even imperialized-British ones, but it completely destroys the cultural aspect of the game. It’s not even consistent: Elika’s father speaks perfect English in a regal tone and one of the bosses is an okay-at-best impersonation of Aladdin‘s Jafar.

The worst part is what’s actually coming out of their mouths.


The dialogue is terr-i-ble.

If there’s any game that will make you despise its two lead characters, it’s Prince of Persia, because the script ranges from unbearable to nonsensical. The Prince will boast or complain, and then, in the same breath, gently ask the Princess, “Are you okay?” when there is no sign of ailment or harm. Similarly, Elika will seem as determined as ever and suddenly become crestfallen in the middle of an otherwise lighthearted conversation.

There are a few times that these mood-paradoxes make sense, but that’s assuming you have pressed L1 enough times to know the backstory, and listening to these two idiots talk is simply maddening when a Trophy is your only consolation. More salt is added to the wound because Elika deserves a promotion from Captain to God-Queen of the Universe when it comes to stating the obvious. Her worthless hints and directions pervade the game regardless of how much time you waste L1-chatting with her. Compared to the Prince, she is a mere insect buzzing in your ear, but the end result is that her character fails to establish the bond similar to the one between the player and Yorda in ICO, which is clearly what Ubisoft was trying to emulate.

And it hard not to see why: the Prince is a combination of the worst traits of Jack Sparrow and the most unfunny comedian you loathe. Typically this isn’t a major issue for a game, but he is the lead character. It’s inescapable. Anti-heroes in videogames have been trendy for over a decade, but this time you are the scum of the earth. You are the dirtiest politician who smiles as he cheats on his dying wife, gets a talk show, and says everything you hate. His one-liners and snide comments should not be heard and must never be repeated - and they’re not just embarrassing, they’re insulting. It’s as if Ubisoft is assuming that all Americans are idiots, all gamers are idiots, both, or that anyone outside of the development team is so incapable of recognizing sexual innuendo that they can’t even tell when IT’S DRIPPING DOWN THEIR FACE.

The actual story of Prince of Persia swings, wall-runs, and faceplants into the familiar category of “go there, collect these, kill them”-styled videogame plots in a way that makes Legend of Zelda games look Shakespearean, then handles the classic battle between the forces of Light and Darkness so inanely that you’d think the scripts to Kingdom Hearts 1&2 were personally handed to Tetsuya Nomura by God.

In other words, it amounts to nothing more than fighting the same four bosses five times each, healing a Fertile Ground, and then hearing about how bad Ahriman is every ten minutes - because he is. Top off everything with an ending that might have worked if the Prince and Elika had a combined appeal greater than that of Britney Spears eating your favorite pet alive, and you literally have no reason to finish the game.


Prince of Persia’s greatest failure, however, is that it borrows heavily from “indie” games and stuffs the player’s face with the mantra “Less is more” until they've been fatally starved to of fun.

Controlling the prince is simple both in platforming and in combat: X jumps, O activates functions for your Gauntlet, the R-shoulder buttons act both as a “drop” in some circumstances and a slow grind down a wall, and Triangle calls on Elika for an extra jump or activating a Power Plate once you have the necessary amount of Light Seeds.

Wall-running is automatic. Swinging is mostly automatic. Reaching and climbing up a ledge after jumping is automatic, and the Prince will scurry up the length of the wall. If you mess up or if you need Elika’s extra jump, the screen will turn gray, so knowing when to double jump is essentially automatic. Scrapes along the walls will indicate exactly where you need to climb or wall-run. If you still can’t see your next move, pressing Triangle will cause Elika to outline the exact path you need to take with a beam of light. Even dying and reloading is essentially automatic because Elika will save you from falling and plop you onto the last solid footing of ground.

In essence, the game does most of the work for you, and even then, there’s little to do. Sure, swinging from a pole into a wall-run and then jumping onto another wall and onto a Power Plate sounds complicated and fun-inducing. But the sequence I’ve just described is the extent of the game’s difficulty, and there’s no sense of momentum to your leaps because the Prince will magnetically reach every ledge if he’s supposed to. It quickly becomes a mindless grind without the fear of death, essentially repeating the same sections again and again.

In fact, let me make this clear - for those seeking the thrill from platforming games, these sequences is demand NOTHING of your reflexes. Nothing. So just imagine the original Super Mario Brothers with arrows pointing exactly where you need to jump, you bounce off koopas and land exactly where you need to be, and you can’t die.

Combat is even worse and is painfully unavoidable in boss fight sequences. Square is your basic sword attack while R1/R2 guards and parries, whereas the other face buttons act as combo modifiers. X allows for acrobatic combos, O will toss your opponent into the air, and Triangle activates Elika’s magical attacks if she ever decides to stop cart-wheeling around like an idiot and contribute to the fight.

That said, mashing Square for half of the game should suffice and even get you some one-hit kills. Later on, enemies enter “States” which require either Square, O, or Triangle to break their defense, hence the Rock-Paper-Scissors system. There is no reward outside of a few Trophies to memorize more than two combos and your only penalty for “death” is that the enemy regains some health. Only one boss requires you to use the environment to defeat him, which amounts to nothing more than backing him into a corner each time, so Prince of Persia gets a medal for Excellence in Mindless Buttonmashing.

Finally, let’s look at the game’s ultimate disappointment and why Prince of Persia fails miserably where games like Metroid and Zelda succeed: upgrading yourself with powers. In most enjoyable platforming-adventure games, the developers reward the player with a new power that not only unlocks new areas, but also provides some sort of practical use in combat or exploration. The Hookshot is a beautiful example: it takes you places, it grabs distant objects, it stuns enemies.

In Prince of Persia, the four Power Plates you activate act as nothing more as elaborate keys to a door, two of which automatically swing you from one place to another, and the other two requiring you to steer the Prince as he pummels up a wall or aimlessly flies around through the air. They’re certainly the least practical powerups I’ve ever seen in a videogame, bouncing you across areas without rhyme or reason. You’ll even fly directly above your destination, only to soar out the window and around the tower a few times until you fly into another window in and into the same room. It’s baffling. It’s infuriating, it’s disorienting to the point of motion sickness, and it’s stupid. It’s Prince of Persia.

And the worst part is that you’re doing it to torture yourself with the boss fights so that you can get more light seeds, which you need to get new powers to progress in the game, which means you have to listen to more of Princey and Elika’s smug, schizophrenic drivel, and when you’re done you can fight the same boss again to collect more light seeds for powers that doesn’t do anything other than progress the game, which means…

This is the most disappointing game I wish I never played. There are 1001 light seeds in the game and you only need 540 unless you want a Trophy, and I guarantee you that I stopped dead on 540 until they were in my way. This effectively kills half of the gameplay experience because you can just teleport to areas adjacent to your destination anyway. There is nothing to justify that you start, continue, or finish playing. Prince of Persia is a terrible game.

For those who need arbitrary numbers:

Visuals: 9/10
Sound: 6/10
Story: No/10
Gameplay: 3/10

Final: 3/10

ANOTHER TAKE: THE REVIEWER'S GIRLFRIEND (played her own save file from start to finish!)

Honestly, I could probably convince my mother to play the games if the yellow power plates didn't cause motion sickness. Power plates are the most boring and worst power ups I’ve ever seen in a game. They fail at making the game progressively challenging. The fighting is so redundant, extremely boring, and confining that I wish I had the option to die or run away. You know, like in real life.

Plot is extremely upsetting. What a waste of my life. The Prince and Elika should have been mute. Being a bad comedian without an ounce of charisma is a poor choice for the lead/"macho" role. Making Elika jump between sarcastic to depressed for no reason is apparently an appropriate way to portray the "emotional" female role. Fail. Her role was completely unnecessary, she could have been helpful as a fairy or a small Asian boy like in Indiana Jones.

Finally, who let them get away with stealing stuff from other games? A sexually-charged version of healing from Okami, the altar as well as the location of the temple relative to the rest of the game screams Shadow of the Colossus, and some other things…just shameful.

I felt really disappointed in myself for playing it, almost as bad as I felt for watching Twilight while sober. Very pretty, though. Nice sounds.

There you go, Ubisoft. "Very pretty...Nice sounds." Put that on the back of the "Greatest Hits" box.

Rating:   1.5 - Bad

Product Release: Prince of Persia (US, 12/02/08)

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