Review by bluej33

Reviewed: 06/15/09

It's not complicated, or difficult, or hardcore, but it's sure fun

As much as I would like to write an interesting introduction here, discussing the evolution of the Prince of Persia series and mentioning how it all culminates in Ubisoft's latest Prince of Persia offering, I don't really know much about the series. So instead of beating around the bush like I usually do, I'll get right down to it and say that Prince of Persia is a fun game.

How fun? Well, for a 3D platformer with a whiny camera, pretty damn fun. Prince of Persia is one of those games that reminds you why you thought gaming was so fun to begin with. It's got this wonderful sense of cohesive flow with lots of pretty output without a whole lot of input.

That is to say, you can get the Prince to do some really cool-looking things without much effort on your part. As I slowly lose interest in video games, I realize how much I appreciate this viscerality in video games; Heavenly Sword had it, and now Prince of Persia has it too. I find more and more that I like to be able to look at something badass and admire it without my thumbs twitching.

So, Prince of Persia is a platformer with lots of environmental interaction, and in this respect that game is great. You'll scale walls, run along ceilings, perform death-defying leaps, and swing around on those flagpoles that are oh-so-conveniently located all over the place. The best part? This is all done with a few buttons and an analog stick. Three cheers for simplicity!

Platformers, almost by nature, very much have a trial-and-error feel to them. This can be the death of a game (as we saw with the good-intentioned but poorly-executed Mirrors Edge), but Prince of Persia deftly navigates around this problem with the inclusion of Elika, the Prince's generically boobed companion. Whenver the Prince falls off a ledge or otherwise die, rather than forcing you back to the latest checkpoint, Elika will whisk in with her magical powers and pull you to safety. While this may have certain negative moral implications for the Prince, it has phenomenal implications for the well-being of the game.

Because now, thanks to Elika, you're free to explore without fear of dying and having to restart a certain portion of the game. You're allowed to experiment – you're free to do whatever you want. It's hard to put into words just how freaking awesome this is. These days, as games became more dictated and stricter, it's really wonderful to be free to explore and experiment and find out what, exactly, the Prince is capable of.

And the game gives you a wonderful canvas for taking advantage of the Prince's athleticism. The stupid, generic quest contains several interconnected “mini-worlds”, which are wide open areas with lots of obstacles and environmental features to explore. Each of these little worlds has what's called a Fertile Ground that you need to liberate. Generally the path to this is very linear and simple. You'll fight a boss, then Elika will do her stuff and the area will be freed from the power of darkness, or whatever.

However, each area contains much more than the path to the Fertile Ground, so it's for this reason that the developers included light spheres. They're scattered throughout each area, and you have to collect a certain number to unlock new areas. It's actually a really disconcerting mechanic when juxtaposed with the very free-roaming, intuitive platforming. Having a strict, “you can't come here yet” implementation when the game is all about exploring just doesn't feel right.

Similarly, the fetch-quest-athon light spheres demean the game a little, but it's not entirely out of line. After all, the development team has gone and created these beautiful lush environments with all sorts of opportunities for exploration, and they want to give players an incentive to really explore them. I would have preferred the game without them – I appreciate the title enough to have explored them without an in-game incentive – but at least they do serve some understandable purpose.

I mentioned that in order to liberate these Fertile Grounds, you'll need to fight a boss. It's here that Prince of Persia falls flat on its face, because the combat in this game is absolute garbage. In the open world, the Prince is lithe and acrobatic, yet as soon as you reach an enemy he's reduced to shuffling around. Combat involves some simple, unsatisfying combos, and there's not really anything to mix up the monotony. Yes, you'll fight many different bosses, but with a few exceptions they're all defeated in the same way.

So while Prince of Persia may be an easy game with lousy combat and a weird world-unlocking mechanism, it's still one very much worth playing. The platforming is just so simple and pure and fun. Yes, the fights get in the way of that fun, but the game's accessibility and unrestrained sense of enjoyment earn it a recommendation.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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

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