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LukeVGC 12-24-2008 09:16 AM

Prince of Persia Review
 
Hey guys. I've been browsing around here for a while and I really enjoy the style of writing on the site in general. Here is my attempt on a similar style of review;

Prince of Persia
Beauty plunged into darkness

HIGH: The beautiful art style and incredible palate of color

LOW: Simplistic gameplay that fails to provide a challenge

WTF: Elika adds unnecessary gameplay mechanics


I absolutely love the previous incarnations of Prince of Persia. Right the way back to that awful NES port of Prince of Persia 2, I’ve always felt that the series has defined some of the very core mechanics of platforming by subtly adapting sequels to suit different generations of consoles. The Sands of Time, for example, drew upon the ever-changing nature of gaming and incorporated more visceral and engaging combat to suit different audiences, but yet it still retained that sense of boundless platforming and wondrous animation that I have come to love about the series as a whole. After playing the new title (aptly named Prince of Persia) I can say that fans of the series will not be disappointed too much. It has indeed undergone nothing short of a dramatic overhaul and this will not please everyone, but Prince of Persia is a generational experience that mixes old and new to create a captivating, if substantially flawed, gem of a game

Prince of Persia puts players in control of the lovable Prince himself. The story draws upon the archaic mythology of Persia, and as a result, comes out rather convoluted and pretty standard fair. After some tomfoolery in tracking down his donkey, the Prince stumbles across the enchanting Elika, who soon leads the Prince in to all-sorts of trouble. A quick background digression and fatal mistake by Elika’s father later, and it is up to you and your new sidekick/love interest to restore corrupted lands and save the world from the dark God known as Ahriman. Throw in some tidbits of information cobbled together about a Tree of Light and there is a loose, patchy story that was enough to keep me mildly entertained for a while. Still, the narrative served a sole purpose to at least make sense of what I was doing whilst playing. Not only that, but I thoroughly enjoyed the quick-witted dialogue and the light-comic relief provided by the Prince, and for me certainly, endeared me into the story further. Elika is also a pleasant new addition to the series from a narrative stand-point, but provided me with some serious issues from a gameplay perspective. More on that later.

The biggest fundamental change to the series is the general art direction. Make no mistake mind; for whatever flaws the narrative has, Prince of Persia makes up for them through appearance; it is a stunning game to look at. It capitulates the creativeness of the mind and the power of the next generation to create something so truly special and so stunningly beautiful. Prince of Persia is more than just a visual feast to the eyes. The picturesque setting drew me into the game instantly, and the wonderful lavishment of cell-shading (particularly the transition from darkness to light when restoring corrupted areas) is unbelievable. The jarring and uncompromising score used for corrupted areas juxtaposed with the soothing, calming instrumental sounds used when I ousted the darkness provided an enthralling backdrop. I often wanted to progress through the story for the single aim of being able to appreciate the artistry and effort that has gone into making Prince of Persia such a beautiful game.

In a game such as this, it is obvious that platforming is everything. Without a truly intuitive mechanic, Prince of Persia would inevitably fail miserably to deliver on its legacy of fun platforming. Thankfully, this incarnation passes with mostly flying colours. Unlike Ubisoft’s previous platforming escapade, Assassin's Creed, Prince of Persia does not strive for ultra-realism and complex animations when controlling the Prince, and instead provides seamless transition when climbing or jumping from one area to another. Thanks to the simplistic control scheme, it truly is ‘poetry in motion’. I did feel however, rather passive in my exploration with the Prince. Unlike Assassins Creed, you never feel fully in control of the character, and I often felt more like a shoddy puppeteer pulling on one string whilst the game did the rest for me. It certainly makes the game far more accessible to a casual gamer, but for me it took away from the intricateness of the series.

Combat also suffers from this same problem of being over-simplified to suit any gamer. Combos can be pulled off easily and the gamer can string together some rather impressive looking moves, but often these will be timed considerably slower than usual. As a result, even the most uncoordinated gamer can look like a seasoned pro when playing. Likewise, the battles themselves are only ever against a single enemy, which, apart from making combat incredibly easy, also makes it repetitive and dull. I can fully understand Ubisoft’s reasoning for simplifying the combat, but whilst the previous titles did an excellent job of making the gamer feel a sense of accomplishment when you defeated a couple of enemies, Prince of Persia becomes a sort of anti-climax in battle. Whereas a game such as God of War provides gamers with visceral and brutally satisfying combat, and Assassin's Creed provides neat, intricate fencing, Prince of Persia provides a weak hybrid of the two and doesn’t deliver an engaging combat system.

We then come to the inclusion of the Prince’s companion, Elika. She is certainly a very useful addition to the series, and her ability to lead the gamer to different areas when lost is extremely handy, but the character destroys any type of challenge at all. If the gamer plummets down a cliff for example, instead of actually dying, they are merely hoisted back up to the nearest point by Elika. In combat, the Prince cannot be killed as Elika will save him time and time again. It was so profoundly irritating to me to know that if I simply stood still during a boss fight, I could never actually be killed. In the final fights for example, I wanted to feel the need to conserve my attacks and limit my enthusiasm for taking out the boss in fear of being killed and having to start again. I wanted to feel as though one wrong button press could be my undoing, and instead, all I felt was the trudging of the X button as I hacked away without a care for the character. Ninja Gaiden, for all of its soul-detroying boss fights, knew exactly how to make a gamer feel proud and worthy once they had defeated a boss. Suffice to say, Prince of Persia does not. Further still, there is no difficulty option included, which baffled me and will likely baffle other gamers seeking an actual challenge.


This issue with combat and Elika raises the single greatest issue I have with Prince of Persia; the accessibility. It is just far too easy and far too repetitive as a result. Essentially, you travel from area to area solving rather tedious puzzles until coming up against a mini-boss. Once you’ve restored an area, you can either choose to collect orbs (which unlock new areas) or wash, rinse and repeat until the game is completed. The stages themselves are nicely designed and have a number of roots through them, but often felt needlessly expansive and a waste of resources that could have been spent tightening up the combat mechanics. I often felt incredibly frustrated that there was never a digression into a side-quest, or even proper collectables, as I feel that these could have done wonders to hold my interest further. Elika's abilities, although handy from time to time, eliminated any sense of accomplishment I felt once I had defeated the final boss.


All in all, I enjoyed my play through of Prince of Persia, but by the end I couldn’t help but feel that the series evolution has come at a significant cost. The games core mechanics are all still there, neatly created and presented stunningly. But underneath this evident beauty, Prince of Persia fails to deliver on any sort of a challenge, and instead of carrying on the proud tradition of the series, deviates to a considerable and damaging extent because of its simple gameplay and accessibility.

Final mark = 7/10

Disclosures: This game was obtained via Play.com and reviewed on the Xbox 360. Approximately 12 hours of play was devoted to single-player modes (completed 1 time)

Parents: According to ESRB ratings, this game contains Alcohol Reference, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, and Violence. It is rated for Teens. I'd say that the game is certainly unsuitable for young children, but the language, violence and themes won't trouble any other age groups.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing: All dialogue is subtitled without need to select the option from the option menus.

Brad Gallaway 12-25-2008 12:02 AM

Re: Prince of Persia Review
 
Hey Luke,

This is a pretty great review. It's perhaps a wee bit on the short side, but you make your points and everything is clear and supported. there are a few rough bits here and there that I would want to polish, but in general this is very solid work. I'm officially giving you my green light... let's see what other folks have to say.

Thumbs up!

B

idiotic 12-25-2008 08:10 AM

Re: Prince of Persia Review
 
That's a very good review Luke - it's written especially well.

The only thing I would add is PooP's surprising indebtedness to other games - like Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, and to a lesser extent, Okami. Perhaps what is most surprising is that the original PoP was an influence on Ico, and this version seems to rep(l)ay the compliment by copying Ico in arguably an insulting way.

If you acknowledge these debts and critically comment on how well PooP p(l)ays it, I would also insert a green thumb up your bum.

Jason Karney 12-31-2008 02:42 PM

Re: Prince of Persia Review
 
Luke,

This is a good piece of writing. I agree with Brad, that you make your points well, without going into bullet points or minutia about how things work. (It sounds like you don't want to have to revisit the game that closely! :)) Unlike Brad, I think the length is about right for the review.

You stuck with our site format, which is good if you're interested in being published on our homepage. For the subtitle I would suggest the slightly altered "Beauty plunged in darkness" which makes slightly more sense than "purged," at least to me. One thing you'd need to add is a rating, __ out of 10 after the review text.

Generally, all this would need is some basic editing to be published; the usual polish that we all go through. Except maybe Brad, who has a golden pen. :D I would focus especially on the three paragraphs leading up to the end, starting with combat through to Elika. The verbiage is pretty good, but feels rough there. Maybe segue from combat to Elika, and finally how all that combines with the repetition to make the game non-challenging for you. (Like I said, you've got good points, just needs a little bit of polish.)

Great job, I hope we see more from you!

David Stone 12-31-2008 02:53 PM

Re: Prince of Persia Review
 
Hi Luke,

Welcome! This is a great first review. Thumbs up from me.

Personally, I would have loved more discussion on your annoyance at not being able to die. As an obsessive Old School Gamer(tm) dying was a very important part of my gaming heritage. It's interesting to see that one of the most frustrating parts of growing up is now something that's missed. Beautiful irony, no?

(p.s. PODCAST TOPIC!!! :D)

Tera Kirk 12-31-2008 03:14 PM

Re: Prince of Persia Review
 
*Really* nice job!

I agree with Jason about the length...the review didn't feel too short to me at all. There are some minor grammar and GameCritics style hiccups. You've got some extra adjectives and adverbs that are unnecessary (e.g. you say the game's easiness "evidently greatly upset me"--you don't need the "evidently"). Also, we avoid writing in the second person too much ( "Sure, you can pull off combos and string together some rather impressive looking moves...").Repacing the second-person references with "the gamer" or "the player" or even "I" would work.

All in all, an excellent job.

LukeVGC 01-01-2009 12:01 PM

Re: Prince of Persia Review
 
Thanks for all the positive comments. I will polish up some bits and pieces that everyone has suggested and add a couple more things in.

I'd love to get this on the homepage so I'll be sure to edit this ASAP. :D

Thanks again everyone.

LukeVGC 01-02-2009 07:32 AM

Re: Prince of Persia Review
 
Went back and took out a few phrases and errors. I've also added some additional bits in the last few paragraphs, as well as talking about combat then going on to Elika, and wrapping it up with the accessibility. Final mark is there also.

If there is anything else, just let me know. :)

Tera Kirk 01-02-2009 02:39 PM

Re: Prince of Persia Review
 
LukeVGC,

Really nice job. Greenlight from me.

Tera

Jason Karney 01-02-2009 07:39 PM

Re: Prince of Persia Review
 
Nicely re-worked.

I did notice one more thing which is necessary, which I neglected to point out previously: the parents' guide needs your opinions on what parents might consider if buying this game for children. Check any of our reviews for examples; it only needs to be a sentence or two, but something other than just the ESRB descriptors.

Thanks.

--Jason

LukeVGC 01-02-2009 08:53 PM

Re: Prince of Persia Review
 
Done. :)

Thanks again.


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