Top positive review
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A rental filled with magic and tedium
on May 24, 2010
Game's too flawed for a 4 but it's not mediocre enough to warrant a 3 so consider this a 3.5 star review.
As a massive fan of the 2008 refresh of the Prince of Persia series, I often felt like as much of an apologist as an enthusiast, trying to convince people that the one from 2008 was an incredibly solid title with absolutely gorgeous graphics, a nice attempt at a different combat mechanic and a promising start to hopefully another successful trilogy. However the title was released in an incredibly busy fall/winter period and despite some positive press, the game didn't exactly sell well, not to mention the criticisms that it was too easy. I will admit the platforming was very rudimentary and basic in that game but it was also slightly zen-like, almost effortless and you never felt frustrated by the puzzle-y platforming aspects and it was a game where you can just..."go" and not worry about repeating long sections or have your fifth attempt at another hard section. Which makes the appearance of "Forgotten Sands" a very curious one, not only because it makes you wonder if they're even planning to continue the Elika story or if they stopped because of the low sales or if this is just a bonus release until a "Prince of Persia 2" or whatever it's called. And then of course there's the film version of "The Sands of Time" coming so close to the game's release and it makes you wonder about what this game is trying to do: rejuvenate the old Prince after the low sales of the last one? Just a simple cash grab for the movie-going masses? Either way, it's a game that as a longtime Prince of Persia fan, I don't regret I played it but I do regret that it's not a great game.
Story: Set in-between the time between Sands of Time and Warrior Within, we find the Prince (now voiced by Yuri Lowenthal who did Sands of Time and Two Thrones) visiting his brother's kingdom only to have it under siege. The brother, at a loss and outnumbered, unleashes a powerful demon known as Ratash and the 2 brothers carry a medallion that can end the whole affair but the brother, caring for his kingdom but also for the newfound power, doesn't make it easy and it's up to you to once again save another kingdom and bring down Ratash.
Warrior Within got heavy flak for being a really dark game in which the Prince said lines like "you bitch!" and apparently became a Godsmack fan, as evidenced by the metal riffs as well as the darker tone of the game in general, let alone the storyline but personally, aside from the metal, it kind of made sense. Having messed with time so much in the first game, the Dahaka was sent after the Prince almost like a time officer, trying to make the Prince atone for all the time interference he did and tried to kill him, causing the Prince to be constantly hunted and barely getting any sleep by the time Warrior Within rolled around. There's none of that in Forgotten Sands; there's no change in personality, no mention of the Dahaka's upcoming appearance and aside from one mention of Farah, this might as well have been a stand alone. The main plot itself in the game isn't that exciting either as there's no Kaileena to play off of or a Farah for some love triangle or even any kind of bond and the character you mainly associate with in the game seems more like an ally than anything more. Ultimately, Forgotten Sands as a story feels kind of unnecessary and it could've taken place before Sands of Time or after Two Thrones and you wouldn't have been able to tell the difference.
Graphics: Like I mentioned above, the 2008 version of Prince of Persia is still one of the most stunning games available on consoles and not only the artistic design but the vistas, animation and impeccable detail makes it a sumptuous treat for the eyes. Forgotten Sands on the other hand looks bland and even when the game opens up with adding some new color, the game still doesn't look terribly gorgeous. Ubisoft basically said the combat was like the previous trilogy only there would be at least 50 enemies on screen but apparently somebody didn't tell them to have the game optimized for that kind of enemy count as the game can slow to a crawl and there's even gameplay hiccups during platforming itself at times which boggles the mind since Assassin's Creed II was twice as populated in parts and that thing barely coughed. Then again, the set piece at the end of the game is stunning and one bizarre location looks nice but the chief offender is the Prince's face, almost neanderthal-ish, like his face has no bone structure. This I don't get either since the Wii version and even the cover and disc art has a much better looking Prince so why his face looks so messed up is just weird.
Sound/Music: Like mentioned above, Yuri Lowenthal provides the voice again and I got to say I missed him. Nolan North did a fan job with 2008 one but he felt almost stoic, kind of bland as a main character. Yuri's Prince on the other hand is fallible and still has that tendency to talk to himself and make little quips about things and while he's not as buff and manly, he feels way more relatable as a main character. The music is pretty good but it's not really a memorable soundtrack and one you can hum but I guess it does the job well. The sound effects are decent and pretty basic so there's nothing much to talk about there.
Gameplay: One complaint that was lobbied against the '08 one was that it was too easy, but mainly people were complaining about Elika and her tendency to save you from mistimed jumps and mistakes even though all she was a fancier (and cuter) time rewind from Sands of Time or even a "now loading" screen substitute. Forgotten Sands tries to bring back the trickier parts of Sands of Time with timing and mastery of your abilities getting you through. Prince gets 3 main abilities: the time rewind which is back like you remember, make a mistake, press RB and rewind to give you another chance. There's also the...I don't know what to call it but it's like the power from Epilogue DLC from the last game where you can bring back platforms, beams or water fountains/jets and reinstate them to be used but only one can be turned on at the same time. But your main ability is the water freeze where holding LT will freeze water which either acts like a water column you can climb up or jump off of or make it like a beam you can jump and swing off of. These abilities will start to mesh a bunch in the game and pretty soon you got to freeze a waterfall, run up it, jump off, freeze the jet to jump off, turn on a platform, wall-run across a frozen waterfall, jump off and...yeah, it gets complicated, almost turning the game into a rhythm game. My biggest issue though is that the controls don't feel..."nailed" and you'll absolutely swear you pressed the button to make the Prince jump off a wall or have him not run up a wall even though you're holding the button for it. The platforming's as tricky as ever but it's just the controls that are not quite as refined as I would've liked. If you're a longtime Prince fan, you'll know the difference between a legitimate mistake on your part and a control issue where the Prince did something you had no intent in doing and sadly, the game has a few.
In 2008, the Prince had more of a cinematic one-on-one (well, two, counting Elika) and I kind of liked it, especially since the Sands trilogy had a more button-mashy vibe and that returns in Forgotten Sands though there is some differences. One is that the game has 4 powers you can use, ice power that shoots out waves of ice when you attack, a flame attack that sets enemies a-light, a shockwave that knocks enemies to the ground and a stone armor that gives you better defense. The lack of a block button I feel is disappointing because the enemies are quite plentiful and it's very easy to get hit by people you didn't even know were about to hit since there's at best 40 or even 50 onscreen at once. But the combat feels adequate but definitely not ideal since lack of lock-on makes you swiping at the air but the kick button gives you a way to knock enemies away and give you some breathing room (plus it allows you to get your "300 `This is Sparta!''" kicks out, complete with achievement). My one issue here is the camera because there's these typical rhino bosses where you have to dodge before they ram into you, causing them to crash into the wall, but when you're juggling fighting 30 guys in addition to 2 rhinos, getting nailed out of nowhere than nailed by the second one while you're down is beyond frustrating. As much as the platform is the highlight in Prince games, the combat always seems to be a problem.
The puzzles aren't exactly that tricky and it's more platforming puzzles now though there's some occasional "puzzle" puzzles in there. They seriously overdid the swinging spiky logs, the spike-y floors and the spike-y columns that move back and forth and after awhile you feel like "is this all the platforming you're going to make me do?" Also the game is remarkably short and aside from a slow beginning it starts to pick up but the game has barely any replay value and there's not much reason to replay the game aside from achievements/trophies.
So should you buy Prince of Persia: Forgotten Sands? If you own the previous 4 or you're a diehard Prince fan anyway, then go ahead but personally I wouldn't. It's too brief given its full retail price and from a story standpoint, it's nice nostalgia but unneeded so this game is what I call the "Gift game": you'd gladly accept if somebody bought it for you but paying full price yourself just doesn't sound right. Solid rental.