“Most people think time is like a river that flows swift and sure in one direction. But I have seen the face of time, and I can tell you: they are wrong. Time is an ocean in a storm. You may wonder who I am or why I say this. Sit down and I will tell you a tale like none you have ever heard.”
As much as I wish I could say this line was true, unfortunatly I have seen a Disney Movie of the same name a month prior and am very aware of the tale. However, after taking a little trip to it’s roots I couldn’t be more happy with my time traveling experience, literally.
Have The Time of Your Life…Figuratively Speaking
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is a 3D platformer adventure game released in 2003 for the GameCube, PS2, Xbox, and the PC, so there are more than enough options of where to find this game. Made by Ubisoft, the same team that brought us the recent hit series Assasin’s Creed, newcomers may notice just how much new platformers like AC or even Uncharted have been inspired by this game. But even now seven years later, when it comes to agility and acrobatics, this one still takes the cake.
I cannot stress enough how well the platforming is done in this game. Seriously, it’s like they extracted the exploration mechanics of the original Tomb Raider, then encased it in gold. Leaping, climbing, crawling, somersaulting, wall jumping, wall running, pole swinging, pole balancing all feel incredibly intuitive. The level design is made specifically to test your reactions with every new obstacle, and they progress in difficulty at a very fair pace. The whole time-mechanic in the game helps soften the frustration you may have in certain tricky parts. If you miss a jump, simply hold the rewind button and try again.
More Than a Pretty Control Scheme
For a game with such a strong focus on game play, the story is incredibly well crafted as well. A villain named Vizier (the guy that conveniently looks and acts exactly like Jafar from Aladdin) tricks The Prince of Persia into plunging the Dagger of Time into an hourglass, creating a sandstorm that turns all the people of Azad to monsters. The only three unaffected possess magical objects. Vizier with his staff, the Prince with the dagger, and Farah, the Princess of Maharajah, with her medallion. The Prince and Farah quickly make a pact to transverse the labrynths of Azad to return the Sands of Time to the hourglass and undo the damage he has done.
While there are only two real characters in this entire game (plus the villain Jaf- I mean Vizier), they are both done excellently. The Prince is basically an arrogant jerk, but we quickly learn it’s a façade to hide his true insecurities about his lost father and feeling he may or may not be developing for a certain princess of a town he’s now responsible for sacking and cursing. Farah is quite possibly one of the greatest female companions I’ve seen in a video game. Unlike other games where it feels like a tedious escort mission, Farah never feels completely reliant on you. She has her own motives as the story progresses, but to avoid spoilers, I won’t say no more.
So… the platforming’s an A+, story’s an A, characters are an A, graphics and level design are all an A. But nothing’s pefect The combat unfortunately is a C. It’s kinda cool at first to slow down time, turn enemies to sand sculpures, flip over them, chop them in two, or any combination of the four, but you quickly learn all there is to learn and they just end up becoming tedious interludes between the platforming and puzzle parts that are actually fun. Not only that, the enemies get larger and larger in numbers and they become a far pain to dispatch. The more you get frustrated the more you die. Just be thankful that by the time all those fights are over, you get to the final boss Vizier and he’s only one guy so he’s cake. Sorry to spoil that for you all, but I figured you all could assume a plot point like “the bad guy is the final boss.”
It’s been a month since Jerry Brukheimer’s Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time arrived in theatres. Since then, it has garnered praise as “The first genuinely good movie to be based on a video game.” (Moviebob) As for myself, I was actually very pleased with how well the elements of the game were adapted to fit in the structure of a film. To be fair, only the very beginnings and very ends are a whole lot similar, but the complex hero/heroine dynamic, the action, sense of adventure, mixed with the magic of time was all there. As for which one I prefer? The movie does a fair job, but definitely the game.
If you won’t take my advice for it get this. Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw, the Gordon Ramsay/Simon Cowell of game criticism, has declared that the Prince of Persia Sands of Time trilogy is “the greatest franchise of the last console generation.” I must confess that I feel absolutely embarrassed to be seven years late to such a wonderful feat. To make sure nobody else suffers from the same fate, I strongly recommend to all who haven’t done so, defy the future and pick up this game.