|Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time|
Release Date: Out Now
If pretty graphics and fluid animation are your thing, then look no further - this update of a 16-Bit classic is undoubtedly the best looking game on PS2 - and I mean bar none. But Prince of Persia the Sands of Time ain't just a pretty face - there's a heck of an adventure involved too!
Doh! - The Prince has dropped a bit of a bollock (or clanger). Within this war-torn land of Persia (see? Persia always has been a trouble spot!) the baggy-panted one finds himself drawn to a magic dagger and its dark powers - and is led to unleash a deadly evil upon his Father's Kingdom as the sands of time are disrupted. You soon find that this dagger allows you to freeze and even reverse time - put simply: make a ricket and you just hold L1 to go back in time a few seconds - this obviously gives you the chance to retry a failed leap, or attempt jumps that you never would normally, or rewind a fight to just before you took that fatal hit. Every man and woman in the castle has been turned into a "sand creature"; hideous mockeries of their original forms they have no feeling and want to kill the Prince. Killing them and absorbing their sand charges the dagger and allows you to mess with time some more.
The original PoP was an influence on so many games (including Tomb Raider and the like) that it's unsurprising that a few ideas from other games, both in terms of gameplay and control appear here. Running, jumping clambering, swinging, fighting, drinking to replenish his health - the Prince does it all so seamlessly and smoothly that playing the game is sometime like watching a top quality animated movie - he even does the old 'push and pull crate puzzles' better than anyone before him. Dust pours from collapsing objects in the disintegrating castle, trees, grass and ferns wave in the breeze or if you brush by them, superb lighting effects mean that waterfalls produce rainbows, water drips from the Prince if he gets soaked, and he even loses grip for a few seconds until his shoes dry out. Wooden bridges flex and sway and fabric looks and behaves like…well… fabric.
You are aided, abetted, goaded and even hampered on the quest to sort this cock up out by the lovely Princess Farah (she's nothing like Lara). She'll crawl through cracks too small for you, open doors, pull levers, shoot enemies with her bow and arrows (as well as you sometimes!) and stand on pressure switches for you - She's annoying, arrogant, impatient, gorgeous, has nice boobs and despite a highly vocal and occasionally strained relationship, she's always concerned about your welfare (and gasps should you slip or fall) and as much of a pain/pleasure as she is, you two unavoidably fall in love during the course of the game - need I say more?
The control system is genius; the Prince is controlled with the left stick, the camera position/distance with the right. Position and context-sensitive controls mean that X will make the Prince leap if he's running towards the edge of a drop, or roll if he's running toward a dropping gate. Triangle plunges the dagger into an enemy and will freeze an unguarded opponent or retrieve sand from a fallen one. R2 lets you loo around the amazing levels and plan your escape route. Square draws the Prince's sword and performs a combination of swishes and slashes. Advanced attacks allow you to vault over enemies and rebound off of walls, do instant kills with the dagger, and if you've gathered enough sand, even a "mega-freeze" that paralyses all enemies in the area and leaves them at your mercy. As you complete a section you'll find a 'sand fountain' save point, and the Prince will say "I'll start the story from here next time" - a nice touch.
Vaguely reminiscent of the wonderful Ico, PoP serves up a visually stunning platform adventure with moments of utter gaming delight, but the too-frequent, lengthy and taxing sword fights detract rather than add to the game. Sometimes you'll find the Prince surrounded by four massive, vicious enemies who take it in turns to pound on him, and the dagger can't always save you - should you get the Prince killed (and you will) he says "No-no-no, that isn't what happened" as you reload (another nice touch). But there's always a genuine feeling of progression; more cheery sun-drenched outdoor sections usually follow dark dungeon levels, and the mixture in atmosphere is perfect - but despite a sepia "vision" preview of the level ahead, you'll sometimes feel stumped, baffled and clueless, and the swordfights with the innumerable enemies will tax your patience to the limit - but cleverly never quite go beyond. A fabulous-looking game that plays as good as it looks.
-Eye candy throughout - PoP is a real stunner.
- Some brilliant platform sections and puzzles.
- We love Farah.
- Those sword fights seem to go on forever.
- Although the platform sections are always viewed perfectly, occasional duff camera angles during fights make things even more difficult.