Prince of Persia Xbox 360 Review

May 30, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews & Features, Xbox 360, Xbox

The best comparison to make for Ubisoft’s Prince of Persia reboot isn’t wholly the Sands of Time Trilogy, but also another big hitter released this year, Fable II. Both games feature helpful companions, lightly penalize death and just generally have a focus on accessibility.

Being a reboot and all, the previous Prince and Farrah are gone and, from a story standpoint, there’s no connections to the previous games, which means those who for some reason let them pass them by, can immediately dive in, without having to wonder just what the hell is going on.

The new Prince is a Prince in name only, his attitude brings to mind Nathan Drake of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune and he even shares the same voice actor, in the excellent Nolan North. The heroine is Elika, a princess, who, with the Prince, is attempting to stop the revival of an evil god by healing her kingdom. The story, whilst enjoyable enough, isn’t amazing by any stretch and it’s the entertaining, often endearing and well acted banter between the two characters that ultimately really stands out.

Also new is a lovely illustrative visual style, which is essentially a form of cel shading, albeit a very fancy one. It has a bit of a Street Fighter IV vibe about it and a dash of Okami. Once you heal the areas and return the colour and life to them, it’s especially gorgeous. The rousing music is similarly wonderful, even if there just isn’t quite enough of it.

Its growth into an open world has obviously meant a restructuring. You nearly always have a handful of areas of which you can explore in whatever order you desire, though further areas must be unlocked by finding enough light seeds, of which will appear when you heal areas. Finding an allotted amount, will get Elika a new power, allowing you access to new areas. Some will find this structure to be too repetitive and perhaps might view it as unnecessary padding, whilst others like me, will enjoy hunting them down.

Elika’s involvement extends far and wide from just the story, not least of which is with the games controversial treatment of failure. Fumbling a jump will result in not a messy death but instead Elika will reach out and save your sorry skin by placing you on the closest stable ground. At its worst this system is an overly generous checkpoint system, but at its best, it’s not really all that different to failing at many other games and is actually better, as there’s no loading screen to break the immersion and pace of the game.

The platforming isn’t as involving as it was previously and has a much more automated feel to it, giving the impression that the game is playing itself and that It’s all just essentially one, big glorified quicktime event. It never gets any more complex than having to press a different button, when you reach a chain or a plate, but the animations of the Prince and Elika, as well as the enchanting setting and the occasional tricky sequence keeps things interesting, even if the previous trilogy done things much better in the jumping about and wall running regard.

Giving the series’ past fondness on puzzle solving gameplay, it may come as a bit of a shock to discover that there’s little in the way of puzzling here. The ones that are there will no doubt please many a fan, but with the focus on straightforward platforming above anything else, it’s hardly the focal point it once was.

Fighting, which was never really a strength of the last trilogy is also less of a focus this time around and this too has, like the rest of the game, seen some reworking. In an attempt to obviously emulate the original 80’s game, every fight is a one-on-one encounter, which you’d think would make fighting more of a strategic affair. It’s rarely like this though and random button bashing is often more than enough to see you victorious. Boss encounters often call for a change in strategy, but largely these too can be seen off with little effort. Just like the platforming, dying is absent here and Elika will come to your rescue, with the only penalty being a recovery of health for your opponent, which is fair enough really.

In spite of its ease, fighting is solid enough, looks fancy and has enough combos to discover for those who like to explore the concealed depths of a system. If you really can’t stand it though, many regular fights can be avoided, by swiftly wiping enemies out before they even have a chance to spawn, not very honourable, but a pleasant addition for those who just want to explore uninterrupted.

Prince of Persia is sure to polarise opinion. In some areas it’s an improvement, whilst in others it’s less successful, but it’s much more accessible than what series fans will be used to and many of these devotees will be shocked at the overall gentleness of the game. Others will enjoy a game that is both stress free and a magical experience for the senses. Disregarding all the contrasting opinions though, few will be able to deny that Prince of Persia is a beautiful and well made game.