Monday, February 2, 2009

Review: Prince of Persia

Prince of Persia (2008)
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Platform: X-Box 360
Purchase Date: 12/18/2008

Of darkness and light.

Prince of Persia started off with such a simple narrative thread - almost to the point that it was seemingly lazy - that I couldn't help thinking that the rest of the game was going to be a shallow and forgettable experience. The game is set in a sort of an alternate universe where the "Prince" is now a wise-cracking jock instead of the brooding royalty we are accustomed to and "Farah", who was a princess previously, has now been turned into a donkey. Don't fret though, there is a new princess introduced to the game. Her name is Elika and the Prince gets to spend his whole time with her during this adventure.

The Prince must be a very lonely guy.

While looking for his lost donkey, the Prince stumbled into Elika and discovered her plight to stop a plot to release a dark god by the name of Ahriman from imprisonment. Her entire kingdom is then engulfed in darkness and it is up to her and the Prince to heal the lands. There are four large areas to traverse through but they can only be completed when Elika receives four different powers that can be unlocked by collecting "light seeds" that scattered the landscape once a section of the kingdom is healed. Just like the classic Prince of Persia games, the focus here is exploration instead of action and the battles - presented in the classic one-on-one duel - do not happen very often. They do tend to get a bit lengthy near the end, especially when fighting the bosses because of the game's excessive dependence on unnecessary quick time events.

A blissful dance in the air.

The environments are gigantic and the platforming sections where the Prince and Elike are running on and bouncing off walls are done with perfection. The problem is, the game can be a bit too easy. The developer doesn't trust the players enough to be able to manipulate around the environment on their own so almost all of the surfaces that can be manipulated by the Prince have visual cues on them in the form of the signs of wear and tear. Also, the Prince can never die. At the moment of near death, Elika would jump in an save the Prince from his imminent doom. These problems are not enough to hinder the overall quality of the game though. The graphics are beautiful, especially when a land is healed where you can bask in the game's infinite view distance and its lavish, cartoonish colors. The animations on both the Prince and Elika - especially when performing Elika's special abilities - as well as all the game's bosses are phenomenal. This is definitely the best looking game of 2008 and its unique art style ensures that the game will remain beautiful in the future. The voice acting is strong. At first, I rolled my eyes whenever I hear the Prince speak but the more I play the game, the more he grows on me. The progression of his relationship with Elika feels natural and witnessing their increasing physical and mental interactions together throughout the journey is both sublime and touching. The game's ending will divide players but I found it to be very powerful and heartfelt.

They bicker a lot but they do work very well together.

Prince of Persia is a pleasant surprise. The game's unassuming beginning is a big risk for Ubisoft Montreal but they truly deliver the goods midway into the game and then provide us with an unexpectedly epic finale. They have also turn the Prince and Elika into an iconic couple that even rivals Link-Zelda, Mario-Princess Peach, and Ico-Yorda.

RATING: 4 out of 5

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