Set in a land rooted in ancient Persian mythology, the Prince finds himself caught in an epic battle between the primal forces of light and darkness: the God of Light, Ormazd versus his brother Ahriman, the destructive God of Darkness. The Prince arrives just in time to witness the destruction of the legendary Tree of Life an act which threatens to plunge the entire world into eternal darkness. Manifested in the form of the Corruption, a dark substance that physically contaminates the land and the skies, the Prince must partner with Elika, a deadly companion, to heal the world from the evil Corruption.
As with previous games in the series platforming and traversing the land is the focus here. The Prince can run along walls, grab onto poles or ledges to hang off or move along, jump across gaps and so on. Indeed his movements are very fluid - certainly some of the best we've ever seen in a video game - but the game goes beyond these basic moves. With Elika always close to the Prince she can often help you. If you fall she will save you from death, if you have to jump a large gap she can provide a 'springboard' effect by throwing you that extra distance required and she can even assist in combat (more on that soon). There are also some puzzles where Elika will be required to assist you although, seeing as she is AI controlled, this isn't really any different to working on the puzzles yourself. One of the neat aspects of this game is that Elika can send out a light orb which can show you the path which you need to follow to get to the goal, or next area.
Key to the battles is the ability to block attacks by pressing the R2 button. Somewhat annoyingly though this is displayed on the screen when you need to block thus taking out much of the challenge. During fights the Prince has three levels of health - full (which is when he can move around briskly), damaged (which sees the screen turn red on the edges and his movement slowed down) or, well, pretty much dead where you will on the ground, and attacked by the enemy. Should you not press the correct button in time Elika will need to save you, but every time that happens the enemy regains a sizable chunk of health back.
Unfortunately this isn't a faultless game. The first, somewhat major, surprise was that the Prince's sword isn't upgradable during the game. What you start the game with, you'll keep until the end. While you will find different combos to use, and will need to use different attack patterns against different enemies the reality is that you'll find one or two combos you like and will stick to them. Some people may also find the backtracking required in this game a little annoying. After clearing an area you will need to re-traverse it to collect light orbs to unlock new powers, and new areas. Finally the game is fairly easy, and not overly long. With a run through time of 12-15 hours and no online or offline multi-player modes you may go back through it a second time, but it won't be to find new areas or experience something different.
We do have to mention though that despite what some reviewers have stated - I'm looking at GameTrailers here - Prince of Persia did not crash during our entire playthrough. Perhaps they were unlucky, reviewing beta code, or have a dodgy PS3 but we had no problems at all.
We are pleased to report that this game has quite a bit less screen tearing then found in Assassin's Creed. It's still not perfect mind you, but wasn't as noticeable as Ubisoft's previous game.
If there is one negative with the graphics in this game it has to do with the dialogue drive cut scenes between the Prince and Elika. They are quite static (you can pan the camera slightly though) with little variety. Given the frequency of these conversations it would have been nice to have a little more variety - or at least let you continue playing while the characters talk.
We do have two minor niggles with the audio on this game though. Firstly when traversing the land on rare occasions the audio pauses for a fraction of a second, presumably while something loads. It is quite noticeable and jarring and should have been fixed prior to release. The other issue isn't technical, but has to do with the Prince's dialogue. While the scripting is fairly good, although perhaps a little too 'jokey', his accent doesn't really have an ancient Persian feel. In fact, he pretty much has no accent at all which makes him a bit bland and generic.
Prince of Persia may not be as earth shattering as the first experience on the PS2, but it's a damn fine game in its own right. Visually impressive and certainly very entertaining this is a game that anyone could, and should, pick up due to the new characters and storyline. Another fine production from Ubisoft.
Review By: Dave Warner