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July 14, 2010
Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
20/5/2010UbisoftUbisoftUbisoft Montreal1None
Media HDD Space Resolution Sound Format Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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The Prince of Persia - very acrobatic!
The Prince of Persia franchise returned with a bang in 2003 with the release of critically acclaimed Sands of Time, the first title in a trilogy of the same name released on last-gen systems. The Prince's Playstation 3 debut, simply titled Prince of Persia departed from the formula established in the Sands of Time trilogy (there was no rewinding time, no sprawling fights) but was still well received by the public (Futuregamez liked it enough to give it 83%). The latest game in the series, The Forgotten Sands, brings back these elements, taking the series back to familiar territory – how does it shape up? Read on...

In The Forgotten Sands you play as a prince who has been sent by the king to learn how to become a general from your brother, who is already a general of great repute. Upon arrival you find that your brothers' kingdom is under siege from an army looking for the secret of a mysterious power the palace supposedly protects. It's your job to sneak into the city, find your brother, and help protect the city and its people from the marauding army.

As with all games in the series, the Prince is armed with little more than a sword and an innate acrobatic ability. The Prince's acrobatic skills form the backbone of the platform sections, and he certainly has the skills for the job as he wall-runs with aplomb, grips ledges with strength reminiscent of Kratos or Nathan Drake, and spins around flagpoles and columns with ease. Each level is cleverly designed to make use of these abilities in increasingly challenging ways. The first level serves as a tutorial, teaching you how to best put the Prince's skills to use, and easing you into the game nicely.

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The Forgotten Sands is out now on PS3.
As you progress through the game the Prince will be granted fantastic new powers to help him overcome the obstacles ahead. The first such power is the power of time, which allows the Prince to rewind the last few seconds just like in the Sands of Time trilogy. This will come in plenty handy when you miss a jump or run afoul of the palace's defence system. Next up is the power of flow, which enables the Prince to effect water to the point where flowing water becomes solid. There are multiple applications of this power: the Prince is able to run up or across waterfalls depending on what is needed, as well as climb up thicker streams of water. The next power could generously be called flight, though it can only be used in very specific instances – jumping between helpful vultures (yep, that's as odd as it sounds), or zooming over extra large gaps to attack an enemy. The final power is that of memory, which enables the Prince to see how the castle looked in the past, and bring any useful objects from there to the present in order for him to progress.

The levels are well designed to make use of all these skills, and will test your dexterity and gray matter on how to best use them at any given time. The powers are extremely useful so their use is limited. It costs one point of energy to use any of the powers and you can earn and replenish energy by defeating enemies or finding it in any of the vases and urns littered around the palace. You can also increase the total amount of energy at your disposal when you level up.

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The Prince is surrounded by enemies.
When the Prince isn't platforming he's fighting the enemy hordes. The Prince's skill set is a little light in this department, with a standard attack, power attack and melee attack, which knocks enemies to the ground. Once an opponent is on the ground a standard attack can be used to finish them off, so it can be a useful tactic to employ. You can also use the melee attack to kick enemies off ledges, which is always fun. Power attacks are performed by holding the regular attack button for slightly longer than usual, and they do a significant amount of damage. With that said, the Prince's standard attack can take down anyone not carrying a shield (these must be melee attacked first) easily, so you may find yourself sticking to that.

Each defeated enemy earns you experience and whenever the Prince levels up you get to choose a new ability or upgrade for him. There are a variety of upgrades available such as increasing the strength of his regular or power attacks, increasing his health or energy, or extending the length of time the Flow and Time powers last. You can also acquire new combat abilities, each of which has four levels. Stone Armour greatly reduces the amount of damage taken while active, Trail of Fire leaves a fiery trail behind the Prince when he moves, and any enemy who stumbles into the trail will take damage for a small amount of time. Ice Blast fires ice with each of the Prince's attacks, and Whirlwind knocks down any enemies with range. Each of these abilities really comes into its own when it reaches maximum power, especially Stone Armour which makes the Prince all but invulnerable for a short amount of time.

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The Prince is very athletic.
There is no online or multiplayer component to The Forgotten Sands, but there is something called “UPlay”. UPlay looks like an Ubisoft rewards program (and you have to sign up to access it), but many of the features (Shop, Share and Help) are still "coming soon", so it's not possible to evaluate it fully. At the moment what it does offer is the option to redeem any UPlay points you've earned playing the game for bonus in-game unlockables such as an Ezio (of Assassin's Creed) outfit, a Forgotten Sands PS3 theme, and an extra Challenge Mode; time trial. Currently none of these unlockables add a lot to the game, but hopefully there will be more on offer once UPlay is fully up and running.

Whilst the platforming sections of The Forgotten Sands are beyond reproach, there are other areas where the game is a bit of a letdown. First off the story is far from engaging and it comes across as somewhat rushed. You're never given more information about what's going on beyond just enough to keep you moving forwards to the next challenge. It's never explained who is attacking the palace, or how the Prince has powers like ice blast or fire trail, or why later on in the game vultures appear, perfectly spaced out allowing you to use them to jump between platforms. Late on you're given more details about how events came to pass, but by then it's too little too late. The end of the game doesn't wrap everything up in a satisfying manner either, which is a disappointment.

The next issue is with the combat itself, which amounts to little more than button bashing. The Prince's sword has impressive range, doing damage to enemies regardless of whether they are in front, to the side or behind him. There is little variety in the enemies, with maybe five or six types throughout the game. The biggest difference between standard enemies is that some come with a shield and must be kicked before you can attack them with your sword. There is next to no variety in the bosses either, with a couple of boss types appearing multiple times in the exact same form – no different attacks or attack patterns, meaning your strategy will always remain the same. About seventy percent of the way through the game you are given a sword that can take down all but the biggest enemies in a single swipe which reduces the excitement of combat even further.

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Cut-scenes in Prince of Persia impress.
And finally the biggest issue, one that is very hard to gloss over, is the length. Your first run through will take around eight hours which isn't long in anyone's language. The first Prince of Persia title for PS3 took around 12-15 hours, so for that to be almost halved in this title is nigh on unforgiveable. Outside of the main game there is next to nothing to do either. There are two challenge modes, one where you have to defeat eight waves of increasingly difficult enemies as fast as you can, and a time trial mode where you have to defeat two-hundred and fifty enemies as quickly as you can. All up these two modes add maybe half an hour of longevity to the game, and given combat is not particularly exciting it's hard to imagine playing them multiple times. The main game itself doesn't offer much in the way of a reason to replay it either -- there are twenty-one hidden sarcophagus's to find which reward you with extra experience, however you will acquire more than enough experience throughout the game to gain almost every available upgrade, meaning the sarcophagus' themselves won't provide a huge incentive to replay.

Graphically the game is very polished, particularly during the cutscenes. There are a bunch of cool touches, like during the first level while the palace is under siege you'll climb past cannon balls embedded in the palace wall. Sections of the walls will collapse too, crushing any soldiers unlucky to be underneath. Colour is used well throughout; areas with garden are lush and vibrant, whilst the stables, prison and sewer are all dark and bland. The gold of the treasury twinkles brightly whilst the throne room looks more regal than the other areas of the palace. The effective use of colour makes each area feel distinct despite the fact that a lot of the environment (i.e. the palace walls) will be common to each location. The Prince is back at his nimble best too, moving at a good pace regardless of the physical demands of whichever task he is undertaking. He does look a little strange up close though, with an oblong-shaped face that could have been made with clay. Parents and squeamish kids will be glad to hear that The Forgotten Sands is family friendly, with enemies either turning into sand, or disappearing altogether when they are slain. There is no blood or gore in sight.

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Did you see the recent Prince of Persia movie?
There isn't a whole lot of music in the game, but what's there is suitably epic, fitting in well with the action. The sound effects are the usual fare with nothing worthy of particular attention; they do the job just fine, but won't knock your socks off. The voice-acting is solid throughout and the lip-synching matches up well during cutscenes. The Prince still doesn't have an accent which may bother some people, though the Djinn has plenty enough for both of them. During levels the Prince will often mutter to himself, keeping you abreast of the story and your current objective. He doesn't exactly make jokes, but he does give you a chuckle or two with his sense of humour.

Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands returns the series to its roots after the previous title had branched out a bit. The platforming action remains a strength of the title, and the dexterity testing actions you'll be forced to pull off are a lot of fun. The run of the mill combat and storyline, along with incredibly short length stop this from being a great game however. If you're a fan of the series, or platformers in general you will definitely have fun here, but unfortunately it will be short-lived.

Review By: Mike Allison

GRAPHICSImpressive for the most part, with some cutscenes looking even better. Enemies and characters look good, colour and lighting is used very well throughout.
SOUNDThere's not a lot of music, but what's there is quality. The voice-acting is rock-solid, whilst the sound effects are a bit "meh".
GAMEPLAYThe platforming is top of the line; challenging, entertaining and finger-tangling stuff. The combat on the other hand is weaker than you'd like. More puzzles would have been welcome too.
VALUEThis is where The Forgotten Sands fails, with a length around the eight hour mark. A longer game, even with the uninspired combat sections, would have made this much easier to recommend.
OVERALLThe Forgotten Sands is another very good game in the Prince of Persia series. If it weren't so short it would be much easier to recommend based on how entertaining the platforming sections are, but alas, at around eight hours it has to be marked down.

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