Saturday, June 6, 2009

This Prince puts you in the Movies

The Prince of Persia is one of the longer lived video game series. Born back in the age of the original Apple computer and the Commodore 64, Prince of Persia was an action puzzler that caught a lot of people's attention.

Reborn a few generations later with 3D graphics and environment interaction that hadn't been seen before, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was seen as another great game. And this version had a couple of sequels that appeared on the previous generation.

And now we have the latest incarnation, with a new "Prince" and a new concept of gameplay that challenges the definition of gaming.

Prince of Persia arrived from Gamefly and shortly went into my PS3 for a spin not that long ago. And that initial spin up was a joy.

The game's visuals were lovely to soak up, passing by the realistic for the art direction that made me think of a higher resolution World of Warcraft. Unified art is a good thing.

The controls were easy to learn and play with. Making the Prince wall run, slide down columns or swing from posts was setup in such a way that making mistakes in control were infrequent at best. For me, the toughest part in getting around the environments was transitioning from climbing vines to a wall run. Every now and then I found myself leaping off into space. This leads to that gaming change.

You cannot die.

Jump of a ledge, take one hit too many from a creature or boss, fall into some hazard that would kill you and your partner in world saving would use her magic to rescue you from which ever nasty would normally cause a respawn. This inability to truly fail makes this edition of Prince of Persia feel like you are playing a movie instead of a video game.

The benefit is a seemless experience that resonates unlike most other games that I've played before. No death screens, no re-loading, none of the restarts that you normally experience when dealing with most video games.

However, this path also suffers from making the game feel too easy. The challenge is lost when there feels to be a lack of penality for mistakes. And platformers, which is what defines Prince of Persia, live for making the player suffer.

So after my first round of play, I was torn whether to keep going to send it back as too easy. But the thought occurred that I could probably finish this game fairly quickly, and the dialog between the Prince and Elika had a quality that resembled the exchange between Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas in the 1984 movie Romancing the Stone. They initially aren't interested, but they start to grow on each other and the relationship develops. This holds true for the protagonists of Prince of Persia and is a quality that kept me going for quite a while.

And then the second flaw hit me over and over and made me give up - that flaw was boss recycling. You fight each boss once in the intro for each section. Then you have three more opportunities, followed by a fifth time to finish the job.

So you've got roughly 26 levels, each one ending with a boss fight and a total of five different bosses. It wouldn't have been so bad if the one I kept facing could only be beat in a specific manner I could not seem to get the hang of. After several play sessions, back to Gamefly it went.

Oddly, it still remains the best experience that makes the player feels as if they're in a story more than a game. Most certainly worth the rental, and I may even pick it up if I catch it on the cheap.

So this gutcheck (which had a longer playtime than most checks) is very positive. Just be prepared for a smooth ride and start on the left side of the map for the most enjoyment out of the game.

Be seeing you,


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