Platforms
Blast From The Past
Blast From The Past: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Prince of Persia has been around for over twenty years now, having started out back in 1989 on an Apple II computer – and playing out as a two-dimensional platformer – the series latest entry came about in 2010 on all the major formats. Aside from the evolution of graphics from the original’s spectacular rotoscoped animations of series creator Jordan Mechner’s brother, to the more modern looks of polygons and three-dimensional environments, Prince of Persia has stayed true to it’s roots of platforming, puzzling and methodical combat. Out of the many titles in the series, one stands out as not just being the best out of the lot, but also one of the best platformers ever created.

Released in 2003, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time sees you taking up the role of the unnamed prince and his quest to uncover the truth behind the mysterious dagger and the Sands of Time that he inadvertently unleashed upon the world. It’s plot may have dealt with time travel in a dizzying way, and featuring a brilliant narrative twist, but it’s gameplay was completely solid platforming fun right from the outset.

Starting out as a soldier in the Sultans army, who decide invade an Indian city en-route to Azad, the Prince seeks to gain glory and honour by nabbing the most precious item from the Maharajah’s vaults. The foolishness of the Prince and his quest in self interest comes back to bite him in the bum after he unleashes the sands of time throughout the palace and unwittingly transforms his father, as well as the other soldiers in the army – into monsters that will hinder his journey throughout the palace to resolve the problem he created. Luckily the Maharajah’s daughter, Farah, was immune to the effects of the sand – due to a medallion she carries – and so aids the pompous prince in his journey.

 

Wonderfully though this partnership only strengthens the allure that The Sands of Time exhibits. Not only does Farah assist in battle rather expertly for AI from 2003, but her presence is key to solving some of the games puzzles – meaning that revisiting past locations with her in tow opens up new paths. Easily though, the highlight of her presence is the rapport generated between the Prince and herself – perhaps the reason why 2008’s Prince of Persia reboot also saw you teamed up with a female compadre. Farah’s headstrong attitude for a princess not only threw the player, but interesting also threw the Prince. His words failed to impress and so her responses were quick quips and put-downs. His jokes were terrible, and so Farah didn’t beat around the bush with her opinions. What pushed this relationship beyond just being amusing, is how Farah’s initial frostiness and reserved attitude to the Prince seems to melt away as the adventure goes on, in front of your eyes and ears a bond begins to form between the two characters; something that is rarely done well in videogames.

Perhaps it was the excellent puzzles and use of environment that drew the pair together, instead of the Prince’s rather cheesy humour. As The Sands of Time plays out entirely in the grounds of the Maharaja’s palace, areas are revisited and new paths opened up thanks to new abilities gained. However what was previously an obstacle that presented  a fair challenge of time and skill to wall run and jump over, has intensified upon entering the area later on after having altered something elsewhere in the palace. A fine example comes in the form of a puzzle that requires you to activate the palace’s defence system – something that sounds like a wonderfully helpful idea, but in practice makes everything just that bit more deadly. However that doesn’t phase the cocky and agile Prince. Indeed leaping over circular saws or rolling past spiked poles seems like a commonplace occurrence for the fellow, but that only intensifies the enjoyment gained from navigating your way through a room of hazards – indeed the Prince’s athletic prowess inspired the moves of Altïr and Ezio.

His athleticism also extended out the games combat mechanic. Working in a way that meant you had to look for an opening to attack – similar to the Assassin’s Creed system of combat – and so you would parry and then strike at your foe, using walls to jump off and over opponents or indeed to dive in and through them. It was fun, creative, and frantic, with many puzzle rooms either starting or finishing with a tense bout against sand soldiers that were never stacked in the Princes favour. These moments also served nicely to break up the puzzle and exploration sections of the game and let you indulge in your more innate desires for action. Unfortunately they were also some of the largest annoyances involved in the game as some foes could take what seemed like hours to whittle down, whilst others that seemed tougher could be dispatched within mere seconds. Of course having the Dagger of Time really helped in these situations.

The Dagger of Time, and the Sands of Time themselves, aided the Prince in his journey by imbuing him with the power to rewind and slow down time. Obviously this had implications beyond mere puzzle solving as it was also a way to dole out lives to the Prince. Each sand tank on the dagger provided you with an ability, as well as a life for our limber hero. Amusingly, upon each death the Prince would mutter “No, thats not how it happened” and time would rewind – interestingly the narration from the Prince would also say “shall I continue?” upon resuming from a paused game, which was quite a nice touch. Each rewind could only last up to 30 seconds at most, which gave you ample time to try a situation in a different approach, however upon occasion this wouldn’t be enough time the continual knowledge that you’re going to die over and over could become grating.

Suffice to say, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was generally well received by critics and fans everywhere, with every sequel in the series since being compared to it. Currently sitting at an amazingly – yet totally understandable – Metacritic score of 92, it is of no surprise that it received a HD revamp on the PS3 under it’s HD Classics range of titles. Be it on the Xbox, PS2, Gamecube, PC or in HD on the PS3 – with trophy support – you have absolutely no excuse to not revisit, or indeed visit for the first time, this gem of a title.

2 Comments to “ Blast From The Past: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time ”

  • Ryan.pMarch 22, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    good article… i do love this game… it is the best PoP game by far…. and the film inspired by it wasn’t too shabby either… probably helped by the fact that the lead writer for the film was a key contender in making the game too 😀

  • JustaGamerMarch 23, 2012 at 9:25 am

    I played the PoP SoT trilogy on the PS2 in the following order –
    PoP: Warrior Within (2nd game)
    PoP: The Two Thrones (3rd game)
    PoP: Sands of Time (1st game)

    but they still remain my favourite 3d platform games. I also have the HD version trilogy, played the Forgotten Sands and PoP 2008 (with Epilogue). I hope Ubisoft bring a sequel to the 2008 PoP game for some closure once they finish with Assassins Creed 3. Prince of Persia represent 3d platform action adventure games at their peak.
    Great article, took me back to my PS2 hay-days.

x
x
x