First Look: Prince of Persia

I didn’t care about Prince of Persia at all until I started seeing reviews for it appear on the net. Although I’d played previous games in the series (I’m pretty sure there’s been another game with exactly the same name) I’d never really got into them. Maybe it was the repetitive nature of the action or the series environments in general (Sci-Fi for the win, fantasy is fail), I just didn’t get what all the fuss was about. With a metacritic score of 86 and some shock prices on Play.com, however, I thought maybe it’s a good idea to give the apparently “lovable” prince another go – I made the right discussion.

I haven’t finished PoP, hence the first impression’s and not a full review, but from what I’ve got through so far it’s pretty clear that it deserves all those high grade reviews. The new prince is effectively Han Solo, in it for the money and girls and not really looking at the bigger picture. The story starts with the prince trying to find his donkey (not the most exciting premise…), it soon kicks off though; you run into a princess, called Elika, a chase sequence ensues, crazy princess’ father unleashes an ancient evil upon the land and the game starts for real. There isn’t really much explanation at first but I was still interested enough to keep playing, mainly because of the strong voice acting holding it all together. The prince and Elika are set the task of saving the land by reaching a number of areas and healing them, and although you’re effectively doing the same thing each time, it fails to get old.

This is a tribute to the games strongest points; its gameplay and its presentation. The game’s mechanics follow those found previously in Prince of Persia games, in other words there’s a whole load of (partially) gravity defying acrobatics. On completion of the game you will have no doubt done hundreds of wall runs, pole jumps and cliff scalings, and even though it’s all very easy  (you can’t really die, Elika simply grabs you and takes you back to the platform you where on before), you definitely feel like a bad ass. Think of Tomb Raider’s platforming components but on speed; it’s fun and gives you a good sense of accomplishment once you get to your goal. The game’s combat is also a lot of fun. It’s more Dance Dance Revolution than Soul Calibre, where a few well timed button presses can decimate your opponent and, although I’ve yet to die in combat either, it’s still enjoyable to see some over-the-top aerial combos and some very blue magical attacks. The fights are always one on one and the standard enemy battles can get a little dull after a while; luckily the boss fights spice it up a bit and to be honest, you don’t play a Prince of Persia game for its deep combat system.

So now for the presentation. In short, this game looks beautiful. I’ve been playing on the PC and, although it’s not Crysis in terms of graphical fidelity, on the highest settings, it really does look lovely. It’s the art style that really makes it stand out from the rest of the, in comparison, droll looking games that came out this Christmas. It’s got that cel-shaded, hand drawn look going on, which, when combined with the immense scale of the environments and lack of loading after the initial start-up, really give the game an epic feel. The character models stand out distinctly from the backgrounds and some excellent looking effects are used. The environments, before being “healed”, are covered in darkness, once healed they change into beautiful vistas, in real-time; these transformations really look fantastic and make you feel that you are actually making a difference to the game’s environment.

Prince of Persia does have it’s bad points, most notably the repetition, but saying that I’m going to keep playing Prince of Persia, probably until I’ve finished it (something that I very rarely do!). If you’ve ever enjoyed a good old adventure, I can’t recommend this game enough.

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