It's easy to get confused with all the different versions of Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands. And with the movie coming out so soon (which is not related to the game in any way), you're probably wondering how to keep track of the games. The Forgotten Sands for the Nintendo Wii is being specifically built from the ground up, whereas the version for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC is an entirely new game with a new story. Similar to the other versions, The Forgotten Sands takes place during the seven-year gap between the Sands of Time and Warrior Within storyline. However, this time, the game takes a unique approach by granting you sand powers that allow you to create your own path, so there's now more than one way to reach your exit.
The last time we saw the game, we were shown several levels that demonstrated the prince's newfound powers. This time, we were able to play through the some of the same levels ourselves, as well as some new areas, to see what else the game has to offer. The first thing we noticed is that the game is a lot more accessible. Hints are available when you're feeling stuck and feasible routes are highlighted if you're questioning your next jump. You're introduced to your sand powers gradually, and by the time you've mastered them, you'll get to play with some new powers.
You're thrown into the story without much explanation--the tutorial level has you running out of a crumbling city that is being swallowed by the desert. A djinn named Zarah helps you get to where you need to go and is the one who gives you your powers. Because we only had access to play through specific levels, however, we didn't get much of an idea of what was going on other than the fact that Zarah has promised us a kingdom, immortality, and a lovely princess should we free her. That's probably all you'd want to know about the story anyway, so we'll leave it at that.
Like previous 3D Prince of Persia games, you'll be wall running, climbing, and leaping from pillars to make your way to the next area. Fountains act as your check point, and as you collect golden orbs, you'll refill a meter that gives you a second chance should you mess up. You only get so many tries and will be bumped back to the fountain if you don't succeed. But we noticed that in the longer levels, there were plenty of fountains to drink and refuel from so you'll never have to go back too far. The first power we received was the sand ring, which allowed us to create a ring on the wall onto which we could then hang. At first, you can only create these rings on colored platforms, but eventually, our skill was upgraded and we could plant one just about anywhere on a wall. The second power was the ability to call forth a stream of sand--like a geyser--that would give us a lift to higher ground. If you've been following the PSP version of the game (a completely different story as well), there are a few gameplay similarities. The final power we received was the ability to create a bubble in midair. You can only use one power at a time, so by the time we received all three, we could make our way across any chasm or chamber by switching between the sand hook and bubble. It works in such a way that you can run up a wall and create a hook, then jump off the wall to create the bubble that suspends you in midair. Aim your next ring a little higher and repeat. This gave us the freedom to really go wherever we wanted to go, and the bubble was a nice backup plan in case we missed a jump.
The puzzles we encountered weren't too difficult, especially with the helpful placement of the collectable orbs to guide us where we needed to go next. Combat was also fairly straightforward, although it did require shaking the remote to slash. You'll gain special powers like a tornado attack as you collect experience from enemies and treasure chests, but those also involve shaking--shaking both controllers to be exact. Thankfully, none of the battles we encountered were too long or too difficult, so it wasn't really much of an issue. We're not sure if all the boss fights are like this, but the towering stone guardian that we faced combined quick-time events with tried-and-true slashing. After dodging the creature's attacks and finally stunning it, we had to climb on its head to trigger a series of quick-time events (mainly pressing the A button and swinging the remote to the left) to finish it off. It's easy as long as you didn't miss any quick-time events; if so, you'll have to go back to slashing the creature the old-fashioned way until you stun it.
Other enemies we encountered included minotaurs that were heavily armored and protected by a shield. Rolling behind them to get their exposed backsides was the easier way to do it, but at times, it was tough to get back there. Persistence pays off, though, because eventually you'll break away their shield and the fight will be over. The more obnoxious foes are sorceresses, who disappear, reappear, and never seem to stay put. Luckily, you can also use your sand powers to stun enemies, so by pointing and pressing the B button, you'll temporarily stun your target long enough to quickly slash it a few times. Sometimes, there will be a blue pillar of light coming from a single foe, which lets you know that it is the leader. By disposing of this creature first, the others will disperse.
Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands looks good so far from the areas that we were able to explore. The outdoor environments were particularly impressive, with a lot of detail to highlight the fact that the kingdom you're trying acquire is in utter ruin. The camera isn't always the most cooperative, but you can easily adjust it by holding the C button and using the remote to turn. Another feature that has been included is the introduction of co-op, which allows a second player to use a remote and play as the djinn. Like Super Mario Galaxy, the second player isn't completely involved, but he or she can take over your sand powers for you to create rings on the walls, stun enemies, and slow traps so you don't have to worry about multitasking. We'll be sure to have more updates for you as soon as they become available. Look for Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands when it is released on May 18.