Ubi Soft is showing a playable demo version of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time at ECTS this week. We went to the company's booth to check it out, and found it not only enjoyable, but also challenging in a way that doesn't feel like it could ever get frustrating.
When not engaged in combat--which we'll talk about a little later--the challenge in The Sands of Time is in working out how to reach seemingly inaccessible areas using the prince's impressive acrobatic skills. Only moments after the start of the demo, we were required to sprint along the vertical face of a wall to clear a gap that was too big to jump, and it wasn't long before we were swinging from flagpoles and on ropes to reach areas that even Lara Croft would have given up on back in her tomb-raiding days. Many of the prince's moves give the impression of being difficult to perform, but the truth is that many of them are only a little more tricky to perform than those in Revolution's upcoming Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon. Jumps don't need to be timed, swinging on ropes is achieved by holding down a single button, and if you do manage to fall from a narrow ledge, you'll find that the prince has a strong self-preservation instinct and is extremely good about clinging to things with his hands. The challenge is more in working out what to do than in actually doing it.
Even more impressive than the prince's acrobatic skills is his ability to incorporate them into combat. Fighting with both a sword and a dagger, the prince can quite effortlessly engage in combat with multiple enemies simultaneously, and when you start experimenting with different dodge moves and jumping attacks, the battles onscreen have an almost Jackie Chan-like feel to them. A few of the areas we explored were inhabited by large enemies that needed to be knocked to the ground before they could be dealt a fatal blow--it doesn't sound terribly difficult, but when four or five of them were attacking simultaneously, it proved quite tricky to reach some of the felled opponents before they had a chance to recuperate and rejoin the fight. When we did manage to finish off these larger enemies, we were treated to some impressive special effects as reminiscent of those in the Blade movies as their bodies turned to sand and appeared to disintegrate before our eyes. We were slightly disappointed that we weren't able to pick up and use any of the weapons that our enemies dropped when they died, but to be perfectly honest, the prince is so good with his sword that trading it for a spear or a heavy chain would undoubtedly be a mistake anyway.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is shaping up to be a very good game indeed, and it has a graphical style that makes even quite dull and featureless locales incredibly pleasing to the eye. Another neat touch we noticed in the demo version of the game is that whenever the camera ran into difficulties keeping up with the action, which didn't happen often, the action momentarily slows to a crawl as the camera, accompanied by a Matrix-style sound effect, rotates to a more functional view. It's an effect that the game carries off extremely well, and since the prince and other characters in the game look so great, the opportunity to get a good look at them in slow motion is actually welcome.
For more information on Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, which is currently scheduled for release in November, check out our previous coverage of the game.