Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

User Rating: 9 | Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time PS2
When the original Prince of Persia hit the PS2 scene over a decade ago, it revolutionized the 2D action-platforming genre with deep gameplay and groundbreaking graphics. Now, Prince of Persia: Sands of Time is looking for a repeat in the 3D arena, and for the most part succeeds. Developed by the same team responsible for Splinter Cell, Sands of Time features some excellent gameplay elements, fantastic graphics and innovative features that go beyond gimmicks to being revolutionary in their own right. It can safely be said that Prince of Persia is one of the best games of the year.

Prince of Persia’s storyline follows a young prince who accompanies his father along on a conquest of another kingdom. During the conquest, the prince comes across a peculiar dagger and takes it as his own. He is then told by a traitorous Vizier to stab the dagger into a giant hourglass. This releases the Sands of Time, which turns the king and his men into evil creatures bent on destroying the prince. As the prince, you must retrieve the Sands of Time from the bodies of your former comrades and destroy the evil Vizier.

The gameplay is a great mix of puzzles and action. Much of the game is progressed through an assortment of jumping puzzles and battles with baddies. This aspect feels a lot like the original games, which used puzzles quite a bit.

The controls in the game are extremely fluid. The prince is extremely athletic and has many moves at his disposal, from running up and across walls a la Shinobi to swinging on bars and crawling along ledges. The combat system is extremely well implemented, allowing you to take on a group of enemies at once without a hitch. While very easy to grasp, the combat system is very deep, with reversals, blocks, dodges and other things that will make it worth your while to master. Aside from some nasty camera problems, the controls are spot on.

However, the coolest addition to the gameplay is the use of the Sands of Time. The prince has the powers of time at his disposal, meaning that he can slow down his enemies and attack them. One particularly cool move allows you to knock an enemy into the air, slow him down and allow him to float slowly in suspension as you fight off other enemies, getting to him when you’re done.

Another great element of the Sands of Time is the ability to completely rewind an event if you died or were unsatisfied with the outcome. This uses quite a bit of Sand (which you gain by disposing of enemies and absorbing it from their bodies), but it’s a great idea since if you die, you can immediately go back and try again.

The Sands of Time is an excellent concept that adds a lot to the gameplay without feeling like a gimmick. It’s a little hard to get used to at first, but after a few stages, it feels like second nature.

The graphics are fantastic, as well. The character models are a little cartoony, but have a sense of style that feels right in place. The animations are very cool and move naturally and smoothly. The lighting effects are fantastic, bringing to mind Splinter Cell, another fantastic game by Ubi Soft’s Montreal Studio. The game also makes use of some very cool special effects, which are extremely well executed and look fantastic.

The sound is very good. The music is a blend of Arabian-themed tunes mixed with arena rock. The sound effects are cool and add a lot to the atmosphere. For example, the ambient noise going on when you “rewind” reminded me of the film, The Ring. The voice acting is really good and well scripted.

Prince of Persia: Sands of Time is a rare bird. It takes a genre that we are all familiar with, executes the standard formula extremely well, and then adds a new feature to the mix that completely blows all competition out of the water. If you are an action fan (hell, if you are a gamer) you owe it to yourself to pick up Prince of Persia: Sands of Time immediately.

Gameplay: 9.6
Incredible. The puzzle/platformer gameplay is engaging and addicting. The controls are smooth, fluid, easy-to-learn and hard-to-master. The combat system is very deep for a platformer, yet simple to grasp. The use of the Sands of Time is an extremely well-executed concept, allowing you to bend time to your will without getting too convoluted. The only problem I had with the gameplay was the occasionally spotty camera work.

Graphics: 9.5
The graphics are fantastic. The character models are cartoony without being ridiculous, maintaining a really cool sense of style. The animation of the prince’s various moves are great and look natural. The lighting effects are also superb, mirroring the quality of Ubi Soft Montreal’s excellent Splinter Cell.

Sound: 9.5
The sound effects are great. The music is a nice mix of Arabian sounding tunes and arena rock, and the sounds are atmospheric and add a lot to the gameplay. The voice acting is also very well done, as is the script writing.

Difficulty: Easy/Medium

Concept: 9.8
Prince of Persia: Sands of Time is one of those rare games that confronts an existing genre, adds a great new revolutionary feature to the mix and completely innovates the gameplay. It takes a great concept, and more importantly, executes it extremely well.

A masterpiece. Get it now.