After finishing the 2008 edition of Prince of Persia I decided to pop the Sands of Time into the Xbox 360 to see if my memories of that game’s greatness were erroneous.
As I grabbed for the case, I flipped it over to glance at the box and saw a scene where the Prince was running past a spike trap. Spike traps! Every Prince of Persia had spike traps. When you think PoP, you think spike traps. Where were they in the new edition? How did I forget about them?
Moving on, I started the game up and went through the opening movies. Once the game started (nice transition from movie-to-game as you dive through a hole in the wall and then start up within that level), I found myself working over the perimeter of a castle, trying to sneak in to steal a treasure. I fought a few guards along the way and did a little parkour.
My first thoughts were about how fun combat is. Opponents can accidentally hit one another — and you can steer that behavior. Let a guy lunge at you and then run up the chest of an adjacent opponent, flip over backward behind the both of them while the first errantly strikes the second. Then spring board off a nearby wall to dive through both of them with your sword extended. Opponents wait and circle, trying to hit at your from behind — but otherwise giving you plenty of opportunity to attack instead of making you focus on defending.
Once you’ve got the dagger of time, most of your opponents are humanoid monsters that keep returning to life until you use your dagger to drain them. This adds a bit of fun complexity since you might be surrounded by a half-dozen foes and not have a chance to strike a fallen foe to finish them off.
As for the parkour, I’m finding the biggest difference between the two games is that in the Sands of Time I spend more time looking around the level trying to figure out what I can climb and how to use it to get where I need to go. For example, I’m in a large bedroom — staring at a hole in a wall 20 or 30 feet up. What’s the best way to get there? It’s much more puzzle-like in that sense, and slower paced. In the new PoP, you don’t have those moments. You’re quickly running from Point A-to-Point B, looking fast-and-sexy. If speed was the only difference, I could understand differences of opinion (though I would prefer the former) in preference. But in new PoP, you’re not spending much time figuring out the specifics or worrying about reacting with perfect timing to new obstacles. So the primary factor is involvement. In Sands of Time, you feel involved.
To satisfy your exploration urges, in lieu of light nodes Sands of Time offers secret sand tanks to empower your dagger and magic fountains to extend your health. The dagger powers are already more impressive, in regard to game play, than the magic plates of the new Prince. For example, I now have the ability to slow down time or a specific opponent. It’s quite impressive to knock a guy back and watch him fall in slow motion while you continue on at full speed, or to watch a ramp withdraw in slow motion while you leap and barely grab the edge. And if I take a vicious hit and lose half my health, I can go back a few seconds before the hit, and opt to block instead. Of course, with only four sand tanks I have strategy to consider.
Then there are the puzzles. Here, I think we’re even. I liked the one puzzle I’ve come across in Sands of Time so far. I manipulated a moon-cycle machine to power the defenses of the castle I’m trying to escape — to help protect those within from the monsters. Puzzles in PoP (2008) worked about as well. For example, on one stage I rotated pools to allow water to flow through to a specific holding tank that, when filled, would unlock a gate that blocked my path.
I’ll end this observation on the differences by commenting on the love interest. In PoP (2008), Elika is your partner. She blocks you from death, talks to you throughout, shares animations with you, and is necessary to travel throughout the game’s levels via her double-jumps. Despite all of that, I never really cared about her. Meanwhile, in Sands of Time, we have Farah. I’ve come across her a few times early in the game, but could never quite meet up with her. It added a bit of the chase and mystery to her character. It made me curious about her. Now, I’m not suggesting that I could only enjoy a character you have to chase; I’ve heard (and want to try!) Ico does a great job of connecting you with a character that you spend the entire game escorting through the levels. I only made the comment to point out Sands of Time seems to do more with less.