Before getting distracted by Alpha Protocol, I played through the Prince of Persia: the Forgotten Sands.
As far as my interest in the franchise, I loved the Sands of Time (and beat it at least three times) but only somewhat enjoyed Warrior Within (I probably would have liked Warrior Within more had the ending not soured the experience for me). I missed the Two Thrones (one day I may catch up with it, but, based on Warrior Within, I may not) but played the awful Prince of Persia (2008). That game soured me on the franchise and I assumed the developers had no interest in creating a game with content more similar to the Sands of Time — that is, more thoughtful puzzles and less “press B to proceed through level.”
However, now that I’ve played the Forgotten Sands I can say that my faith in the franchise is restored. Not that I give scores, but comparatively speaking I’d put the original Prince of Persia (I played it in 1992, but it was first released in 1989) and the Sands of Time at the top of the mountain. The Forgotten Sands would be about three-quarters of the way, maybe a little higher, up toward the peak.
What did I like?
- It was much closer to the Sands of Time in terms of puzzle-based platformer action. When you enter a new area you have to look around, figure out where you want to end up and then follow along backward from there to try to figure out how to get there. The Sands of Time relished in challenging the player to unlock the route. The Forgotten Sands makes it slightly easier to figure out where you need to go, but slightly harder to get there because manual dexterity is much higher in demand (there are many sequences where you must manage the coordination to jump through a water fall, freeze the water immediately after you pass through so that you can land on another waterfall, run up the waterfall, jump back through the prior waterfall by unfreezing and then freezing it again, and so forth). I’m more a fan of the prior, but I did really enjoy the latter — albeit with some “occasional” frustration-based profanity. And speaking of puzzles, there were more puzzles in this one than in the Sands of Time — and I was glad for that.
- I know we’re talking about a game where you can run up walls and chop up the undead, but the bits in PoP (2008) where you were flying or doing crazy double-jumps by swinging from your partner irked me. The Forgotten Sands moves the franchise back a step or two closer toward reality. A step or two, people. You’re still fighting the undead and running up walls and, now, freezing water falls, but it’s at a level of realism I like for the franchise.
- As you progress through the game, you gain levels in a way that is similar to RPGs. Each time you gain a level you earn a point which you can use to unlock or improve your abilities. You could focus on the strength of your sword or your overall health or a power derived from the elements (fire, water, earth, and air). I thought this, along with the return of the old-familiar power of turning back time, was a great inclusion.
- I don’t often make much more than a passing comment on the graphics of any given game, so I won’t go on with this point, but it did look really nice. A lot of the scenes reminded me of the Sands of Time — but to a much higher degree of fidelity, like going from VHS to DVD (despite not liking Pop (2008), I’d say, graphically speaking, that title would carry the Blu-ray comparison). And the ending, where you’re kinda/sorta surfing along chunks of stone that are being carried by a sand storm? Pretty impressive. Speaking of engine comparisons between the two titles, I think the camera also struck me as a good bit better than the camera in the Sands of Time as well.
- A lot of games with in-game collectibles toss a bazillion items into the world and it becomes a huge grind to find them all — a grind usually not worth pushing through. The Forgotten Sands did a good job of tipping you off that a sarcophagus was nearby, and only gave you about 21 or so to bother with, and as a result I enjoyed trying to collect them all — which I did, though acquiring the last few presented quite the challenge. You earned a good bit of experience by following through with the challenging, which also made it worth the effort.
- Finally, I enjoyed the two bonus challenges. I played through each of them after beating the game and found they elevated my skill with the game to a new level. In fact, I got so hooked on them that I had originally intended to load them up just to see what they offered, but ended up playing through the two challenges many times over the course of a couple hours.
What didn’t I like?
- There isn’t a lot I didn’t like with the Forgotten Sands, and there’s nothing I outright hated. Instead, this is more a list of things that could have been better.
- The fights against very large creatures frustrating. It was difficult to consistently strike my targets’ legs while dodging their attacks. Additionally, they spin on an axis and push you to the side as they spin. Sometimes you get stuck between their legs (which makes the fight easier since they can’t hit you). It did not feel as refined as many of the other elements in the game. The good news is that there weren’t a lot of these sequences and you could power through them without too much bother.
- The combat system is only fair. It’s slightly better than the Sands of Time which, when I first played it, I thought was really good — but many games have improved combat since then and besides, as I’ve said before, I’m now forever spoiled by the superior Batman: Arkham Asylum.
- The game is short, maybe in the 10 hour range. Personally, I can definitely get behind a short game that’s well-designed and free of time-wasting filler as the Forgotten Sands is. But paying $60 bucks for a game, as many do, may leave one feeling ripped off. Fortunately, the game has been out a while so if you’re going to play it based on this write-up I doubt you’ll be spending more than half of the original $60.
One last comment, I read through several reviews and many of them said they liked the game but felt like it was too much of a rehash of the Sands of Time. After subjecting myself to Prince of Persia (2008), I have to say that an updated rehash of the Sands of Time is not a bad thing — especially if that’s the biggest criticism with the title.