Review: Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time (XB, PS2, GC, PC)

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Platform: Xbox
Rating: Teen
Developer: Ubisoft
Release Date: 11/23/2003

Thanks to having learned about the middle east almost exclusively from Disney and Video Games, I’ve always wondered why all viziers weren’t just shot as soon as they accepted the job (especially if they are named Jaffar). They’re going to turn on the Sultan sooner or later”¦.I mean Disney and Video Games just don’t lie, do they?

Case in point, in the original Prince of Persia game that was available on the PC and SNES you played as an adventurer who falls in love with the Sultans daughter. When the Sultan gets called out of town the lead character gets thrown into a dungeon by the jealous Vizier Jaffar who gives the Sultans daughter an hour to choose between two things, marrying him, or death. Of course it’s up to you as the main character to get out of the dungeon and stop the evil Vizier. The original game is still remembered as a classic.

Before you think that The Sands of Time is the sequel to that game, it isn’t. In fact it is the 4th Prince of Persia game. Prince of Persia: The Shadow and the Flame was also available on the SNES, and also had an evil Vizier named Jaffar. A different one apparently as the story is different. Then there is Prince of Persia 3D for the PC which was remade for the Dreamcast as Arabian Nights: Prince of Persia which had no evil Vizier in the game at all.

How does The Sands of Time compare?

Story:

The story in The Sands of Time separates itself from every other Prince of Persia game right away. In all of the other games the story was about a Prince who had to save a kidnapped Princess. In The Sands of Time the story starts off with the Sultans army attacking the city of the Maharajah. The Prince wants to prove himself to his father and plans on doing so by stealing one of the Maharajah’s most treasured items, the dagger of time.

The Prince succeeds and his army captures the city thanks to the help from the Maharajah’s Vizier (who I don’t think was ever named in the game, but I’m sure it’s Jaffar, call it a hunch) who betrayed his city and sent a signal to the Prince’s army at the best time to strike. The Vizier wants the dagger as payment for his betrayal, but is not allowed to have it as he is informed that the Prince will give it to the Sultan himself as a gift. With the city fully pillaged the army begins their trek across the desert back home, along with some wenches that they claimed. Ah, the good ole raping and pillaging days, why did we ever leave you behind? One of the wenches gives the Prince the evil eye, the look he gives right back at her is more of the marked-for-the-harem variety.

Once back in the Sultan’s city you meet the man himself and hand over the women and money, along with the dagger of time and a giant sandglass filled with glowing sand. What more could any man want? The Vizier still is pissed at not getting the dagger but he offers to show the Sultan how the sandglass is used. The Sultan decides to trust the evil looking guy who just betrayed his own people. Of course, he needs the dagger of time in order to unlock the power of the sandglass, the Prince doesn’t want to give the dagger up, so he decides to do it himself. Oops.

Then all hell breaks loose.

The power of the sandglass is indeed unlocked and starts turning everyone around into sand creatures and generally reeking havoc all over the place. The Prince realizes there’s something not quite right about the whole situation just in time to retrieve the dagger of time, however he gets surrounded by some of the sand creatures and does exactly what I would do in the same situation. He got the hell out of there. While running away the Prince comes across Farrah (the chick from before) while she is escaping some of the monsters. She gets away, but then you’ve got to fight them.

And that’s all I’m telling you about that part of the story. The main part of the story is about the Prince, inspired by guilt to fight and wanting to fix what he helped cause, as well getting back at the Vizier. I’ve got no problems at all with that part of the story, it’s well told through cut scenes and I like how it all plays out and I liked how the Prince is trying to correct his own mistakes instead of just the Good Guy who Saves Everyone Else. There is another story that is also told as the game goes on, a romantic one between the Prince and the woman that he captured from the Maharajah’s city. This one is not nearly as well done.

There was one part where the Prince was waking up from one of the games vision sequences where he hears the Princess say I love you’ to what she thought was his unconscious body. I groaned at that point. He sacked your city, killed a bunch of your people, took the Maharajah’s most prized artifacts, dragged you across the desert as a present for his Sultan, turned everyone into sand creatures, and has overall acted like a jackass to you since you met him and now your saying you love him? Man I’d love to hear what she’d say after a couple drinks.

Of course those words send the Prince into a whirlwind of prepubescent emotions. Does she really love him? Can he trust her? Are they real or fake? That’s not the worst part about the romance”¦.the part that pissed me off the most was how many times she shot me in the ass with her bow and arrow. Who the hell does she think she is, cupid? Now I know why in most games the Princess is locked away for most of the game.

I’ve got no problem with romance in a video game, just not in the way it is told in this game.

Although at the same time, the Prince does something with the Princess in this game that almost no other main character does, they have sex. We never find out if Mario ever gets any from Princess Peach, or if Link ever gets a piece of that triforce, but the Prince in this game does. Not at the end of the game either, he falls for the Princesses charms while the castle is still under the Viziers control and while his people are still turned into sand creatures. Not only that but he takes a nap afterwards!

That’s right, his people got turned to sand and he decides to have sex and take a nap.

Minor annoyances about the goofy romance aside, I liked the story and thought it was well told throughout the game with the Prince doing narration as though he was remembering the story as you go along.

9/10

Graphics:

If this game was a woman, I would have sex with it and take a nap.

The game looks great. Everything from the character models to the environments has a high degree of polish to them and some areas just look amazing. Both the Prince and Farrah have a good amount of detail, especially in their faces and facial expressions during cut scenes. The enemies look great and are similarly well detailed, however there isn’t a wide variety of enemies in the game and you’ll end up seeing the same handful over and over again as the game progresses.

The animations for the game are also excellent. Running up the walls and flipping over objects looks as smooth as it is to do in the game. The combat is also very fluid no matter how many enemies you are facing and the effects for when you blow up a sand monster are great. My only gripe is in the game after you knock an enemy down and go for the final strike with the dagger of time, there are only one or two animation for the final blow, and I got sick of seeing the Prince do the same cartwheel to dagger strike over and over again.

The environments are awesome. The entire game is held inside of the Sultan’s palace which could’ve easily led to repetitive rooms and corridors. Luckily that never really is a problem as all of the areas have a different look and generally a different theme to them such as the soldier’s cafeteria or the dungeons. There are several areas the take the game outside. I thought those areas to be the best looking parts of the game. There is water available almost everywhere in this game and it looks awesome.

The camera is at a good angle for most of the game, with the exception of an area or two. There are 3 different camera angles to choose from, and you can control the camera manually with the right thumbstick if you do get into an area where the camera isn’t as great.

While I would’ve liked to see a larger variety of enemies and more than the couple animations for the final dagger strike, the game is looks fantastic.

9/10

Sound:

The voice acting for the cut scenes is great, aside from the fact that for a Persian the Prince has what sounds like an English accent. The voice work for the romantic parts of the game make the main characters sound like slightly whiny teenagers, but I’m unsure if that is more of a problem with the way the dialogue was written than the voice actors.

The music is perfect for the atmosphere of the game. It is a blend of middle eastern music with some guitar and drum elements added in that strangely work together and add a lot to the tone of the game.

The sounds during combat are mostly generic grunts and assorted clangs of weapons clashing. No sounds during the combat are that great, but they also aren’t annoying even though you’ll hear them over and over again.

8/10

Controls:

This is the type of game that can be ruined if it controlled badly, that’s right Tomb Raider I’m looking at you. Ubisoft took care with this part of the game and it pays off, the game controls like a dream. Considering the amount of thing the Prince can do this is no small thing, I mean everything from running along walls and swinging from poles to the acrobatic fighting style is easy to control and within a short amount of time feels natural.

Most of the game revolves around puzzle solving. Not the Resident Evil style of trying to find a certain key for a door, in Prince of Persia you’ll be trying to figure out how to get from one side of the room to the other. The only problem is the Prince accidentally turned on the palace security system activating traps throughout the palace that you will have to avoid. Also the palace has suffered some structural damage meaning you will also be looking for a way to get from one platform to the next. So what does this have to do with the controls? If each room is a puzzle, then the controls are the answer to getting across the platforms and the traps.

The R Trigger controls the ability to run up or along walls; on a horizontal pole it controls his swing. A controls jumping and rolling, my only problem with the controls at all was occasionally rolling when I meant to jump. One of the best things about jumping is that if you see a ledge that you think you can reach and you will almost always reach it. This may not sound like a big deal but do you know how many platform games have this problem? Another nice addition is if you end up hanging on a ledge there are two different buttons you can press to either pull yourself up or drop down. No more accidental deaths that way. The Prince will automatically grab onto vertical poles (snicker). The left trigger controls the dagger of times powers, both in and out of combat you will be able to rewind time. Didn’t reach that ledge or misjudge a distance? Just rewind and try again.

Like I said, if the room is a puzzle, than the controls are the answer. Once you enter a room you’ll have to figure out where you have to run along a wall, jump across a gap or swing off a pole. As you go along the Prince learns other abilities that open up different ways to get across the room.

The fighting controls are also great. Pressing X will have the Prince draw his sword and use it. The Y button controls using the dagger of time to stab enemies. The A button controls dodging and jumping over an enemy as well as used with X for wall moves. The R trigger controls blocking. The sand creatures you come across can be knocked down with the Prince’s regular sword but can only be killed with the dagger of time. You can either stab them with the dagger while they are down or stab them with the dagger while fighting which will freeze them for a moment and allow you to chop them in half. My only problem with the combat controls is that there are a couple of different ways to beat any enemy easily. For any enemy that is not wearing blue, jumping over them and pressing X will knock them down and then all you have to press is the Y button to dispatch them. For all enemies, including the ones in blue, can all be easily knocked down by lunging off of any wall by pressing A + X once you learn how to do the move (which will be very early on in the game). The Prince will also learn a couple of different powers with the dagger, Freeze, Slow and Haste. Each of the powers uses the Sand Tank, a meter that can be refilled by either stabbing enemies with the dagger when they are knocked down or at one of the many clouds of sand that are throughout each area. Slow is used by tapping the L button and slows everything on the screen down for a short amount of time, Haste uses the whole tank and will send the Prince into overdrive (what’s in that sand anyway?) where pressing the joystick in any direction while pressing X will kill the enemy in that direction.

Again the controls are just awesome. The Prince will run up walls and fly around like a monkey on PCP as fast as you can think.

10/10

Balance:

If you are looking for a challenging game, this is not it.

One of my biggest problems about this game has to be how insanely easy it is. In several ways the game actually goes out of its way to make it easier for you. In fact I was playing it around the time when Chuck Platt wrote up an argument about the game Manhunt that struck close to what I was feeling about Prince of Persia. Go back through the column archive and look for the Clap Hands, It’s News Happiness Time from 1/13/04 and the following Thumb to the Eye column from 1/20/04. I’d provide links, but I’m retarded. If I understand it right, what Chuck was essentially saying about Manhunt was that the game was playing you, not the other way around, and not doing much of anything to cover up that fact.

I feel much the same way about Prince of Persia. Throughout the game you are given visions’ as you enter a new area. While some parts of the vision advance certain ideas in the Prince’s head about who to trust what they mostly do is tell you how to solve the hardest parts of the puzzle in every room. This essentially reduces much of the game to a complicated version of Simon. The saddest thing is, the puzzles aren’t that difficult to begin with. Once you get familiar with the controls getting from point A to point B in a room will be a piece of cake. The hardest puzzles are the ones where you have to get to a door within a certain time limit, and even then the game is very forgiving with the amount of time. I just skipped most of the visions because the Monkey See, Monkey Do aspect of the game was starting to really bother me. If you misstep or make a mistake you can easily rewind and as you go on the Sand Tank gets even larger making the game even more forgiving.

The same goes for the combat. Not only are there a couple combos which make it easy to kill most of the enemies in the game, you also get a couple powers from the dagger of time. All of these moves are also shown to you through a vision. If you do end up getting hit it’s not a problem. The Prince gains health by drinking water, and every area you fight in has some water around. Since the enemies move slowly you always have time to go get a drink of water (each sip increases his life dramatically). The only difficult part about the enemies is how many of them there are on screen at a time and when they decide to try and gang rape you. There is only one boss in the whole game, and he is a walk in the park to beat. I hesitate to even call him a boss since he was easier than some of the enemies you face. In the end, I did not really feel like I accomplished anything by beating the game since there were so many parts where I felt as though the game took me by the hand and showed me how to beat it. While this may not exactly fit the description that Chuck had in mind with his argument, many of my feeling about Prince of Persia echo his own about Manhunt.

To sum it up, while it’s cool that Grandma can pick up this game and play it, anyone looking for a challenge or a sense of accomplishment will not get in from Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. With as mind numbingly difficult the original game was, this may come as somewhat of a disappointment to fans of the series.

4/10

Replayability:

There are no difficulty levels besides the default one to play through, and with as easy as this game is there isn’t much of a reason to go through it all again unless you are trying to see how fast you can beat it, which believe it or not people are doing. From what I’ve seen the fastest time is down to 4 hours, of course that’s just what people say on the net so who knows if that is true. The game took me 8 and 40 minutes to beat it.

Also included in the Xbox version of the game are the original game and Prince of Persia: The Shadow and the Flame. You unlock the original game after you beat the game, and unlock the second one by breaking a certain wall with a sword you get around 33% of the way in. If you thought The Sands of Time was difficult, the original game will leave you broken and crying.

5/10

Originality:

This is the game that brought the fad which I’m betting we are going to see in more and more action games over the next year, running along the walls. Sure this isn’t the first game with that ability (Enter the Matrix); this is just the first game that implements it really well. Prince of Persia probably wont receive credit for it unless some moron actually tries to run across a wall, but the ease of control with wall running in this game is going to be emulated across action and platform games, just watch.

The Sands of Time also added the ability to rewind time. Again not the first game of this type to implement this feature, which I think was Blinx: The Time Sweeper, but again this is one of the first game to make it easy to do and works with the rest of the game. The originality comes not from being the first ones to use these features in a game, but building a game engine that makes it easy to do, on multiple consoles.

7/10

Appeal:

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time should appeal to anyone looking for a game with some light puzzle solving and action. The ease of the game’s difficulty and great control scheme opens the doors for just about anybody who wants to play regardless of skill level.

Anyone looking for a challenge will find this game a rental at best.

7/10

Addictiveness:

While playing this game a feeling grew inside of me that I should never feel when I put down $50 on a game: Boredom. I was always interested to see how the next area was laid out, but for the most part the reason I kept playing the game after the first couple of hours was when I realized I was already halfway through the game. The most addictive aspect of the game for me was just seeing how long it took me to complete a certain percentage of the game. Not a good thing.

At the same time the game flows really smoothly from one room to the next so well that you don’t really think about putting the controller down until you realize that an hour or two have passed without notice. The puzzles are the best part of the game and they are interesting enough to get past the fighting parts just to see the many different platform combinations that they have come up with.

6/10

Miscellaneous:

There are a couple of extras thrown in here, most notably the inclusion of Prince of Persia 1 and 2. Like I said earlier, the original game becomes unlocked after you beat the game, however Prince of Persia 2 is harder to find. Here’s how you do it:

Somewhere about 33% into the game you get a new sword that can break through walls. Keep going till you here the Prince talking about how they built the palace on top of the ruins of another. Through the next room you will have to rotate a switch. Break the wall down behind the switch, it wont look like the walls that can break but it will and then you’ll get a message saying you unlocked Prince of Persia 2. You can keep playing the main game or you can keep rotating the switch till it points to the room you just opened allowing you to access Prince of Persia 2 right away.

Don’t know why Ubisoft decided to make finding the 2nd game almost impossible for people without net access but I love when they include the original games.

There is also a making of video that you can watch as well.

8/10

Final Scores:

Story: 9/10
Graphics: 9/10
Sound: 8/10
Control: 10/10
Balance: 4/10
Replayability: 5/10
Originality: 7/10
Addictiveness: 6/10
Appeal: 7/10
Misc: 8/10
Overall: 73/10
Reviewer’s Tilt: 7.5/10