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Platform

Xbox 360

 

Genre

Action

 

Publisher

Ubisoft

 

Developer

Ubisoft Montreal

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

December 2, 2008

 

 

- Great controls + great environments + great artwork + good story = one of the most immersive platformers ever

- The designers use of sidekick Elika makes the pacing excellent and allows the well written to emerge slowly and naturally

 

 

- It’s a relatively short game, artificially padded with collection tasks

 

 

Review: Tomb Raider: Underworld (Wii)

Review: Mirror's Edge (360)

Review: Gears of War 2 (360)

 

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Prince of Persia

Score: 8.5 / 10

 

In Prince of Persia, the new cinematic platformer from Ubisoft Montreal, players are transported to a crumbling, mystical kingdom in the sky where they travel from place to place via feats of gravity-defying acrobatics while engaging in witty banter with a mysterious woman.

 

prince of persia          prince of persia


As the story begins, our rakish, unnamed hero is searching for a donkey lost in a sandstorm. He instead finds a beautiful princess fleeing from armed guards. As players learn the basic mechanics of the game, he makes a daring rescue, her father tries to kill him, and the tree of life—which has sealed the prison of the evil god Ahriman for the past 1,000 years—is dealt a potentially fatal blow. Practitioners of Zoroastrianism and fans of The Highlander alike will recognize this as bad news.
Fortunately, there is still a chance to save the tree. And against princess Elika’s

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initial, half-hearted protests, our hero sets out with her to undo the damage wrought by Ahriman’s top lieutenants on a series of “fertile grounds” scattered throughout the land, which all work together to protect the health of the tree.


Even for players who are usually skeptical of games that feature sidekicks, it’s tough not to like what the

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developers have done here with Elika. She’s no maiden in distress with bad AI that will get you knocked off cliffs. Just the opposite, in fact. Elika sports several magical powers, most of which involve saving your ass when you get into trouble.


For example, should you slip while running sideways on a sheer rock face that stretches downward into an abyss of unknown depth, Elika will seize you by the wrist in a three second cut scene, and drop you off at the last bit of flat earth you were standing on.


Similarly, if you’re getting knocked down and kicked around in a fight, and your demonic opponent is about to smash your head, she’ll utter a plea to Ormazd, god of light, and your opponent will be flung away, far enough for you to recover for a moment. (Unfortunately, these interventions also heal your opponents slightly. So, fights, particularly boss battles, are lengthened every time you require her aid.)
Elika can also help with a couple of flashy looking but easy to perform combo moves, allowing you to leap huge distances or blast your opponents with a special magic attack. But mostly, she’s there to make sure that players never have to look at a “Game Over” screen, and to keep them company as they explore the canyons, citadels, palaces and gardens of this gorgeous watercolor world.

 

Her dialogue is well written, gradually revealing pieces of a larger tale about her family, her father, the kingdom and its ancient religion, as well as Ahriman and his lieutenants—first through innuendo and then through unobtrusive but detailed stories as the two characters begin to trust one another.

 

prince of persia          prince of persia


With the help of Elika, the designers at Ubisoft Montreal have created an excellent platformer where close attention to the artwork, the controls and the pacing all work together to immerse players in a simple but well written story. When you get on a roll, it feels almost like you’re playing a well-produced, good-looking action cartoon.


The tradeoff (and of course there had to be a tradeoff) is that some players might find the game forgiving to a fault. Even the game’s most complex sequences of wall running, roof running, rock scaling, canyon combo vaulting and aerial acrobatics are easily mastered, since Elika won’t let you die, and reliably drops you off at the beginning of the well-segmented hard parts. Also, the infrequent fights quickly become a study in the same sort of button mashing, since other than appearance and toughness, enemies aren’t very differentiated, and combos are created on the fly.


Here, the price of great controls, perfectly scaled learning curve, excellent pacing, beautiful artwork and overall lack of frustration is length. It’s a short game, clocking in at 14 hours tops for most gamers the first time through, with at least a quarter of that time padded with “light seed” collection tasks that require you to re-explore levels after defeating bosses.


But, I’ve got to say, personally I prefer quality over quantity, and here, the quality is excellent. This latest in the venerable Prince of Persia franchise is well written, good looking and fun.


One final note. If you’re a parent buying this for a kid, I’d disregard the Teen rating. This movie is meant for kids older than 13 the way Raiders of the Lost Ark was intended for kids over 13. The fights are more kung-fu than bloody, and there’s zero foul language. I honestly don’t understand what the ESRB was thinking.

 

- Menis

(February 12, 2009)

 

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