STAFF REVIEW of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (Xbox)
Sunday, December 7, 2003.
If there is a perfect game for the Xbox, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time comes close to being the one. Ubisoft have outdone themselves with this game. I remember playing the original Prince of Persia back in the days of my 486 computer. The game stole hours of my life back then, and will once again now with The Sands of Time. If you haven't caught the 2 minute commercial or other ads for this game on tv, if you haven't played the demo or picked the game up already, your missing out! This game is a must own for all Xbox owners. This game features some of the best graphics I have seen in recent Xbox games. Along with the graphics the audio,voice acting, level design, character animations and storyline are all superb. The game has come a long way from the original 2D side scrolling puzzle game. Now you will find yourself surrounded by rich graphics and levels to have your fun in. The graphics aren't the only thing that is changed greatly from the first in the series. You can interact with so much in the level your head will spin. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time also has lots of action with fighting several different enemies. Players will be amazed at all the moves this guy can pull off, in fighting, and also climbing about the levels. With all this said, let me start in on each of the different aspects of this game.
The gameplay in Prince of Persia is full of puzzles and fighting. Well that's only two things, but trust me it makes the game worthwhile. Puzzles will have you trying to figure out how to climb your way to different areas of the level. You will be amazed at how you will reach these points. Your character can run short distances along walls and up them. Other ways you will find your character reaching his targets is by jumping off walls grabbing onto poles and doing some gymnastic pole swings to reach high or far away places. This is not all, the levels are filled with small ledges to leap and grapple onto, pillars to climb and jump like a monkey from one to the other, ladders to climb and of course giant gaps to leap across. Players will also run into several traps they must figure ways through. To name a few, traps consist of things like spinning swords, razor sharp saw blades, spikes rising up through floor panels, ledges breaking away and spike filled logs swinging in your way blocking your path. Each can be deadly but if you take your time and look, the path will come to you. To me the puzzles of getting from one place to another were kind of easy in the game, but really impressed me with how the levels were put together. I can't imagine the amount of time the team at Ubisoft took into creating these levels and putting everything where it needed to be in order to achieve your goals. There will be puzzles of trying to move objects to help you reach heights in the game and even things stopping you from reaching these points. Such as standing in water will get your feet wet not allowing you to run up a wall to reach a ledge. The attention details of your surrounds is key to getting through this game.
Along the way you will have a companion join up and help you fight, open doors and figure out puzzles. This companion is a princess to a palace you have taken over. She does get a little irritating when you have to help defend her against overpowering enemies. You at times will wish you could give her a sword instead of the bow she is armed with or just to flat out tell her to get out of your way and leave. Guess even in a game this guy requires companionship.
A really cool feature in the game is picked up once you receive the dagger of time. This dagger will give you the power to turn back time. An advantage like this comes in handy when you have messed up and died. You will be able to run time in reverse to a point before you messed up and retry your steps. This however is not an unlimited power. You will have to fill up your sand meter to use this power. Players can do this by killing creatures and finding sand wells to fill their meter back up. The dagger also contains other powers such as doing a bullet time effect on enemies slowing them down and making them easier to destroy. As you move through the game your sand meter will grow as long as you keep retrieving the sand wells. Use your control over time carefully in this game however. On numerous occasions I have found myself moving time in reverse only to stop it a little to soon and having my character repeat the wrong moves over. This required me to use another bar in my sand meter to turn back time and try to get it right.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time will also make you a master of your controller. The controls are very well done for this game. I had no complaints about the controls. Even though you will be having to do moves and button pressing with accuracy, they were very easy to get use to. The only time I had any problems with the controls were during battles with lots of enemies. I probably would find the battles easier if I used the block button a little more. Compared to the puzzles though, the fighting I say is more of a challenge for players.
While playing the game I found out something that excited nearly as much as the first time I saw video footage of this game. You can actually unlock the first two Prince of Persia games to play! How I've longed for the days to be able to play the original again. Now thanks to Ubisoft I will have that chance. The first game is a little easier to get, by just beating the game. The second however, you will have to find hidden in the game. Sorry I won't be revealing where, that would take away the fun so as said in the movie The Princess Bride, ?Have Fun Storming the Castle!?.
The visuals as stated before are some of the best I've seen for the Xbox. Everything makes yours environments beautiful. The lighting has been done very well to set the mode for the ancient Persian levels. Even when destroying characters possessed by the evil sands of time, the lighting escaping their bodies is spectacular. All of the characters you see through the game are animated very well during gameplay. The cinematics look good, but I noticed the voices were a little off sync with the animations of the mouths moving. This is a small flaw in such a great game. I noticed detail put into the water heavily also. When running through the water you will see the ripples move across the water from your interaction. Even when leaving the pools of water you will see little foot prints left from your still wet feet. Mentioning the feet, players will notice the little clouds of dust rise from the sand covered floors. All the visuals to this game are A+ and is a must see to truly appreciate. The camera angles are even done nicely. They really only get annoying in a couple of spots when trying to look down to see if there is a ledge available to grab onto or during a battle when the camera moves behind a pillar and you really can't see what your doing. These aren't flaws in my opinion due to the fact that the camera is actually moving the way it is supposed to, just there are objects in the way. If you take away the objects to not get in the way of the camera then you would have less of an environment to admire. So all in all, it was done superbly.
The audio in Prince of Persia is done nicely. Everything fits well with your environment. The details are really outstanding with the sound effects, something that if you pay attention to fits well with the game. You will hear the creatures teleporting in and out of different spots in the room as well as your companion firing her bow at enemies all while the water from a fountain flows in the background. With the great sounds heard in your environment you will also be swept away with wonderfully done music. No this game doesn't support custom soundtracks, as it shouldn't. I can't see someone really appreciating the game if you were listening to some heavy metal or gangster rap while running through a castle swinging from tree branches to small ledges. The music done in game is excellent for setting the mode as well as the ambient sound effects all mixed together with the wonderful visuals.
I really don't have any suggestions to Ubisoft for making this game better. They fulfilled all my hopes for the game and gave a little more then I hoped. By adding the first two Prince of Persia games they made lots of fans of the series happy. My only suggestion would be is if they make another game, to make it as well made as Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was made.
Overall: 9.8 / 10
Gameplay: 9.8 / 10
Visuals: 10.0 / 10
Sound: 9.0 / 10