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Reviewed: Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands
Author: Michael Ahlf       Date: May 30th, 2010
Page: 2

If one were to call The Forgotten Sands something, the term would be "interquel" - a sequel, but set between two previous storyline chapters. As a point of fact, this one helps to answer the question of what the Prince was doing in the seven storyline years between the Sands of Time game, and his chase to the island to face the Empress of Time in Warrior Within.

Unfortunately, the game designers went decidedly light on storyline. More on that in a bit.

One can only imagine the first discussion about the game - the order, from on high, "make the Prince look as much like Jake Gyllenhaal as possible!" And so they did. Flashy armor, long flowing hair, dashing "not quite shaven" jawline - if you want a Prince that looks less Persian and more Jake, you've got him. Don't worry, you won't be looking at the face that often, so it really doesn't matter too much.

Once again, the series has revamped the fighting mechanic, and this time, not really for the better. In honor of "bigger is better" battles, the Prince generally finds himself besieged by dozens of enemies at a time, and so the mechanics deal with this by... mashing the X button and having players simply make swinging swipes that deal with 4-5 enemies at a time. After the first few fights, trust me on this, players are simply going to get tired of the whole deal. The game comes with an "ability upgrade" system based solely on killing enemies and breaking "hidden" (not really hidden, more like "lazily tucked into corners") sarcophagi, which every so often can give an increase to the Prince's health bar or Time uses, attack power, or certain mystical abilities like an ice blast, sand whirlwind blast (think Warrior Within but bigger), stone armor, and a "you're an idiot if you even try to use this effectively" attack that trails flames behind wherever the Prince runs.

Unless you've looped back and forth through a number of enemy spawn points, generally half of the upgrade table will be un-used at the final boss stage. By the end of the game, even the game designers had given up on this mechanic, and the player's been handed a powerful sword that can kill most enemies in a single swipe, and even the game's most powerful "real" enemy in a mere 3 shots.

Unlike the previous three entries in the Sands of Time lineup, the Prince doesn't heal from drinking water. Instead, his health and sand-medallion power returns by breaking jars and absorbing power from the undead enemies he kills. Moral of the story: break the scenery.

To make the game's mechanics interesting, the Prince isn't simply traveling around a static environment. He's slowly given powers by a djinn named Razia during the course of his adventure; the first power is to "freeze" water in place for a limited time (how nice that the palace is filled with water spouts, sprayers, and aqueduct waterfalls. The end result is careful timing puzzles that fit quite well into the world - run on a wall, freeze time to grab a waterspout, jump forward, release time to crash through a waterfall, freeze time again to catch the next waterspout... trust me on this, by the end of the game, the water setup is probably the best feature. The second-best, if only because it's ridiculously underused and forgotten about by the end of the game, is the ability to "recall" old and crumbled architecture to its old state, but only one piece at a time. The effect is similar to the water effect, but still requires quite a bit of precision.

On the downside? A couple of the game mechanics get wacky. For some leaps, the Prince is given the power to use an "air dash" to attack distant enemies. This means that enemies have to be on a certain ledge for the game's path to progress. He can also use this power to grab undead vultures hanging in the air, which seems just kind of weird and gross and out of place. One doesn't normally imagine vultures being able to hover like hummingbirds, but somehow these can.

The final gameplay problem is that, in addition to being short, the designers seem to have gotten lazy by the final stage; it's nothing but a series of highly predictable (and somewhat nonsensical) jumps, punctuated by a series of "just kill these enemies so you can jump to the next vulture" platforms, and then a pattern-boss to end the game.

The final straw is the storyline, however. Ubisoft had a chance to do something really interesting here. The basics of the storyline are that the Prince, having come back from the city of Azad and the events of the Sands of Time game, is stopping off to visit another of their father's cities, this one watched over by his older brother. He arrives just in time to see the city under siege, sneaks in, catches up to his brother, and gets one half of a sand medallion key after his brother foolishly unleashes "Solomon's Army" - actually, the army of nasty undead sand creatures, led by an Ifrit who's supremely pissed off about King Solomon having sealed them away centuries ago. If this sounds like a great storyline, then you're in the right place, not that it matters, since the rest of the storyline will have the Prince pretty much rushing around like a pawn, trying to convince his power-addled brother to help reunite the medallion, and then trying to do the right thing after his brother does something even more insanely stupid. There was a bit of room here for some great storyline cleanup - the sand medallion the Prince is using for his "rewind time" powers, for instance, came out of nowhere in Warrior Within, but would make sense had the Dahaka shown up at the end of this title looking for that very medallion piece. The "water sword" that led to the "real" ending of Warrior Within? Well, something resembling it might be there, but it's not mentioned either.

Ultimately, and sadly, The Forgotten Sands falls flat when compared to other entries in the series. Little, entertaining nuggets of the beloved gameplay are there, for the finding and exploring, but in the state of the game's rushed development and desire to be a basic movie tie-in rather than a real addition to the overall story, it falls flat. Save it for picking up from the bargain bin.


Added:  Sunday, May 30, 2010
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf
Score:
Page: 2/3

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