Video Game Review: ‘Prince of Persia’ a Mesmerizing, Addictive, Near Masterpiece

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HollywoodChicago.com Video Game Rating: 4.5/5.0
Video Game Rating: 4.5/5.0

CHICAGO – Ubisoft’s “Prince of Persia” does more than just take the opportunity to update a last-generation classic franchise on the next-generation format, just in time for the movie starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, Ben Kingsley, and Alfred Molina to start building buzz for its Memorial Day 2010 release. “Prince of Persia” is that rare game that’s good enough that fans will still be playing it when the Gyllenhaal movie version hits theaters in seventeen months.

In his debut on the PS3 and XBox 360, the Prince is caught in a battle between ultimate light, represented by the God Ormazd, and pure evil, represented by Ormazd’s nasty brother Ahriman. The game opens with a chase, in which the Prince encounters Elika, a magical princess who will accompany him on his journey to save his Persian kingdom from complete evil. In the opening, the Tree of Life is destroyed and a dark substance called Corruption takes over the land. The acrobatic Prince and magical Elika must work together to heal their world and destroy the Corruption.

Prince of Persia was released by Ubisoft on December 2, 2008.

Fans of the original “Prince of Persia” games like “Sands of Time” and “Warrior Within” will barely recognize this game and if you’re a hardcore nut for the franchise and someone who doesn’t like change, it could be hard to adjust. It’s a new world with a new companion and a very different style of gameplay. But every change works. “Prince of Persia” is easily one of the best games of the year.

Prince of Persia was released by Ubisoft on December 2, 2008.

“Prince of Persia” features four worlds or lands that can be visited and saved in the order that the player chooses. It’s that very rare thing - an open-world adventure game that works. To avoid repetition, the difficulty increases as the game moves along, regardless of which land you heal first.

To reach and heal these lands, the Prince must perform a series of acrobatic moves like wall climbing & running and even using some of Elika’s magic to get our hero from point A to point B. Along the way, the Prince will encounter some pretty generic villains and a different major boss in each section, including characters like The Hunter and The Concubine. Battles include a combination of sword-fighting moves and using Elika’s magic powers. They’re varied enough to never get boring and increase with difficulty no matter what order the player chooses to play them.

The gameplay - jumping, running, swordfighting - is stunningly organic and smooth in “Prince of Persia”. What’s interesting is that I’ve played games recently with similar structures that weren’t nearly as accomplished. Trying to figure out which wall to hit and which platform to jump to reminded me of “Mirror’s Edge” and “Tomb Raider: Underworld,” but the controls felt more organic and easy-to-use than either of those games.

Prince of Persia was released by Ubisoft on December 2, 2008.

Finding the balance between over-complicated combo moves and titles that feel too simple to play is a tough task but the developers of “Prince of Persia” have done just that. It always feels fluid and becomes nearly mesmerizing with incredibly rendered backgrounds. The movement never feels forced and only occasionally gets repetitive. As the game progresses, the Prince and Elika earn access to ‘Power Plates’, which opens new areas and new ways to get there, keeping things just fresh enough to never get boring.

The gameplay and controls in “Prince of Persia” may be remarkable but what will be most remembered about the title are the stunning visuals. With a style that looks more like a hand-drawn painting than CGI, “Prince of Persia” is one of the most beautiful-looking games ever made. It’s incredibly rare to be eight hours into a game and still marveling at its visual aesthetic. That will happen to everyone who plays “Prince of Persia”. The score is gorgeous too.

Some players have complained that you can’t die in “Prince of Persia” and there’s been some negative comments around the general difficulty level (it’s not high) and repetition. While I recognize these complaints and can understand them, I can only be honest with my own reaction to the game - none of those things bothered me.

Yes, every time you fall or get beaten in a fight, Elika comes to your rescue and the Prince is merely brought back to the last platform or solid ground. But, it’s essentially just a checkpoint system, like nearly every modern game on the market. The days of “lives” in a game have been gone for years. Are fans upset that the checkpoints aren’t further apart? Seems like nitpicking to me.

As for the repetition argument, if you aren’t stunned by the visuals and don’t find the controls fluid, I could easily see getting frustrated by “Prince of Persia”. It’s this simple - If you don’t love your first hour with the game, you won’t love your tenth. I loved every minute of it.

What about the story? It’s a little cheesy and ends too abruptly, but there’s a surprisingly effective friendship at its center that works despite some of the bad jokes in the stiff dialogue. I actually started to care for Elika after she saved me for the 300th time.

Memorable visuals, unique gameplay, and characters that start to get under your skin - we praise games for having ONE of these things, much less all three. “Prince of Persia” is one of the most impressive titles of 2008.

‘Prince of Persia’ was released by Ubisoft and developed by Ubisoft Montreal. It is rated T (Teen). The version reviewed was on PS3, but the title is also available on XBox 360. It was released on December 2, 2008.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

By BRIAN TALLERICO
Content Director
HollywoodChicago.com
brian@hollywoodchicago.com

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