The Prince of Persia series has had a long legacy. Before Ubisoft discovered the Sands of Time, Prince had a few 2D platforming adventures. They were groundbreaking and the series first leap into 3D had some issues. But Ubisoft got used the IP to produce the Sands of Time Trilogy. Many loved those games for how groundbreaking they were through blending 3D platforming, dynamic combat and time-reversing powers. It was a game series many fondly remember today.
When the PS3/360 released, the series was morphed into the Assassins Creed series but another game using the Prince of Persia name released; Prince of Persia (2008). This title wanted to bring the series into a larger world, offer simplified controls and have a team of two characters connected together. Does this result in a strong experience? Lets travel through the sands and find out!
Set in a new continuity from past games, The Prince is exploring the desert to find a donkey he has containing much gold but falls down into a pit. He wakes up and sees a woman being chased by guards. The Prince decides to help her out and he soon gets warped up in an adventure to save the world from great darkness.
What makes the story here work, is the chemistry and dynamic between the prince and Elika. Both bounce off each other wonderfully and a large part is thanks to strong writing and voice acting. Nolan North, famous for voicing characters like Nathan Drake, does the voice for the Prince. It matches the character quite well; cocky but heroic and he grows throughout the game, caring more for Elika as the adventure continues.
Elika is a character of great mystery that you learn more about as you play the game and the ending leaves things at a crossroads. While DLC did release explaining the ending, the original games ending works just as well. The Prince does something to help someone he deeply cares for and it has major results to the game world you just spent hours saving.
One touch I really enjoyed is that many ways the characters show how they feel about each other is through animations. Prince gently catching Elika as she slides down a wall, Elika looking at the Prince’s butt when he isn’t looking, and Elika grabbing the Prince’s hand to save him from death. These animations show some personality to the cast, which I really enjoyed.
The overall story here was well executed and while some parts could have been better explained, it still works great in making realistic characters you can relate to.
The Design and Gameplay
Prince of Persia is interesting, as it’s both an linear action/platformer but also quite open-ended. I say this as you can tackle any of the four main regions in any order. Each one is linked to a special power Elika can use with the Prince but you have to visit all of them by the end of the game. This results in levels that have special paths you cannot access until you have that ‘special’ power. I liked this design frame-work but it also results in the game being quite easy.
With level design being built in mind for this open-nature, you are only using basic actions instead of unique powers. It creates a ‘relaxing’ tone to the gameplay that I personally enjoyed. This is helped with great controls that are very simple. Prince can run across/up walls, jump, attack with his sword and use his gauntlet to slide down walls and grab rings to continue platforming; this is all mapped to very simple controls. You don’t hold a shoulder button to wall run, you do it by just leaping at special walls. You press Circle to continue a run when passing a ring you can grab. People who played past Prince of Persia games would likely be annoyed with this change, as it removes some of the complexity to the platforming.
But I feel that the platforming is less like solving a giant puzzle but rather, rhythmically timing button presses to get through a platforming challenge. It works and makes exploration enjoyable. Elika joins you on the adventure and she is completely mapped to the Triangle button. When in the air, pressing it will make you double jump and she will save you from death. While you have no life system, the game isn’t meant to be overtly hard thanks it’s focus on exploration. This makes the lack of a life system understandable, as if you had a life system and had to start over again, that could be annoying when exploring.
Combat is another major factor to this game and it has you fighting one creature at a time. These battles are fun, as you can mix & match various abilities together in creative ways. Like the platforming, these are quite easy but they are rewarding due to the amount of options you have. Reading your opponents movements and striking at the right time feels fantastic to pull off.
Restore life to the games many levels opens up a new challenge to complete; collecting light seeds. This is where the exploration shines and is heavily pushed; you need to collect specific amounts of these to unlock new powers to progress in other areas in the game. As someone who grew up with collectaton platformers like Mario 64, I didn’t mind these sections of the game. But with many levels not having difficult level design, spending long periods of time getting all the light seeds can get boring.
While it has some issues, Prince of Persia 2008 has strong core gameplay that offers relaxing fun.
The Lasting Appeal
The game will take a while to beat, lasting from 8-10 hours depending on how much time you spend getting all the light seeds. You can also unlock special costumes through playing the game, which don’t offer new abilities. But is is nice to unlock say, the Sands of Time Prince costume or Jade from Beyond Good & Evil as a costume for Elitka.
You can add another hour or two of game time through the games ‘Epilogue DLC’, featuring a brand new power and more story content.
Past games in the Prince of Persia series pushed the hardware they released on but Prince of Persia 2008 looks breathtaking to this day. With a cell-shaded art direction and almost paint-like backgrounds, it looks like a painting coming to life. Character animations look natural and lively as well, with this only helped by the strong voice acting during story scenes.
Music is some of the series best, having booming themes with great sound quality. The track ‘Healing Grounds’ plays once you restore life to a given area, and it’s such a calm track that makes you feel relaxed when exploring. General sound is great too, with sword strikes and other sounds having impact and weight.
Overall: 4 out of 5
Prince of Persia 2008 is one of the Ubisoft’s strongest titles from the PS3/360/Wii Generation. Using timeless art direction to tell a strong story, having fun platforming and an enjoyable soundtrack creates one of the series best titles. While it is a bit too easy and minor issues like a heavy focus on collecting things can drag down the pace a bit, the game is still an really enjoyable experience.
This was played on the PlayStation 3 for review using a copy I purchased. You can buy this on the Xbox 360 and PC as well.