Prince of Persia became yet another video game to receive the Hollywood treatment when the Prince of Persia: Sands of Time film (starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Gemma Arterton) released in cinemas on Friday 21st May 2010. To coincide with the film, Ubisoft released the next title in the Prince of Persia series: The Forgotten Sands.
Rather than the movie-to-game adaptation many would expect, Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands is an interquel, taking place during the seven year gap between The Sands of Time and Warrior Within. The game sees the Prince visiting his brother: Malik at his kingdom where a battle is on-going. As a last resort, Malik unleashes King Solomon’s army – using a seal - in hope of saving his kingdom. However, the seal unleashes a terrible evil upon the world which the Prince must restore.
The narrative doesn’t go into as much depth as previous Prince of Persia titles have done though, nevertheless, the same Prince of Persia mechanics remain. The Prince is (once again) able to run along walls, slide down banners, swing around poles and rewind time using sand - as early as the beginning of the game, though the addition of new gameplay innovations as players progress in the form of elemental powers ensures additional new features make an appearance.
Players earn points upon the elimination of enemies which predominantly gain player’s upgrades such as boosting the Prince’s stats, as well as adding elemental powers to the list of the Prince’s abilities. These additional powers feature a fire trail (used to burn enemies), whirlwind (to push enemies off of you) and more, all of which are activated through pressing the corresponding button on the D-pad. Disappointingly, the elemental powers aren’t necessarily as advantageous as one would hope, due to the combat techniques The Forgotten Sands already provides being adequate enough.
Combat has always been an important aspect of the Prince of Persia games and this is no different within The Forgotten Sands. The combat being well implemented with players able to attack enemies with the Prince’s sword by simply pressing X and can launch a more powerful strike by holding down the button. Furthermore, there’s also the option to kick opponents – momentarily preventing them from attacking and players are also able to dodge incoming attacks. Whereas players will easily be able to button mash in order to overcome enemies – though likely to lose health in the process - more skilled players will be able to cleverly manoeuvre the Prince during combat so that their health bar remains as high as possible.
Whilst the elemental power isn’t particularly vital to the game’s progression, there are a number of special abilities the Prince requires in order to prevail. Like in previous Prince of Persia titles, the Prince is accompanied by a trusty female sidekick which within The Forgotten Sands is Razi, a genie, whom grants the Prince special abilities including the power to freeze water, the ability to lunge towards enemies and more. Not only are the special skills impressively developed, working flawlessly and being particularly unique to the game, these capabilities even look spectacular (more so the freezing of the water).
An additional returning feature of Prince of Persia that fans will appreciate is the lever-turning, cog-twisting puzzles that will have players wracking their brains attempting to solve them. Whilst the vast majority of them can be overcome with ease, players will often come across a seemingly impossible puzzle that will have them stumped. Whereas this may put a number of players off, the more dedicated gamers are likely to enjoy the challenge on offer.
Another common feature of the Prince of Persia series and action adventure titles in general, are the bosses players come up against. Regrettably, every boss (known as a titan) is pretty much identical, with players having to go through more or less the same procedure each time, consisting of teasing the enemy into running towards you and dodging so that it goes into the wall where it is momentarily unable to move and can be hit with ease. This wouldn’t be a problem as such if the titans weren’t a common occurrence throughout the rather short story – unfortunately they are.
With the narrative not providing as much depth as gamers would have hoped, the story mode itself also proves quite disappointing, with most players being able to complete the campaign at around the seven hour mark. What's more, with no real incentive to delve back into the story mode after completion, the replayability within The Forgotten Sands doesn’t seem particularly appetising – especially at the £40 price tag. Whilst there is a Challenge Mode, it only consists of two challenges, both of which can be completed within minutes.
Despite the predecessor sporting a unique visual style when it released in December 2008, Ubisoft have opted for a visual style that appears to be an improvement of the original titles, rather than a continuation of the more recent attempt. The resulting visuals are quite impressive, taking into consideration everything from the Persian landscapes to the Prince (who vaguely resembles Jake Gyllenhaal). As for the audio, the game features a remarkable soundtrack and some life-like sound effects which are all the more reason for players to turn up the volume on their speakers.
To conclude, Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands is a great addition to the series that fans of the predecessors will enjoy. Whereas some elements of the game seem rushed – mainly the game’s narrative, possibly to guarantee the game would be ready for the release date coinciding with the film - the gameplay is a crucial factor in the game’s success. Whilst it’s hard to deem the title a must-purchase, it is certainly a title to consider renting.