Unconventional. Unexpected. Unforgettable.

I was, and still am, a fairly indifferent fan of the previous Prince of Persia games, including the original that started it all. I’d rented The Two Thrones—or rather, the Wii port Rival Swords—and tried my hand. It was enjoyable, but without much longevity or impact.

My anticipation for Ubisoft’s next original venture into the mythical land of ancient Persia rose and fell dramatically. I was, at the onset, indifferent. As more footage was released, I became interested, and then invested. As more info was released, I began to see holes, discrepancies, illogical choices. But then my interest once again began to build, until it reached an apex I never expected.

Prince of Persia was set at the top of my Christmas list, even though the game was released almost two weeks prior. At that point, I did something I’ve never done before: once, and only once, did I contemplate even renting the game. I wanted to wait; to enjoy what I felt was going to be a totally unconventional experience.

So, one could imagine my pleasure as I unwrapped the Limited Edition on that morning. It wasn’t the only game I received, nor was it the only form of media entertainment. Despite having also received the hotly anticipated Call of Duty: World at War, I found myself at the end of the day realizing that I’d watched none of my gift movies, and that I’d only played one of the levels from the CoD 5 campaign.

Most of the day was spent playing Prince of Persia.

From the onset, I was hooked. The artistic style is the first thing that grabs you. Simply put, there’s not a video game on the market that looks this stunning. There are complaints that this game looks like a “cartoon”, and I’m here to tell you that’s complete bull. The visuals—graphics, artistry, design—are astounding, and they lend a very timeless, mythical feel to the game. It’s presented as an epic experience in every sense of the word.

The game is truly presented as an open world experience, boasting five huge areas, each interconnected and halting for absolutely no load time (aside from teleporting). Portions of each area are cleansed of the darkness that has spread, and even as you progress through the dark, trap-laden pathways, you’ll almost always be able to look around and see the light beaming on the portions of land already purified. It’s easy to get both a sense of completion and a sense of duty. You’ve cleansed one area. Now on to the rest.

The sounds of this mythical place are also of a high caliber. Master composer Inon Zur has managed to weave a magical tapestry of his own with a musical score that captures the adventurous, ominous, and peaceful moments of the game. The highlight is the core theme: a simple, yet elegant piece of music, simultaneously lush and harsh, beautiful and haunting. Likewise, the sound design is great. For all the flak the voice acting is getting, I’ve not once been removed from the game experience; the voice acting is splendid, from the cocky Prince and the enigmatic Elika, to the snarling, sly, and thunderous enemies they face. And you’ll feel the entirety of the world through the local machinations, the Prince’s actions, Elika’s spells, and the enthralling battles (more on that later).

The acrobatics and combat are two other high points. A staple of the Prince of Persia games, the acrobatic elements do not disappoint; they’ve just been simplified a bit. Now, “simple” controls don’t imply ease, just fluidity. There’s still the challenge of timing and direction, but pulling off amazing feats of agility and acrobatics in the Persian realm has never been so enthralling or visually appealing. You are given an “Acrobatic” button (for jumping), a “Gauntlet” button (for grabbing objects like rings), and an “Elika” button (for your double jump and magic plates). The acrobatics are just plain fun.

The combat likewise has been simplified, but is in no way easier. It follows the same interface set up as the acrobatics. The right trigger is your most important button; it allows you to block and make properly-timed deflections. The A button allows you to unleash an acrobatic attack, the B button for a gauntlet attack, the X button for a sword attack, and the Y button for Elika to attack. There are also several quicktime events in each fight, keeping you on your toes. Despite the one-on-two odds of the fights, they’re tense, nerve-peeling affairs designed to maximize potential for strategy, timing, and efficiency. And while you cannot actually die, you’ll want to master some form of strategy, lest you fight until your thumbs wear down to the bone.

But the best part of Prince of Persia, in my opinion, are the two central characters. And to those of you who completed the game without using any of the On Demand Dialogue, shame on you.

From the very beginning, both the Prince and Elika genuinely feel like wholly complete characters, comprised of different ideals, motives, and desires. They present, maybe not the entire spectrum of human emotion, but very human emotion and personalities nonetheless. It’s interesting to see these two characters meet, but the real treat, and the real core of this game, is watching them two of them growing stronger, and closer, through their epic adventure. Their banter is playful, humorous, poignant, and emotional. Their progression, and their chemistry, is something that grows over the course of the game and never once feels forced.

Prince of Persia is an oddity in my video game collection. It represents an unconventional presence in a fairly repetitious library. As I’ve played through it, I discovered something unexpected. When I picked up Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare last year, I couldn’t put it down; it was simply amazing, and still is to this day. Prince of Persia is like that, and my hours already spent are a testament to the fact that this game is difficult to put away.

But the truly unexpected surprise was how I found myself trying to resist completing the game. As much as the game completer in me wanted to beat it, I found myself not wanting to rush through it. I didn’t want the Prince and Elika’s journey to end. They proved to be such an eclectic and charming pair of characters, I found myself torn between wanting to see the outcome of their adventure and trying to keep them locked in the moment.

That is the strength of Prince of Persia. A solid adventure platformer, filled with breathtaking visuals, a visually impacting progression of story, enthralling combat, slick acrobatics, and most of all, two characters that, together, have made this a journey that is unconventional, unexpected, and unforgettable.


  1. Morvius on 27 December 2008, 06:21 said:

    Game reviews? Oh I was just playing this game actually. But…I really don’t find it THAT amazing. The graphic style is excellent and all that but it feels as though the other aspects got played down.

    The combat…seems much easier this time round. Though I have yet to reach the end of the game but so far there have been no variations. It seems as though there are the normal grunts which you encounter occasionally. Push them to the edge and you can finish them off in one blow. For the bosses, they repeat from the looks of it. Four bosses who will appear at least five times (Well, from how much I have played so far). Combat against them also consists of pushing them to the edge and finishing them off. I felt that the combat was too easy in this one. The combat felt like huge steps backwards from the previous game.

    I felt that this game was far too easy. It is impossible to die. Okay, most other games have the “illusion” of difficulty but at least it tells you how you are doing when you get a GAME OVER sign. At least in the past games, when you used up your “sands”, you would die.

    For the adventure/platforming parts…well, these are fine but more variety would be good. And, it seems a bit too automatic or rather…the game seems to be playing by itself sometimes. Just jump towards the wall press A and you will run across automatically etc.

    Ah, the characters are definitely entertaining. And the graphics and art style are excellent and thus should be retained for future iterations.

  2. Morvius on 27 December 2008, 10:07 said:

    Oh but by no means is this a BAD game. In fact it is probably an average game at the LEAST. I think the issue is..even for the platforming, it is not as diverse any more. The old PoP had things like various traps and the Prince had to employ the use of time to navigate through certain areas. In this game, you can unlock magical abilities for the girl Elika but all you need to do is press a button at one of the special glowing plates and you will fly to the set location.

    Ah, while you got a sense of duty, I started feeling that it was getting repetitive when you had to go around purifying each area. And while the art style for each area was indeed diverse and beautiful. The level design…well it seems the same really. There are the usual “rings”, “vines”, “pillars”, “slides”. They could have used the various areas to make new “obstacles” in order to diversify the platforming experience.

    So, there is ALOT of potential for the next Prince of Persia. I look forward to see what Ubisoft can come up with.

    About the story…well I can’t comment until I finish the game.

  3. Morvius on 27 December 2008, 10:08 said:

    Out of interest, how did you put in pictures? And how did you send it to II? I would like to make a review of The Witcher for the PC.

  4. Rocky on 27 December 2008, 15:29 said:

    You’ll have to talk to SlyShy about writing reviews. I was already commissioned a while back.

    About how far are you into the game? I just finished it today, and I can vouch for the diversity and, surprisingly, the story.

  5. SubStandardDeviation on 27 December 2008, 15:53 said:

    Wow, Rocky, this is a very different sort of review from the kind I’m used to. No numerical score, for one. The pictures certainly lend a nice narrative touch. It seems like you’re trying to describe a personal experience with the game – which is naturally highly subjective – and it works well. A few caveats, though:

    1. Aside from a brief mention of load times, you don’t touch on the technical aspects of the game (control responsiveness, camera, interface, etc.) but suddenly you list off all the combat buttons. First, you don’t even say what platform this is on (X360?), and second, the list is meaningless to those who don’t already have the game.

    2. For all the characterization you describe, you barely mention the plot, which leads me to believe that it is 1) non-existent (“open-ended”) or 2) wholly unmemorable. In a review that doesn’t criticize the game at all, this is a suspicious omission.

    3. Sometimes you seem to get too caught up in the experience, and spout praise that is meaningless to the reader. What does it mean for a musical piece to be “simultaneously lush and harsh”? What makes a game “simply amazing, and still is to this day”?

    Morvius, I’m eager to read your review of The Witcher. Original or Enhanced edition?

    My gut response to both games, respectively, is “3d platformer. Meh.” and “I refuse to support a sexist developer.”

  6. Rocky on 27 December 2008, 18:31 said:

    Thanks for pointing those out, SSD. Allow me to explain.

    1. The omission of other technical aspects of the game was an oversight on my part, I’ll admit. However—and I suppose this is due to my having only published one review—when there are aspects of a game that prove frustrating, I don’t hesitate to mention them. I played the demo for Tomb Raider: Legend and Tomb Raider: Underworld. The controls were decent enough, but the camera work was incredibly frustrating.

    Again, thanks for pointing that out. I’ll keep that in mind in the future.

    2. I don’t want to spoil the story. Rest assured, it’s there, and it’s deeper than even I expected. It’s not Pulitzer material, but it allows a few moments of realization and recollection over previous scenes, action, and dialogue.

    3. Dang. The truth is out. I’m no Yahtzee. Anyway, perhaps I should’ve chosen another game to review first, but the truth is that I’m not swept up into games like this very often. I should’ve made that statement more overt. I apologize if it came out in an obnoxious way.

    As for the music, I’ll claim a lack of proper descriptive powers. It was a reference to the various versions of the main theme used throughout the game. It can be twisted into a dark and mysterious piece, or softened for a lush iteration. As for the game being amazing “still to this day”, there’s really no one thing you can peg to define that. It’s like a film where the sum of its parts creates an experience that hardly seems to lose its luster, after months or even years.

    I also wrote that review at about 2 AM, so I’m surprised it reads coherently at all.

  7. Gildor on 27 December 2008, 18:36 said:

    Hehehe, No one is Yahtzee Rocky, No need to feel bad about it.

  8. Lord Snow on 27 December 2008, 19:38 said:

    Ha, I totally forgot we were asked to review video games…

    I mostly agree with what you said, Rocky. It’s a good game. A little short and easy, but a solid gaming experience. I found the combat and acrobatics very satisfying. The game did get a little repetitive every once in a while, but not enough to get annoying.

  9. The Wall on 27 December 2008, 21:26 said:

    Good review, glad you liked it. I still feel that the old PoP’s (even WW and TTT) are surperior (by the way, I heard that the Wii version of TTT was horrible due to controls), but this was a great addition to the franchise.

    I’m not digging the new combat system, as it is essentially one huge Quick time event, which absolutely needs to be abolished from gaming in general.

    And there is little plot, lets not deny that. The game’s story runs on characterization. I mean, because you get to choose which areas you want to do first, they couldn’t have one plot important point happening before the other. Though the game, I got character backrounds, area backgrounds,and general shenanigans between the prince and Elika, but very little plot development. But when something important finally did happen at the end (you know what I’m talking about)…it hit home.

    Also, I agree with Morvius, the level design is nothing to write home about. Especially the plates, which are QTE made into platforming.

    Oh, and did the controls lag a few seconds for anyone else? Like, you are tapping X or A or whatever you were playing on the vines to move faster, but because you pressed that button so many times, the prince jumped off the wall after reaching the end of the vines. Stupid accidental deaths annoyed me like that.

  10. Rocky on 28 December 2008, 01:23 said:

    I just have to say, by the end of it all, probably the best element of the entire game, in my opinion, is Elika. I dare say she’s the perfect secondary character, or at least a bloody good example of one.

    She’s entirely non-intrusive. When reviewers, critics, and players say she never gets in the way, they—and I—mean she never gets in the way. In fact, unless we’re dealing with a scripted cutscene or other random lines, she’ll rarely even talk unless you want her to.

    She’s there as your second jump, which comes in handy. She unlocks huge potential for exploration and progress through the use of the light plates, which I actually thought were great additions to some fantastic acrobatic sequences. The acrobatics and progress are entirely led by you, the Prince. If she’s in the way, there’s an animation that moves her, whether they spin around each other while on a beam, flipping aside if you’re hanging from a ledge, or remaining opposite your position while gripping a column.

    She’s also your compass. When you have absolutely no idea where to go, or how to get somewhere, tap the Elika button, and she sends a little magic “comet” that shows you the way. It’s not always needed, but when it is, it’s invaluable and welcome.

    In combat, she’s also never in the way. Literally, when you’re circling an opponent, she’s behind you, backing you up. Not beside your or in front of you; out of the way. She jumps in when you call her to attack, and she’s ready to defend you if you fail a QTE. In fact, she’ll actually shout out helpful suggestions as to which attack you should use at a given point in a duel (i.e. gauntlet, sword, etc.).

    She also comes across as a genuine person, not just an on-demand weapon. I think this has a lot to do with the ODD, as you can actually chose to begin a conversation and learn things about her. She has convictions, doubt, fears, anger, insecurity. She’s tough, agile, and capable, but also smart, crafty, and stately. I honestly never found her character to be forced. She felt more like a true character than just an additional AI counterpart.

  11. Lord Snow on 28 December 2008, 01:48 said:

    The Wall, I disagree about the quick time events. They should be for all games except for God Of War (since they started it or at least made it popular) because they are sweet in that game. I rather liked the combat. The one on one fights were pretty cool, I thought. I do agree about the ending. That really hit home.

    Oh, yeah, every once and a while my controls lagged, but I figured that was because I had an old worn down controller.

  12. Frederecksen on 28 December 2008, 02:08 said:

    Speaking of Yahtzee, perhaps you should do the Chzo Mythos games next, the ones Yahtzee made. They’ve got a great story, except for the last one, unfortunately. Anyway, I look forward to more good game reviews like this.

  13. The Wall on 28 December 2008, 22:51 said:

    The only reason QTE are viewed as a reward in GoW is because it’s main combat is so bland.

    Eh, ignore me. I’m just a huge action gaming enthusiast and the way GoW polluted the gaming industry (and ruined my absolutely favorite game of all time) with QTE left me with a huge grudge against it. I mean, I know it’s better to blame idiot developers for implementing a QTE system where they shouldn’t than a game but…

    I’m ranting. As I said, ignore me.

    To be on topic, my controls lagged all the time, it part of the game. I managed to learn to live with it, but there were LOTS of deaths resulting from BS that I never commanded the prince to do, which was annoying.

    As for Elika, she’s very close to a perfect side character (certainly better than that bitch Farah who keeps “accidentally” shooting me), but there are certain times when she annoys me. How many times you see where you want to go, are about to jump off the ledge you are on, only to have to stop and wait a second because Elika just caught up and needs a boost? Or, how many times did you land on a yellow plate, you see the healing grounds you are suppose to land on, but then Elika decides to have fun and go circle the building a few times instead of just landing on the damn thing. Or, what about when you have to turn a lever, you have to wait a few seconds for Elika to get her ass over to you to help push.

    All of these are minor things, but it adds up. If they can just remove minor annoyances like these, then yes, Elika would be the perfect secondary character.

  14. LucyWannabe on 29 December 2008, 11:23 said:

    Oooooo…I’d been curious about the Prince of Persia games (I’m more of an adventure gamer/rpger than anything else) but I never picked them up because I was never sure about them. THIS, though, has definitely made me re-think my final decision of not picking it up.

  15. Lord Snow on 29 December 2008, 13:42 said:

    The Wall… You never actually had to give her a boost… She can always get up on her own.


  16. The Wall on 29 December 2008, 16:59 said:

    Course she does. You are climbing up the side of a cliff, she is behind you. You stop to check which way to go next, confirm it, are about to jump, but then Elika needs a boost from below, so the prince uses an arm to grab her, then swings her up to his side. This breaks game flow, and while it may be just a minor annoyance in and of itself, when it happens constantly for the entire game, it becomes extremely annoying.

  17. Rocky on 29 December 2008, 19:31 said:

    Quite frankly, I don’t know what you’re talking about, Wall. The only time I’ve ever actually been stopped to lend a hand to Elika is when I’m crawling over the vines. That’s it.

  18. The Wall on 30 December 2008, 04:39 said:


    Stuff like what happens at exactly one minute in.

    You are going along a ledge, you are about to jump or go to the side, or something like that, but you are then forced to stop because she caught up and now needs a boost. You never had her do that to you? Regardless of whether it bothered you or not, you never had Elika force you to stop what you are doing for half a second to help her up?

  19. Kitty on 30 December 2008, 06:12 said:

    I wanna play it. Mostly because the Prince is really pretty. Graphics…he’s pretty.

  20. DrAlligator on 10 January 2009, 16:21 said:

    Ahahahaaa. SS asked me to review some games I kept raving about but that was very early on in the site’s life, and I personally felt it deviated too much.

    Nice review though. :) I bought the DS game for a friend and when the price comes down (and I finish like, the 50 other games I’m playing on my DS atm), I’ll probably give it a try.

    Since ii’s geared towards storytelling though, I feel that if I – or anyone else – should write a review, it should be focusing on the story elements above all else. That’s where the difficulty comes in. Being a fanboy my immediate idea is to review Metal Gear Solid as a whole, but I don’t have a PS3 or the 4th game, so.

    I have it! Sonic the Hedgehog lends itself well to analysis because it does everything so poorly. And now… to write a review.

  21. SubStandardDeviation on 10 January 2009, 17:33 said:

    I’m hurt you’ve forgotten me, SSD. :’( We were fellow fanwankers of MGS.

    Oh! Sorry ‘bout that. I probably made a point of forgetting everything about UB after my rather unceremonious exit. But of course I remember you (and Kitty). You ought to see the fourth MGS movie, even if you don’t have a Blu-ray player. I’m sure you can stream it online somewhere. The plot is epic, the special effects are great, and there’s fanservice in spades!

    A Sonic plotline review eh? The last one I saw was a Youtube video review of the ’06 game basically complaining how the plot ripped off Final Fantasy, the human character was a Mary Sue, and the VAs were crap. Sadly she’s gone now.

  22. DrAlligator on 10 January 2009, 18:09 said:

    Huzzah, I’m still in the back of your memory. :)

    So far it’s looking into Sonic 3 & Knuckles’ plot (which IMO is the only Sonic game that got it right) and then looking into how everything went down the shitter after it.

    Also, it’s not that I haven’t played MGS4, I just don’t have a PS3. But I have lots of friends with PS3s. Who all happen to live in Bahrain. And I’m in the UK now. Bah. And thanks to TV Tropes I know some things like who the founders of the Patriots are and Big Boss’s role and Ocelot’s role… but I still don’t know most of it, so.

    Also it’s not as satisfying just watching a movie version of it. What about all the codec conversations? And all the in game fan-service? I fangasm whenever I play “Theme of Tara” on Snake’s iPod while I play sneakily. And then when in a gun fight, I get another fangasm playing “The Treading Behemoth” on the iPod. (that’s the boss music that plays during the Shagohod fight in MGS3)


  23. SubStandardDeviation on 10 January 2009, 18:27 said:

    So far it’s looking into Sonic 3 & Knuckles’ plot (which IMO is the only Sonic game that got it right) and then looking into how everything went down the shitter after it.
    So a historical analysis eh? I didn’t know the early Sonic games had a plot.

    Well, speaking as someone who does all her MGS fangasming from the movies alone, I suppose it doesn’t quite measure up to actually playing it. (Never owned a PS[n]. Looking into TTS, but the universal fandom opinion is that it sucked.) The last two segments (“Epilogue” and “Debriefing”) are entirely cutscenes though.

    (As is most of the rest of the game, but that’s another rant…)

  24. DrAlligator on 10 January 2009, 18:46 said:

    Hey if you can play any version of MGS1, it’s worth it. The main things people bemoaned were the MGS2 mechanics implemented into MGS1 and the new voice acting and over-the-top cutscenes. I don’t know about the latter stuff, but I’d‘ve preferred MGS1 meeting at least MGS2 standards. I played MGS1 after MGS2/3, and the whole game just felt really archaic to me.

    It’s not so much a historical analysis – more “Why Sonic Team suck at story telling”. I think that’s a good title. So I’ll be comparing their best told story – Sonic 3 & Knuckles – with everything else. Now I haven’t played loads of the 3D games admittedly, but I think Sonic Adventure DX and Shadow the Hedgehog is enough. And I don’t know if I’ll use Sonic Chronicles for the DS in the article because, while it has the best plot of any Sonic game, it was also – surprise surprise – not developed by Sonic Team.

  25. The Wall on 11 January 2009, 16:11 said:

    Perhaps they suck because they think it’s perfectly normal for a blue hedgehog to pursue a romantic relationship with a likely underage girl?