Hello all! Last week brought us to a small village in Ireland, and saw us basically beating monsters with their own kind.
This week, I'm looking at the first (and possibly best) game in a trilogy from the GameCube/PS2/Xbox era.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was released in November of 2003. Developed by UbiSoft back when they didn't annualize things, PoP casts you as The Prince, a brash young son of the King of Persia. Discovering the Dagger of Time, the Prince is tricked into releasing the fabled Sands of Time by the treacherous Vizier. The Sands turn everyone in the palace into monsters and spreads over the entire kingdom. This simply won't do, so the Prince sets out to right these wrongs with the help of the Maharajah's daughter, Farah, and the Dagger of Time.
PoP, at first glance, is a fairly straightforward action/adventure game. Combat seems simple at first (you have one sword and the Dagger of time, and that's it), but it ramps up pretty quickly. There's a big focus on acrobatically defeating your enemies; the Prince can backflip over monsters and kick off of walls to get behind them. After defeating them, you need to finish them with the Dagger to kill them permanently, as well as absorb more Sand, which we'll get to in a bit.
That focus on acrobatics extends to the rest of the game, as you swing on ropes, balance on beams, and famously run across walls. Like, a lot. Seriously, the Prince just totally defies gravity here, but it's awesome as hell, and a lot of fun to do. It all comes into play during the puzzles, which are usually of the "push box, pull lever" variety. None of them will really have you scratching your head.
So, PoP has a great combat system and fun acrobatics, but the real draw here is the Dagger of Time, which can reverse time for the Prince. Fall down a pit? Killed by a monster? Just pull the Left Trigger and time magically rewinds for about ten seconds.
What makes this gimmick great is its limitations. See, you need Sand to use it, which you get from enemies, and you can only rewind so many times before you need more Sand. Like Braid before it, you can rewind to correct any mistake. But whereas Braid lets you do this an unlimited amount of times and for as long as you want, PoP limits you to ten seconds and you need at least one full Sand Tank to do so. So rewinding isn't as much of a crutch as it may initially seem.
Not to mention you can use the Sand to do other things, like slow down time (which was all the rage back then) or go into a kind of light-speed mode where the Prince warps around the room and kills the &%$# out of every enemy in the room.
In short, PoP is still, to this day, such a blast to play. If I had to pick a favorite aspect of it, I actually wouldn't go with the combat or the time manipulation. No, my favorite part of PoP: The Sands of Time is the whimsical, Disney-like atmosphere. It's a serious tale, but PoP has a sort of lightness about it, like Aladdin, for example (which is, of course, aesthetically similar to PoP). The Prince is a sort of wise-ass; his back-and-forth with Farah is one of the highlights of the adventure.
It's something the series would lose-quite dramatically-in the sequel, Warrior Within, and gain back just a little in The Two Thrones. Both of those games are good as well, but they really lost the whimsy and spirit of the original. The Sands of Time had a playful feel about it. Hey UbiSoft, maybe make an Assassin's Creed like this? Although Black Flag came close...but that's a discussion for another time.
The Sands of Time, for me, remains a masterpiece of a game. It's worth revisiting; it's just so much damn fun. Like I said, the sequels are competent (Warrior Within being the weakest, and The Two Thrones being...well, actually very good), but this is the one I remember most. Go play it!
Thanks for reading! As always, leave comments, suggest future games to be featured as Game of the Week, and find me on Twitter! Also, catch up with my other article series here, and consider subscribing to my Patreon if you like my stuff!
Next week-Remember Free Radical? Remember TimeSplitters? I'm writing about a Free Radical game that isn't TimeSplitters. I WILL get to TimeSplitters, though :)