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How a game seven years old is yet to be bettered

We didn’t hate the 2008 Prince Of Persia reboot, but neither did we love it. Sure, it was incredibly beautiful to look at, but the one-on-one combat didn’t quite work; the open-world setting didn’t  support the game’s mechanics as well as authored, linear experiences; and the platforming often felt like a game of Simon Says, your movements predetermined by environmental cues.

It’s strange; Ubisoft managed to make a game that was somehow worse than one released five years previous. We recently sat down with the upcoming Prince Of Persia Trilogy – the original three games remastered in 720p and with 3D support – and without a doubt The Sands Of Time remains the greatest entry into the series. Every release thereafter loses a little bit more of the magic that made the original so special.

At first glance The Sands Of Time looks pretty basic despite the new crisp, clean graphics. The character models are blocky and the environments look like they’re made out of nothing but rectangles. But these are playgrounds first, pieces of art later. Play through any of the levels in Prince Of Persia and you can feel the level design as you traverse the environments; the perfect placing of poles, handholds and platforms allowing for a steady, unbroken pace without ever feeling prescribed or enforced. It feels natural and organic thanks to the relationship between great level design, fantastic animation, and fluid movement. It rivals Mario 64 in terms of the simple joy of moving through a level.

It’s a game that’s enjoyable because of its simplicity, not in spite of it, and this is something that later games in the series lost sight of as they attempted to implement new combat mechanics or turn the Prince into a My Chemical Romance roadie. Even some of the best contemporary games could still learn from Sands Of Time; Uncharted’s platforming is brilliant, but Drake could certainly borrow some tricks from the niftier feet of the Prince.

Even if the Sands Of Time hadn’t got a HD do-over, it would still be more than worthwhile playing today (despite the Prince looking like he’d been smeared in Vaseline). It’s living proof that pretty vistas, HDR lighting, open-worlds and fancy cel-shading do not a good game make. It’s a clever approach to level design, great feedback from the control of your character, and brilliant use of space that separates the good from the great.




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  • Wally-G

    Bravo, well said.