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Prince of Persia (2008)



I picked this up at a garage sale (not surprising as it's a single player, single story game). I haven't played any of the other modern PoP games, so I can't highlight the differences or similarities. I'm over half-way through the game and enjoying it.


The basic plot is you've teamed up with Princess Elika to defeat minions of the god of darkness and heal the land in order to prevent the god of darkness from returning after being locked up by his brother, the god of light (who is MIA), 1000 years ago. Movement consists of a lot of wall-running and acrobatic jumping. Combat is one-on-one swordplay with a button-mashing combo+quicktime system. There's also a collection component as you need to collect light seeds after healing the land in order to open up additional areas.


One of the interesting design choices for the game is you cannot die. If you fall or get stuck in the tar like "corruption", Elika conveniently brings you back to the last stable platform you were at. In combat she will block any death-blow, although your opponent will get some life back. As one review explained it: in most games dying will bring you back to your last save point; this just speeds up the process. (Although sometimes that last stable platform can be a long way back!)


So while not dying does make the game "easier", it also decreases some of the frustration which would normally occur when you die due because you didn't press the right button at the right time. It also lets you take risks you might otherwise avoid and let the game designer increase the difficulty slightly.


Progress through the game follows a pattern: journey (via wall running etc) to the next corrupted area, defeat a minor minion, journey through the region (more wall running & jumping) to meet up with the major minion. After defeating the major minion, heal the land and spend even more time searching the area for light seeds (even more wall running & jumping, although without the corruption). There are 24 areas to heal before the endgame; whatever that is.


Unfortunately, there's not a lot of variety as you work to complete each area. Sure there's differences between the 4 major minions (especially the Warrior who can't be damaged by normal attacks) and the artwork team has gone to great effort to add unique architectural features to each area. But this ain't Super Mario 64 where each world is completely different. Part of the problem is while the world may look different, there's only one path to get to the major minion. So rather than thinking, "I'm here, how do I get there?", you're focused on finding the next step along the path (which is even easier as Elika will show you the path with a button press). Nor does it get any less linear once the area is healed and you start looking for light seeds. For the most part you simply have to follow the same paths you used to get between areas and to the major minion. And it's a shame that you can't get down to ground level and appreciate some of the artwork which you only glimpse from above.


The inability to get to ground level, the constant wall running, and the "magic plates" also detract from the believability of the areas. According to the story, these were places where people lived and worked. And yet the only way to move around is by some beautifully animated super-parkour. Sure, have some places which are inaccessible without wall running or jumping from ledge to ledge, but there's nothing wrong with a staircase.


Collecting sufficient light seeds allows you to unlock a magic plate and access more areas (conveniently indicated on a map). Unfortunately, three of the four magic plates (I haven't unlocked the last one yet) simply fling you out along the defined path. No short-cuts here, the path leads to a plate, you use the plate, then continue along the path. The yellow plate even forces you to play dodge-em with the architecture as it flies you along the most indirect path.


It may sound like I'm down on this game. I'm not. But the wall-running and collecting parts of the game play is like the music in LEGO Star Wars - cool when you start playing but after hours of playing it gets very annoying. (It also starts to feel like a kind of rhythm game after a while.)


Combat is one of the better parts of the game, although it doesn't play as much of a part as I would have expected. And it also says something when I'm glad when I'm able to kill a minor minion when they are forming rather than engaging in combat. As I mentioned, combat uses a combo system (which is nicely explained in the help). Pressing buttons in the correct order (and with the correct timing) can lead to long strings of attacks by you and Elika. However, there are times when it feels like I'm just as good mashing buttons rather than setting up that perfect combo.


But the best part of the game is the story. While some of the backstory is revealed automatically as you proceed through the game, the majority requires you to talk to Elika (with a simple press of the button). And it's not all serious, there's lighter stuff like a game of I-spy which really helps with the characterization. The only annoying part is if the conversation repeats there's no way to interrupt it.


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