Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands – Xbox 360 review

Review by Johnus Maximus

A desperate act by the Prince’s brother unleashes upon the world a demonic army controlled by a powerful djinn. The brothers must reunite two parts of an ancient, legendary seal in order to shut away the evil.

Brought to you by Ubisoft Montreal, The Forgotten Sands ignores the 2008 reboot and plants itself firmly back into the Sands of Time chronology. Also available for PS3 and PC, and containing many of the gameplay features that have popularised the series, it is an enjoyable, albeit short, romp.

Following the events in The Sands of Time, our hero is sent to the side of his brother Malik, but when arriving at his palace finds it surrounded by a marauding army intent on plundering the fortunes within. The opening level sees you using the Prince’s free-running abilities to infiltrate the palace, and is reminiscent in many ways of the opening level of Sands of Time and also the recent Prince of Persia film adaptation, starring Jake Gylenhaal.

The Prince is a limber fellow, and is easy to control as you negotiate the many perilous gaps. Controlling the Prince is a lot more formulaic in comparison to games like Assassins Creed or Mirrors Edge, quite often there is a very specific way of reaching an objective and the emphasis is on correctly initiating the series of moves at specific time to succeed.

Failure to do so will result in damage to the Princes health, sometimes even death, or at the very least the inconvenience of traversing the section again. The Prince still has the ability to rewind time, allowing you to pluck him from the claws of death. Although this removes the deadly emphasis of some sections, it can be vital to the players sanity and is much better executed than the reboots method of death avoidance.

The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire

Once you reach the safety of Malik’s treasure vault, he decides his only salvation lies in bringing forth the legendary army of King Solomon, said to outnumber the grains of sand in the whole desert and which would easily allow him to overpower his foes. As Solomons seal is breached, it fractures into two pieces, each prince retrieving one.

As the sands pour from the seal, it becomes clear all is not as foretold, and instead the sands literally petrify each person they touch, whilst a demonic army rises from the ground. Holding the pieces of the seal protect the Prince’s from turning into stone, but they must fight their way to safety from the skeletal foes.

Separated from Malik, the Prince finds himself trying to negotiate the perilous palace which is now full of activated traps and defences which should be familiar ground for Prince of Persia fans -  moving spiked columns and discs, pressure sensitive floor traps and wall mounted arrow launchers.

Play the best song in the world, or I’ll eat your soul

As you happen upon a mysterious portal, walking through it leads to a mysterious, ethereal realm, home to Razia, a water djinn. Learning of the Prince’s folley, she bestows a protective spell on the Prince and urges him to reunite the two parts of the seal before a more terrible evil is unleashed.

As you battle your way to Malik, each defeated foe generates a glowing orb which grants an experience boost, once enough are collected the Prince can then choose from a selection of upgrades to his hit-points, attack strength and other abilities. More platforming and combat ensues and unfortunately it seems Malik is reluctant to impart his piece of the seal to you.

Incorporating the experience boosting mechanic into the storyline, it seems both the princes are increasing in strength when fighting against Solomon’s army. However, the power Malik has been imbibing has clouded his judgement and he’d rather fight all the evil forces he can in order to become the strongest being in existence.

A whole new world, a new fantastic point of view

The rest of the story continues in a similar manner, you complete platforming puzzles, dispatch foes and ultimately fight the demon to save the day. It doesn’t take particularly long to complete either, providing you don’t get caught out by some of the game-breaking glitches that exist.

I encountered two. The first failed to respawn a particular enemy after I had died, trapping me inside a chamber I had no means of escaping without said foe. The second stopped me from upgrading the Princes abilities despite collecting more than sufficient experience points.

Due to a strict save system – the game only has one saved file which automatically saves at regular intervals – if you experience these particular defects you may find yourself cursing whoever approved this mechanic. A workaround exists, but it tends to break the flow of a game when you have to go and search the internet for a solution.

Now it’s not just Jesus and Tiger Woods that can do it

Adding a range of elemental abilities to the Prince’s repertoire is interesting, and while they are not essential to your success, each has it’s own advantage, allowing you to adopt a preferred combat style. There is a crowd-clearing whirlwind, a defensive stone-skin, a projectile of ice and trailing flame that allows you to create burning traps for the enemies.

As diverse and interesting as the Prince can be, the same cannot be said for both the range of enemies and their attack patterns. Instead, they tend to rely on a strength in numbers tactic, which is easily beatable as they tend to use the same moves repeatedly and  they’re very slow to react to your evasive maneuvers.

The combat in this game is vastly superior to the 2008 reboot, but compared to games with a similar combat style – God of War, Dynasty Warriors, et al – it feels lacking. There is not much of a tactile response when you make contact with the foes and, as previously mentioned, there is a simply a dearth of variety.

Excuse me, I have some terrible wind

Despite those shortcomings, this is a fun game. However it does seem like an attempt to cash in on the popularity of the 2010 film release and really doesn’t do anything to push the series forward. Ardent fans of The Sands of Time are likely to have seen the best of what this game can offer already.

In any case, because it’s not a particularly time-consuming title, I found myself able to get into the spirit of the story, enjoy some of the more complex platforming elements and after beating the final Bayonetta-esque level, come away with a positive experience of it.

Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands scores four shiny scarabs out of five.

Four stars