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5 Reviews

Prince Of Persia

Our favourite member of the royal family's back...

"Take the plunge". If any quote should go on the Prince of Persia's retail box, it's that one. Let's be honest, this would not be the game you'd pick up immediately this Christmas. Why would you? You already have two sci-fi epics to cut a gory path through, an African savannah to wonder, zombies to kill and at least 80 songs to learn on a plastic guitar.

But there could be a chance you're the type who enjoys the occasional leap of faith. True a burly space marine or established franchise may seem a safer bet to some cartoony tale of saving princesses and swashbuckling platforming adventures. But you should do yourself a favour, and seek this out.

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The treatment of Prince of Persia (like many legends) returns to an existing story and retells it in a new setting. In the Prince's case, that's the classic 1980's original available on XBLA, you have a princess, a dark lord intent on the world's destruction, an erstwhile hero, and a land full of high platforms and fatal drops.

Telling stories
Here, the dark lord is a grief-fuelled father trying to save his daughter, a princess, while she is trying to undo the fallout from his misguided actions, aided by a travelling rogue. Ubisoft Montreal has traded Arabian palaces for a more open world and paints in the detail with cel-shaded brushes and a blossoming love story that's sweet without the need of sick buckets.

This is definitely not a game for chainsaw ballets or gore. Instead it's steadfast beauty, be it in the panoramic views of the four main areas or the acrobatic skill that's needed to traverse as Prince and princess leap and climb along spires, ledges and cliff-faces.

You're attempting to reach healing grounds dotted around each area that, once activated, cleanse the surrounding area of the fatal-to-the-touch Corruption and open up new routes that increase in complexity.

The Persia legacy is that of pixel-perfect leaps and sweat-dripping sword duels. The 80's original was renowned for its hard, but enjoyable difficulty. Likewise, the Sand of Time trilogy on the Xbox Original realised that legacy near-perfectly in 3D.

Balancing Act
Ubisoft Montreal has stated that, for this new interpretation, it has worked hard to balance that fine line between mainstream acceptance and hardcore enjoyment. That tinkering is clear to see, and it is a concession that will be Persia's cross to bear for years to come, because this is the easiest Persia yet.

Oddly, this isn't due to Elika. According to many early previews the princess and your constant companion was the weak link in the new title. Any time you plunge to your death or are close to being fatally stabbed in a duel, she will pull you from the abyss or block the enemy's thrust. Yet it never feels like a "Get out of [Death] Free" card or cheap life-saving gimmick.

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Elika will drop you back down on the nearest platform and from a gameplay point of view she's a load-free checkpoint marker. Considering the size of these worlds this is a lot healthier for your enjoyment than being thrust half a mile back, navigating multiple drops only to possibly make the same mistake again.

But crucially, her character is fleshed out so much during the course of the adventure that the helping hand feels like you're being scolded. "Don't do it again" is etched upon your mind, and you feel silly for making the mistake in the first place, especially in front of a character you've come to care about.

While the relationship between the two isn't handled as deftly as that of, say, Alyx Vance and Gordon Freeman in Half-Life 2, there are laugh-out-loud moments, and the budding romance gives way to a cracking "think outside the box" gameplay moment in the latter stages of the game.

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