Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands Review (PS3)

What you really want to know is whether The Forgotten Sands is the return to form that you might expect it to be, right? Well, it is and it isn't. There's the very real sense that the game has been prematurely kicked out of the door to coincide with the blockbuster movie due out on the same day (in the UK anyway), and this is something that pervades the entirety of the game. From the prince's brown armour (almost identical to Jake Gyllenhaal's movie duds), to the sandy besieged palace, this might not be a direct movie tie-in, but it does feel a little bit like one regardless.

Prepare to see hundreds of these skeletal minions.

The Forgotten Sands is a pretty game nonetheless, successfully recapturing the series' halcyon days on PS2 and Xbox, it invokes memories of the pre-2008 trilogy, which is no bad thing. What it fails to do however, is move the franchise forward in any conceivable way. Yes, the prince now has access to a range of powers and he collects XP to unlock ability upgrades as is de rigueur for every action game worth its salt these days, but beneath the surface additions, this is still PoP circa 2002. Again, it's not a negative but we expect a bit more from our games these days.

Visually, the game is well-presented, with the kind of high level production values you'd normally expect, and bar a few occasional glitches - none of which are exceptionally glaring – The Forgotten Sands is an attractive addition to the PoP series. When the action starts to kick into higher gear later in the game, spawning sand minions all over the shop, the frame-rate does begin to stutter, which is at odds with the fluidity inherent in the rest of the platform jumping fun. In fact, as the story progresses, more glitches worm their way into the experience, but they never quite conspire to wreck the game.

While The Forgotten Sands is an about turn from the 2008 Prince of Persia reboot attempt and – let's be honest – a bare-faced exercise in exploiting the presence of a movie in the cinemas, it does still just about stand up on the strength of its own merits. Presenting more of a challenge, with less assistance than the last game is massively welcome, and for the most part the controls are tight and responsive. Wall-running, leaping, vaulting and swinging is as gratifying as ever, and nailing the perfect run while incorporating the prince's new abilities, can be a real seat-of-the-pants thrill if you manage to pull it off first time.

This tusky fella looks fearsome, right? He's a pussycat.

The game's new elemental powers complement all facets of the game, and although they might seem a bit clichéd, they bring a welcome layer of hair-trigger skill to the platforming and some much needed strategy to the otherwise repetitive combat. New gameplay components are brought into the game at exactly the right moment, spicing up the action proceedings and developing the intricacies of the prince's move set. Being able to freeze water in stasis to create suspended columns, walls and swing poles brings about further challenges that might involve switching the ability on and off mid-jump, which becomes even more complicated by being able to recall lost pieces of the scenery to conjure up otherwise broken platforms, columns and so on.

By the closing stages of the game, you might find your fingers performing deft button presses to navigate long runs across cavernous palatial courtyards, leaping across all manner of obstacles to reach your goal, all in the blink of an eye while all the time relying upon the prince's core acrobatics. In this respect, the level design is consistently superb, presenting enormous, vertiginous structures to navigate while always keeping the difficulty level at an even keel without ever straying too far into the realms of hair-tearing frustration. Of course, the prince's ubiquitous control over time and being able to rewind from errors is an integral part in avoiding insanity.

Fighting through the nefarious sand demon Ratash's relentless skeletal sand soldiers does begin to wear after extended bouts of button-bashing, but then the agile acrobatic moments more than make up for the shortcomings in the game's combat system. Using a solitary face button to slice through enemies feels a bit hoary in this day and age, and even though you can mix it up with kicks, rolls and aerial attacks, it could have benefited from a more diverse combo mechanic.

The prince can freeze water in time to vault or wall-run over it's suspended surface.

Elemental powers, which can be upgraded with enough XP do add to the brawling action, but they're ever so slightly superfluous. Being able to summon stone armour for a temporary shield, a devastating whirlwind to sweep hordes of baddies off their feet, flame to create a burning trail in your wake and ice to thrust a path of icicles at oncoming threats is all well and good, but ultimately, they're not actually needed and you could quite happily get through the game without them. Combine these powers, and the prince does become quite formidable though, meaning that you'll never struggle in a scrap.

Story-wise, you'll be hooked enough that you'll want to finish Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, but it's the always engaging gameplay that's king here. The narrative is a bit slight at a mere 8-10 hours, which is fine for a single-player game, but there are very few extras to bolster the longevity once you've beaten the story. While it lasts, there's a great deal of fun to be had with The Forgotten Sands, but once you've seen all it has to offer – which isn't very much by today's standards – there's few reasons to go back and delve into the game again save a few bonus challenges. Essentially, The Forgotten Sands is appealing for simply being a nostalgic hark back to the roots of the franchise from 2002 onwards, but there's a rushed feel to the game that's hard to shake and a lack of genuine innovation. Still, for swashbuckling fun with a uniquely acrobatic bent, it's hard to beat Prince of Persia.

Top game moment: Anytime you string together a perfect athletic run from point to point.



By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on May 18, 2010
The movie looks good from the trailers I've seen (despite Gyllenhaal...ughhh!), but the game...meh!
By Kres (SI Elite) on May 20, 2010
The movie? Damn where have I been... Didn't knew!