Developers: Ubisoft Montreal
Plot: After opening the Sands of Time, The Prince finds himself hunted by the Dahaka, a monster tasked with tracking him down and killing him to restore balance to time.
Returning to a game franchise after a long hiatus can sometimes be a bad experience. The original Prince of Persia game was special to me for being my first foray into the PS2. I loved the character, the universe and the puzzle elements to the game. It was tough, but pleasantly so, testing me as a gamer. For some reason, I never continued the franchise. Picking up the sequel almost 17 years after I originally dove into that first game, I found myself critically disappointed.
The problem with the hiatus between instalments is that I can no longer truly recall if Prince of Persia’s sequel is a genuine dip in quality or if the Sands of Time was actually only good in my head. The same gameplay style seems to remain. The free-running function remains with most of the non-combat gameplay focused on running across walls, jumping from column to column or balancing on beams across dangerous drops. Timing is everything and more often than not, it leads to a frustrated scream as your Prince hops off in a random and fatal direction. That is not something I am too willing to criticise, because that is the name of the game. Worse are the moments where the next step in the climb up a castle isn’t obvious, so you lose a few key lives or rewind powers, trying to clamber up unclimbable obstacle. The combat is also the same, although you have far more techniques to choose from. It feels a lot harder this time around though (I admit this might be a problem with my memories of the first game), punishing players who aren’t willing to adopt to the gymnastic style. Try to get away with just slashing and blocking and any enemy will make short work of you. The gameplay is perhaps similar, but it is the tone that jars with me. While the Sands of Time was a dark piece, essentially the Prince fighting zombified versions of his friends and family, it was played with colour. The colour scheme was bright and popped out of the screen, while the Prince and his female companion, Farrah, were full of quips and humoristic comments. For some reason, this side of Prince of Persia seems to have been sucked from proceedings. The Prince is a more stereotypical dour figure, brooding and serious. Jokes are replaced with threats. Smiles are replaced with smoulders. The colour scheme is grimier too, the landscape of the game map shadowy and grey. Enemies are mainly black, the little colour splashed onto their models a dark variation. It’s not just darker, but more mature. Female enemies are skimpily dressed and purr sexual insults at you. Anyone who gets a good giggle at the rule of female armour in games will cringe at the sight of the first major villain. It is a far cry from the Prince of Persia I remember, a hollow example of what came before. In removing the fun from the gameplay, there is little reason to stick out this dross to the end. A major disappointment.
Final Verdict: The sequel is a pale imitation of the fun platformer that came before it, ripping the fun from the franchise and replacing it with a boring seriousness.