|System: X360, PS3, PC, Wii, PSP, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Ubisoft Quebec||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Ubisoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: May 18, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by J. Matthew Zoss
Ever since Ubisoft took over the Prince of Persia franchise with Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, the series has been concerned with the concept of turning back the clock. In each release, the title character uses the power to control the flow of time in order to overcome the platforming challenges he encounters, and that formula hasn't changed for Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands.
As with most major franchise releases, The Forgotten Sands has appeared on pretty much every gaming console you can think of, including the PlayStation Portable. While many PSP games attempt to emulate the console version of its associated game, Ubisoft wisely went a different way for The Forgotten Sands' PSP version. Sticking with the concept of turning back time, The Forgotten Sands PSP looks to the original PC Prince of Persia games as inspiration.
The PSP version of The Forgotten Sands is an old-school side-scrolling adventure that marries the acrobatic platforming moves and time control powers of the new games with the clever side-scrolling level designs of the original games. As with all of the Prince of Persia titles, The Forgotten Sands kicks off with a simple plot that sends the title character running through a series of obstacles with minimal story elements. This time, The Prince is on the run from a fire demon that is out to assassinate the royal family in order to prevent his prophesized death at a royal's hands. He quickly recruits the help of Helem, a floating sprite with the power to slow time. Helem recruits the Prince to rescue her sisters, other sprites who have been imprisoned by the fire demon. Together, the duo adventure across the kingdom on their quest to defeat their common enemy.
Despite the 3D look of the game, each of the game's many stages unfold in strict side-scrolling fashion. The Prince has all his standard tricks, such as wall-jumping, swinging from poles, and the like. The majority of every stage is centered on platforming elements, which require more and more frequent use of Helem's time control powers as the game progresses. At first, she can only slow time, which can only be used in specific instances. Moving traps can be stopped in place and flows of sand can be frozen into solid poles that can be jumped onto or swung from. After acquiring the ability to increase time, you can use it to speed up those same sand flows into super-pressured streams that can push blocks into position or get slow-moving obstacles out of your way. Later stages require frequent use of both powers, as well as lightning-fast movement from platform to platform. Fortunately, if you fall to your death, your time powers keep the penalties minimal. Die once and you'll return to the start of the current room, losing a chunk of your life bar. Deplete your life bar entirely and you'll get bounced back to the last save point. It's a fair system that punishes your failures but not so harshly as to be too frustrating.
Overall, the controls handle the platforming elements pretty well. The Prince is controlled with the D-pad (not the analog nub) and time control powers are mapped to the shoulder buttons. The control scheme allows you to quickly unleash your powers on the environment around you, but there are a few minor frustrations. To run up a wall, you need to press up on the D-pad rather than towards the wall. It's not a major problem, but a bit strange until you get used to it. After all, to scale a wall to your right, you'd expect to press right. Right? A more substantive problem presents itself in the rare instances when you need to choose between one of several objects in the environment to affect with your time controls powers. Helem automatically moves from one target to the next, but you can guide her specifically with the analog nub. At least, that's the theory. Aiming her is the one aspect of the control scheme that simply doesn't work as it should. Helem continues to move independently even as you try to target her, so controlling her usually feels slippery and jittery. Even when you're not trying to control her, Helem's targeting can be problematic. In several instances, she moved on to the next target when I needed her to stay put. In one area, you need to swing from a series of sand flows that you freeze into poles. Only one can be frozen at a time, so you need to freeze one, swing from it, and trigger your time power while in the air. Several times Helem skipped my target and fluttered ahead to the next one, causing me to die time after time until I finally managed to freeze them all in perfect succession.