Should’ve Remained Forgotten
As the release date for this new Prince of Persia title grew nearer, I couldn’t help but to get excited about another outing with the Prince and Elika. Imagine my surprise when I found out that this game inexplicably wouldn’t have anything to do with that title. Well, perhaps since it was coming out so close to the Prince of Persia film’s release it would just be a game based upon that experience. Nope, that was strike two. Instead, this is a title that throws players back into the Sands of Time universe for one last (hopefully) hurrah.
While I may have been somewhat unhappy with the decision to go back to the Prince’s classic trilogy instead of siding with the fairly well done newer Prince of Persia, as a fan of the series there are really only two things that I need from a Prince of Persia game to derive enjoyment from it. My two requirements are great platforming gameplay and solid controls that will enable me to appreciate it. Having not played the console versions of Price of Persia: The Forgotten Sands yet, I can’t say whether or not those versions managed to live up to these standards. However, I can definitely relay to you that the DS version almost completely fails on both accounts, as well in several others, making it barely worth the time necessary to slip the cartridge into the system for fans of the series.
The game starts out with the Prince involved in some sort of ritual that winds up giving him amnesia. With no idea who he is or who he should trust, he runs into a spirit who continually gives him bits of information about his identity and some sort of purpose, so he decides to go along for the ride. Following the spirit’s lead, the Prince must make his way through a plethora of levels in order to regain his power, memories, and to save a kingdom from evil. After the introductory cinema, the majority of this game’s storyline is delivered throughout without the aid of voice over or cinematics, conveyed only through pictures of the characters and text blocks.
Honestly, though, the storyline and the way it is presented isn’t all that important as long as the game is fun to play. Unfortunately, it becomes apparent from the outset of this incredibly short adventure that the gameplay wouldn’t be able to salvage the experience. To begin with, The Forgotten Sands plays almost entirely like the last Prince of Persia title on the DS. This means using the stylus, and only the stylus, to complete the game. While we’ve seen other DS games use this method of control to great success, like the Legend of Zelda titles, it remains an awkward fit for the Prince’s outing.
Dragging the stylus on the screen will encourage the Prince to run in that indicated direction. This includes running up walls, running on walls, jumping over pits, climbing up poles, etc. But instead of feeling like you’re in direct control of the Prince, it just feels as though you’re dangling a carrot in front of him that he desperately wants to catch up to. Throughout the earlier levels in the game, where there are very few hazards or difficult platforming challenges, this method of control seems to work out well enough. However, when you combine the ease of these early levels and the disconnected feeling of the controls, much of the beginning of this game feels like it is playing itself rather than relying on you to lead the way.
Of course, if the Prince wanted to catch up with your stylus carrot as badly as he seems to, you’d think he’d follow its directions much more carefully than he does. Once you’ve snoozed your way through the relatively challenge-free opening levels of the game, issues with the stylus controls become painfully apparent. When trying to perform successive wall jumps in order to climb or get away from hazards, you’ll frequently find the Prince misinterpreting, or simply just ignoring, your commands. This can become especially frustrating once you start running into the surfeit of one-hit-kill hazards such as the moving saw blades that litter almost every inch of this game.
Much like the Sands of Time trilogy, the Prince still has the ability to use sand to a few different ends in order to help out in his journey. The two major powers you’ll make use of are the ability to slow down and rewind time. Some specific areas will actually be impassible due to the speed of hazards unless you use your timed slow motion ability. The ability to rewind time is also incredibly useful throughout your adventure, helping to make up for the often finicky controls. Well, that is if it worked properly.
Just as frustrating as the stylus controls is your ability to turn back time and essentially undo your mistakes; it will frequently fail you. A few of the problems with the rewind feature come from level design. One of these major problems is having pits so deep that your ability to rewind time isn’t long enough to put you safely back up on the ledge, leaving you to rewind just far enough to see yourself fall again and again without the ability to stop it. Another issue arose from some awkwardness with the way the Prince interacts with his environment. I can’t relay the amount of times I’ve been standing on a tiny ledge just to have the Prince flail uncontrollably off of it to one side down a pit to his death and, given the incredibly limited time allotted for rewinding, there was no way to correct for it. There’s nothing like starting a frustrating level over again because you just can’t rewind far enough.
Besides the gameplay that seems to only have two settings, boring or frustrating, the visuals of this game are also subpar even for a DS title. The Prince and his many enemies look like character models taken directly from Final Fantasy VII, complete with jaggies and indistinguishable features. Despite the clearly scaled down visuals, you’ll still notice things disappearing from the environment from time to time. In one particular level you’re tasked with maneuvering a series of mirrors in order to reflect light at some crystals. Even in the flyover the game gives you prior to the challenge, these crystals will pop in and out of existence, making it harder to make a mental inventory of where you’ll need to go to solve the challenge.
Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands is truly a missed opportunity. Whether giving you direct, D-pad-and-buttons control over the Prince or just scrapping the 3D visuals in favor of a more classic 2D Prince of Persia experience would have made the game inherently better is debatable. However, what isn’t debatable is that this game is made largely unenjoyable thanks to its questionable stylus controls and often useless rewind feature. Those looking to take the Prince for another spin should definitely look elsewhere.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.2 Graphics
Every character in this game looks like they were pulled from the early days of the PS1, not to mention the objects in the environments flickering out of existence at times. 2.3 Control
Whether you’re just holding your stylus and watching the Prince do what he needs to make his way through easy levels or getting enraged when he’s ignoring your time-sensitive commands, this Prince isn’t fun to handle. 3.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
With no voice work and only limited music and sound effects, the sound here isn’t great but it gets the job done well enough. 2.3
This is a very short title with little to no replay value. I also spent much of my time playing either bored to tears because of the easy early levels or infuriated to the point of wanting to hurl my DS like a discus because of the unresponsive controls and broken rewind feature.
2.3 Overall Rating – Poor
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.