It seems the Prince scarcely gets time for any R&R these days, and with the upcoming big-screen release, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, our free-running hero has been called back into action on the console front yet again. Does the magic of the Middle East sustain the Prince with grace, or are the grains of sand slowly slipping through his fingers?
I’ll give it to you straight: Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands for Wii is an odd beast. The story is set between last-gen games Sands of Time and Warrior Within, and Forgotten Sands is an incredibly slow burn. My first impressions of the game were less than great, but as the journey pressed on, I was lulled into an adventure that was often as blissfully satisfying as it was frustrating.
From the outset, you’re thrust into a race for survival as the world comes crashing down around you. Once the dust has settled, your djinni friend will catch you up to speed regarding a promised kingdom and bride, as well as a great evil you must overcome in order to claim your riches. Forgotten Sands’ story is much like wireframe graphics, in that just the bare essentials are offered as an impetus for gameplay.
Though long, unnecessarily wordy cutscenes can make gamer hands twitch with impatience, a modicum of polish would have been appreciated. The storytelling likely won’t inspire most players to push through to the end, so if you’re not a fan of PoP culture, keep that in mind when considering adding this title to your collection.
What Forgotten Sands does nail down fairly well, however, is traditional Prince of Persia (PoP) gameplay. Wall running and jumping, pole swinging, and other displays of death-defying action are all on the menu here, and the variety is enormous. If you’ve been with the franchise for a while, you’ll ease right into the experience, anticipating the way forward in most cases. That being said, the Prince does have some new tricks up his sleeve that should keep vets from ever growing weary of the path that lies ahead.
As for the controls, the developers do an admirable job in many respects, but there is still ample room for improvement. You’ll be using both the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, with the analog stick handling general movement of the Prince. There’s plenty of combat in The Forgotten Sands, and attacking has been mapped to Wii waggle; surprisingly enough, it’s actually not that bad. The game makers have wisely added an auto-lock-on feature that prevents flailing, and the battle sequences oftentimes prove entertaining…that is, until the camera system starts to misbehave, which it will do far too often.
The camera is pretty much going to be the ugly duckling throughout the entire adventure, whether it’s during intricate platformng segments or bouts with the game’s enemies. In action, the Prince locks onto enemies in a way similar to Ryu from the Ninja Gaiden games. However, the Prince will often drag the view with him into some incredibly compromising angles when attempting to remain locked onto a given foe.
There were occasions when I ended up plummeting to my death because the camera was locked in a bad angle, and regularly I’d get ambushed by off-screen enemies. To add insult to injury, the game will routinely place you in terribly cramped quarters where the camera will just go plain haywire.
You’re given some control over the camera, but it’s clunky at best. You can re-center the view behind the Prince by tapping the C button, or manually control the perspective by holding C and moving the onscreen cursor around with the Wii Remote’s IR; it’s a slow and clumsy process to say the least.
In spite of the ongoing struggles I had with the game, Forgotten Sands slowly unfolds into a compelling adventure – a bit too slowly, unfortunately. Some folks may not have the tenacity to allow the game to come into its own, but those who stick with it will be rewarded with some truly fun and challenging PoP gameplay.
At the heart of The Forgotten Sands’ formula are the Creation powers the Prince will acquire throughout the game. Your djinni companion will bestow upon you the power to manipulate the sands of Persia in some very clever ways. Though you’ll be led by the nose during the early parts of the adventure, you’ll eventually gain a surprising level of control, which will allow the Prince to tread his own path between main points.
All of the Creation powers are mapped to the B button, and depending upon what you’re pointing at with the Wii Remote, you can create various tools to help you negotiate the path ahead. For instance, by pointing at the ground and pressing B, you can summon a pillar of sand that will lift you above the ground; if you then point at a nearby wall and use your Creation ability, you’ll create a handhold you can now jump to. You can also encase the Prince within a sand sphere to suspend him in midair, and it’s in the process of combining your powers together the real fun emerges.
The Forgotten Sands takes many surprising turns, including a few sidesteps down traditional 2D platforming gameplay. In addition to the main story, you’ll unlock a host of really great content that was kind of unexpected for this underdog Wii outing. Included in this treasure trove are the original Prince of Persia game, new skins for the Prince that can be used during actual gameplay, as well as behind-the-scenes video diaries and new 2D platforming levels. It’s a robust gift basket that, for me, is what gives the package lasting value.
Unfortunately, the look of the game didn’t really impress me all that much. The Forgotten Sands for Wii runs smoothly, and nothing about the game looks bad per se. However, there’s a lack of detail and variety early on in the game, and character/enemy models are jaggy and full of blurry textures. There are some decent lighting and particle effects, and if you stick with it, you’ll be treated to more interesting environments late in the adventure. On the whole, however, The Forgotten Sands has a very barebones look and feel to it.
The music fares a bit better, and though it lacks the epic scale of its next-gen siblings, The Forgotten Sands on Wii has some mesmerizing themes that make figuring out many of the game’s puzzle-platforming segments a joyously methodical process. The sound effects and voice acting get the job done, but they’re a footnote at best.
Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands for Wii is a worthwhile adventure, but it’s far from perfect. It’s hard to shake the feeling the game was hurried along in order to arrive on time with the release of The Sands of Time movie. The problems the game exhibits likely could have been ironed out with a longer development cycle. The story is interesting, though there isn’t much of it. The visuals and audio presentation are decent, but they don’t come close to having the same impact as last generation’s Sands of Time did. In the end, though, good gameplay shines through in spite of many frustrating side effects, and the extra content alone is almost worth the price of admission. If you’re a fan of the Prince and up for another thrilling adventure, you’ll definitely want to give this one a look.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.6 Graphics
The visuals are serviceable, sometimes pretty. The Prince on Wii, though, would have likely benefitted from a visual style more in line with The Sands of Time from last generation. 3.5 Control
The combat system actually feels quite good, but the camera is horrid most times. The real joy lies almost strictly within the platforming/free-running gameplay 3.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The sound effects are wholly unremarkable, but themes sit alongside the gameplay in a meaningful way. 4.3
The main adventure is more than respectable when compared to other current games in the genre, but it’s the “other” stuff that really makes this a valued product.
3.6 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.