Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
After centuries of exploration, the majority of the American public still knows little about the countries around the world. Ask your classmates what they know about Persia. Depending on their age, they might give a wonderful discussion on the social implications of Scheherazade, rave about the cool animated action of Aladdin, or probably mutter something along the lines of how gasoline prices are crappy due to the Arabian oil supply. But try asking them to look up Persia on a globe or map. Chances are, they’ll vaguely point in the general direction of the Eurasian landmass, somewhere in between Africa and China. And as the latest generation grows up in the blissful ignorance of suburban life, they can look to Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time for all of information they need on the exotic land from afar.
What are your notions of that area? What do you think of when the name “Persia” comes up? Do you envision blistering desert heat and massive cities with spectacular palaces? How about incredibly wealthy royalty and a vast array of tasty foods? But if you just imagine a generic action hero with a crescent-shaped sword with some pretty stylish dungarees, you’re in for a treat. You play as the Prince of Persia, a brash and headstrong young man with an attitude and chip on his shoulder. This spoiled rebel without a cause has discovered the Dagger of Time, a mysterious and powerful relic. Trying to be a good son, the prince brings the artifact back to the palace to add to palace’s immense treasure. Consulting the royal vizier for advice, our hero uses the Dagger to activate the Hourglass, another mysterious item that seems to work with the Prince’s new find. And before you can say predictable vizier betrayal plot twist, the Hourglass unleashes the Sands of Time, a destructive force of biblical proportions. The little grains of the mystical spell certain doom to everyone it touches. And as the Prince manages to escape, he can only watch in horror as his beloved Father is mutated into a sand-filled zombie. Being the only living good guy left in the palace, it’s up to the Prince to undo his mistake and take his revenge on the evil vizier.
Unfortunately, this guy is an emotional wreck. His dad was turned into a zombie and his home has been utterly wiped clean of human existence. Though his bitterness is understandable given the circumstances, it’s a real shame that this guy lets his emotions get the best of him. He’ll tromp his way through his adventure, letting his melancholy attitude see him through the best and worst of times. But while the Prince is a pretty angsty fellow, he is incredibly agile. Not only does he have the basic combat skills of just about every generic action hero on the market, but also quick, nimble, and has the athletic ability of an Olympian. This guy can run on walls, perform aerial somersaults, and jump with almost inhuman capability. Using his remarkably fine tuned abilities, the Prince stands a little bit better chance at surviving than your average hero.
However, the palace has been conveniently rearranged since the Sands of Time were unleashed. You’d think that a place like the sultan’s palace would be retrofitted against disasters of epic proportions, but the massive building complex is partially in ruin. There are crumbled walls, huge gaps of bottomless pits, missing floors, and just about anything else that could result from lacking workmanship. There also plenty of hidden rooms, secret areas, and well-placed pickups and ledges all over the place. Using his masterful art of wall running and somersaulting, the Prince must make it past these accidental barriers to discover all of the nooks and crannies of the palace and progress through the game.
But if those weren’t annoying enough, we also have to factor in the myriad of booby traps strewn all over the palace. Originally used to keep out potential thieves, the traps merely impede the Prince’s progress even more. There are motorized buzz saws running along the walls, spike strips, rotating poles of doom, whirling crescent blades that make up the countless mini-puzzles in the game. Using the Prince’s abilities, you have to figure out a way around the traps without getting hurt. But it’s the constant increasing of the difficulty that makes these traps so irritating. It can be especially aggravating if you’re trying to run along the wall, then get sliced by a buzz saw and fall to your death, leaving you no other option than to start afresh. Also, it may take a while before you can time your button pressing to perfect the Prince maneuvers. In the end, it’s all a matter of practice, timing, and a whole lot of patience.
But what happens if you absolutely can’t get the control down? What if you spend hours dying on the same ridiculous trap over and over, with tears streaming down your face and your hair torn out by the aggravation? Fear not, for the Prince has another trick up his sleeve: The Dagger of Time. Although he was tricked into unleashing the Sands of Time, the Prince managed to keep a grip on the dagger that started it all. Using this mysterious artifact, our hero can control the flow of time. If he somehow plunges to his doom, you can hit a button and watch in wonder as the animation goes into rewinding mode. It’s kind of comical watching the Prince suddenly spring back from the abyss and land back at his starting point. Using this convenient feature, you can attempt a trap with at least more than one more chance if you screw up. However, there is also a huge problem with timing the rewinding parts. If you press and hold the button down, the game will rewind. However, if you accidentally release the button to soon, the game will automatically stop, letting our hero fall to his death yet again. Thus the Dagger is both a blessing and a curse, a crucial factor in your success in the game.
Of course, the Prince will have plenty more to face than a bunch of annoying traps as he continues on his quest. Remember when the Sands of Time were released, and everyone was tuned into zombies? For some reason, they’re all after you. You’ll face off against small gangs of ruthless undead warriors armed to the missing teeth with scimitars, swords, spears, hammers, and daggers. However, these minions of the dead move incredibly slow, letting you block and evade their predictable attacks. Using your mystical weapon, you slice them into dust and collect their very life force. Also, the Prince comes equipped with a fair amount of dodges, evasion maneuvers, and plenty of acrobatic combat abilities. While it may sound easy to turn your enemy into dust, the real difficulty lies with their numbers. Even though they move like molasses, they can be pretty formidable when you’re taking on three or four at once. You have to be able to take in your surroundings, make judgments and attack strategies, on the run, and hope your life gauge can withstand the fight. And if you do happen to get knocked out, you can always use your trusty Dagger of Time to replay the battle in another way.
And as you’re hacking and slashing your way through the undead and warping the fabric of time every time you die, don’t forget to have a look at the palace. While this place is fraught with booby traps and freaky sand zombies, you’re still playing in an enchanting environment. The sultan’s palace is made up of countless hallways and rooms, each of which is rendered with an amazing amount of detail. You can observe to brickwork of the crumbling hallways and the dull glow of the of the oil lamps lining the walls. You can see the branches of the trees shift as the hot desert air runs through the area. Even the Prince is presented with a fair amount of detail. You’d expect that the son of the wealthiest sultan in the region would be covered with jewels and regal adornments, but our hero is clad in a generic blue shirt and some dungarees. Even though his body is a little out of proportion, he still comes across as a daring and nimble warrior.
Also, you have an incredibly well made audio presentation to bring all the other game elements together. This game is a realistic as can be, complete with every minute detail that you could possibly think of. The audio is emphasized with the echoing effects mixed with the sound effects. It makes you feel like you’re standing in the same room with the Prince. You can hear every single step the Prince makes as he traverse through the palace and metal grinding on metal as he unsheathes his sword and dagger. You can even hear is whiny, self-righteous voice with echoing down the hallways with perfect clarity. Also, this game has plenty of voice-overs, as if the Prince is telling his adventures to a loved one. Even if you die, he’ll reassure us that wasn’t how he messed up his storytelling, and that he’ll explain how it “really” happened.
So, what will happen to this ongoing tale of Arabian adventure? After such a long run on the gaming scene, Prince of Persia is still going strong with its latest rendition. This game is very well balanced package. It has an emotionally driven storyline, an intriguing hero, plenty of headache-inducing platform puzzles to figure out, and some of the best graphics and audio that we’ve on the Gamecube to this date. It’s a godsend for all of those Gamecube owners who are platformer fanatics, giving them another option besides a few other lackluster games of the genre. For all of you that are seeking a challenge and great adventure, give Prince of Persia a go.
Nine out of ten