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November 20, 2003
Prince of Persia The Sands of Time - Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
13/11/2003UbiSoftUbiSoft Montreal1G8+Medium
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen

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Running over the spikes.
Damn those French speaking Canadian game developers. It's because of them I most probably failed my Adolescent Psychology exam at University this week. How's that you say? Well Price of Persia: The Sands of Time is one of the most addictive and engrossing titles in years. So much so that everything else seems unimportant and unnecessary - including university to give me a lifelong career. For a fan of the original Prince of Persia I was looking forward to this title, but updates don't always work out for the best and my anticipation levels weren't dramatically high upon hearing the game being announced. That was until I saw footage and read the positive press from this years E3 show in May. From then on I have been keenly interested and increasingly impressed with every detail about this title.

The first Prince of Persia was developed and released by Broaderbund way back in 1989 (that's 14 years ago now!). To this day it is still regarded as a defining moment in gaming due to the realistic animations and addictive gameplay. Over the years there have been two sequels including Prince of Persia 3D released in 1999, but it didn't quite capture the same lofty levels of gameplay finesse and excitement. Still, the first 3 games managed sales in excess of 3 million units. Unlike the previous titles, Prince of Persia The Sands of Time includes a fairly detailed storyline.

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Now that's a big damn enemy!
Amidst the scorched sands of ancient Persia, there is a legend spun in an ancient tongue. It speaks of a time borne by blood and ruled by deceit. It is within this war torn land that a young Prince discovers a magic dagger. Drawn to its dark powers, he is led to unleash a deadly evil upon the reaches of his father's vast kingdom. Aided by the wiles of a seductive princess and the absolute powers of the Sands of Time, the Prince stages a harrowing quest to reclaim the Palace's cursed chambers, and restore peace to the very fabric of time itself. He must tread these dangers carefully, however, because in this world, there is only one rule: master the Sands, or be buried.

Prince of Persia The Sands of Time is a third person adventure title which mixes both platforming with sword based combat. Shortly after starting the game you are joined by a female companion, Farah. Due to her slender frame she will often assist you by squeezing though small cracks to reach levers and switches which would be impossible for you to reach without her. Still, her reasons and motivations remain a mystery through most of the game and plays a role not dissimilar to Yorda in ICO, although she speaks English.

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One of the combat sections.
The combat itself is fairly elementary. Hack and slash an enemy until they fall to the ground and then stab them with the Dagger of Time. By doing this you fill up your meter to reverse time. Yes, its possible to reverse time in the game or slow it down during moments of combat to give you a skight edge and see what is happening easier. Reversing time is usedul when you fall off a ledge, get killed by an enemy, or do something generally stupid as you can "rewind" about 10 seconds of time to take you back to a safety point. This works pretty well, but considering the number of save points in the game (after almost every dangerous platforming or combat section) it seems a little pointless as reloading the game may only place you back a few seconds. One thing that does work very well is the difficulty. Starting out fairly easy the game allows you to master the controls before throwing up some tougher challenges. By the end of the game you'll really have to have all you wits to complete the game. More developers should take note of this increasing difficulty level.

Also impressive is the stunning level design. With the game set around a massive castle there are plenty of ledges to climb, passages to run down and pits to jump over. During the latter part of the game navigating the levels requires some thought as the floors crumble away, or are covered in spikes and progress is often done by jumping from ledge to ledge or from one pole to the next. It's impressive stuff, and most rewarding.

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Pushing the lever.
There really is very little to complain about with this title in the gameplay department. Perhaps my biggest complaint revolvs around the combat which can become repetitive and somewhat unsatisfying - fortunately this isn't the meat of the gameplay. Having the enemies teleport around is rather neat however on many occasions it's possible to simply run past them and into the next section of the castle without being persued. Also slightly annoying are the premonitions which occur at every save point. These give you clues to the upcoming stages of the castle, but can take away some of the discovery which makes the game so enjoyable. Finally, there are simply too many save points for my liking - especially when combined with invisible checkpoints.

One of the strongest aspects of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time are the stunning visuals. The texturing is simply stunning while the load times are virtually non-existant. The game is given a great looks thanks to a soft lighting effect. From a technical standpoint, the Prince has 1500 polygons, with many details seen through the physics engine of the game. His hair, pants, and increasingly roughed-up shirt (it degrades during the game) are affected by movement and wind, and his dagger even swings from side to side create an even greater sense of realism.

The only negative about the visuals, and this does affect the gameplay, is the camera which can become problematic with some wierd camera angles making it hard, especially in the later levels, to see where you need to go to next. This camera consequently can cause some problems during the combat as it doesn't automatically zoom out enough to see all the enemies surrounding you.

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Being attacked by the birds.
Sound easily adds the most atmosphere to this title. The opening battle scenes, through a good sound system, will shake your room while the music is atmospheric, particularly towards the beginning and end of the game. This music is predominantly Arabian with some wonderful compositions. Sound effects are fairly standard with the clash of swords, grunts from falls and some nice water effects near waterfalls and rivers. Speech is limited, but what is there is good quality.

If you haven't got the gist of this review then you deserve to be spanked (and no, I'm not volunteering). Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is simply stunning. It's easily in the same league as Mario 64, Rayman 2 and Jak & Daxter and the phenomenal ICO as the most impressive platform games of all time. In my mind, however, this game exceeds those titles due to the great puzzle elements and stunning sound and visuals. If you're a Playstation 2 owner there should be no hesitation in picking up this groundbreaking title.

Review By: David Warner

GRAPHICSStunning textures and location, the camera occasionally disappoints.
SOUNDSome wonderful music, solid sound effects and some solid speech.
GAMEPLAYAddictive, addictive, addictive. Fun, fun, fun. That's all I need to say.
VALUEIt will take about 10-12 hours to complete, but is worth every cent.
OVERALLPrince of Persia The Sands of Time has met every single hope that I had for it, and then exceeded those expectations by a long way. This is one of those classic games that will be remembered for years and has certainly become one of UbiSoft's flagship series'. If you don't go and get this game you're a bloody fool. This is possibly the most fun I've had all year.

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