by Robert Zak
previewed on PC
The Prince of Persia game series is one with a long and disjointed past. First, there was the 80s platformer, which traumatized me as a young gamer with the sight of a dead, blood-covered Prince skewered in a spike pit; that crunching sound of Prince on spikes still gives me the shudders. The next major step for the series should have been Prince of Persia 3D, but any game that felt the need to highlight its 3D-ness in 1999 was doomed to fail.
It was only with the brilliant Sands of Time in 2003 that the Prince stormed onto the modern gaming scene. The game's success paved the way for two moody sequels in '04 and '05, the subsequent Prince of Persia in 2008, and an upcoming big-budget Disney film starring Jake Gyllenhaal. Yes, Prince of Persia has become a hugely marketable franchise. But news on its latest installment, The Forgotten Sands, suggests that Ubisoft are not getting carried away.
Set in the Sands of Time universe, The Forgotten Sands puts you in charge of the nameless yet familiar Prince of Persia. The plot occurs between the events of Sands of Time and Warrior Within and follows the Prince as he visits his brother's kingdom. Unfortunately, there is little time to celebrate the family reunion as the kingdom is under siege from foreign invaders. In order to fend off the onslaught, the brothers will need more than just their trusty scimitar skills, harnessing new and dangerous powers, as well as some old and familiar ones.
While Ubisoft have not released too much information yet, we know that some of these powers involve the mastery of Nature (the elements presumably?) and the might of 'The Sand'. Which judging from what we have seen looks like a formidable, if slightly volatile, entity to have on your side. Also making a welcome return is the fan-favorite ability to manipulate time; a defining feature of the Sands of Time trilogy that was dropped in the renegade but brilliant Prince of Persia.
Getting a Hollywood Make-Over?
The Forgotten Sands will abandon the cell-shaded style of the last Prince of Persia outing, and take a more realistic graphical approach. This, along with the fact that it is set to be released at the same time as the film, has led some fans to worry that Forgotten Sands will inadvertently end up as a spin-off of the Hollywood feature. Thankfully, Prince of Persia purists needn't worry as Ubisoft have also confirmed that the game will have a separate story to the film, and that the Prince will not be voiced by Jake Gyllenhaal (would that have been such a bad thing?). Considering Forgotten Sands will be set in the iconic Sands of Time universe, and that it promises to contain bosses and battles on a scale unseen in the series, a more serious graphical style should prove better suited to this game than the comic-book look of Prince of Persia.
On the right track
From what precious little we know about the game so far, Forgotten Sands seems to be on the right track. By combining classic elements such as time-reversal and the Sands of Time plotline with new powers, graphics and an unprecedented sense of scale, there is no reason why it shouldn't be one of the best platform-action games of 2010. Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands will be released on all formats in May 2010, with Ubisoft hinting at exclusive content for every console.