Prince of Persia: the Sands of Time (long)

edited December 2003 in Gaming

Comments

  • edited December 1969
    Johnny Law summed up Prince of Persia elsewhere thusly:

    I like it a lot so far. I'm about half done... not sure exactly how long it's going to take, but it's going to be more on the order of 20 hours than a 40 hour monster like KOTOR. Which will be about right for this style of game.

    It looks gorgeous, especially the environments and the main character. The Prince has around 750 animations I think, which one of the designers said is the most for any game character so far. That's not 750 different moves, it includes things like transition and idle animations, but still.

    A lot of the game is made up of puzzles where you have to get from point A to point B. Mostly you have to figure out how to use your "Persian ninja" skills to get there... running up walls, swinging around bars, Tarzanning on ropes, and so forth. You've probably seen pictures/movies. Very cool moves, and a lot of them. There's also a little bit of pushing/pulling objects around. This part of the game is very well done; the only gripe I have is that occasionally -- just occasionally -- you have to carefully use all three camera modes to get a good enough look at your environment to figure out what to do. The puzzles are not terribly cryptic; I'm a little stuck right now, but it's the first time that's happened in the game so far.

    The other main part of the game is fighting. It's kind of like Soul Calibur but much much simpler. :-) You have a limited set of moves and special powers, although some of them are pretty unique, like vaulting over an enemy and whacking at the back of their head as you flip over. You tend to fight several enemies at once. This gameplay is a little twitch-y, and has the fighting-game property that you have certain delays enforced between your attacks. You can button-mash for maybe the first quarter of the game but then you have to actually get good at the fighting, with blocking and timing and attack selection and choosing when to use your powers. The first big battle frustrated me for a while, but I'm starting to warm up to the fighting now.

    So the game does have a moderate (in the puzzles) to significant (in the fighting) dexterity component. If you want something with no twitch gameplay, or something that is all twitch, PoP will be no good, since it's in-between. Otherwise, check it out.
    My two cents, and a few things JL didn't mention: I find the design outstanding. I'm a little over 1/3 of the way through the game, and so far it's been the perfect mix of puzzle solving and fighting. Just when I'm starting to get tired of puzzling, some bad guys show up and it's time for some blade whirling action. The art design is breathtaking, but you can get a good idea of that from any review with screenshots (like those found on gametab.com, gamerankings.com, or rottentomatoes.com,).

    The game also has a "protect the NPC" element, which I usually despise in any game. Prince of Persia does it better than any other game I've seen. You do need to protect the NPC, but the NPC pretty much stays out of the way, sometimes helping with combat. At times, the NPC helps you solve puzzles. Much of the time, you're still solo.

    The game's best feature--time manipulation--is a godsend. I played Blinx, too, and where the time manipluation in Blinx was clumsy and ill-conceived, Sands of Time gets it right. Time manipulation has not been required to get through the first third of the game, but there are places where it helps a lot. Slow motion is great for cleaning up multiple enemies and for zippping through some of the harder to navigate hazards. The rewind feature is like having a few spare checkpoints to save your bacon if you get yourself in trouble. With all the leaping, swinging and bouncing off walls, you're bound to miss now and then, and rewind makes the game feel a lot friendlier--and more fun!

    My only gripes are the voice acting sound design, and camera. The voices are uneven, some bits really well done, others too emotional, not emotional enough, or just uneven. The dynamic range of the game is ridiculously huge. This is a problem if you play it in a place where anyone else can hear, because the loud bits are REALLY loud, and sometimes the voices are barely audible. I'm not sure if this is a 5.1 mix problem or what--I play it in Dolby Digital, and haven't tried 2 channel. The atmospheric effects and music are outstanding, but the overall sound mix seems rough.

    The auto-camera is about average for a game like this, it occasionally gets stuck, and sometimes leaves you looking at a pillar or something instead of the action. It doesn't screw up very often, but when it does, it's awful. Sometimes you can fix it with manual control, other times the manual control is inexplicably stuck as well.

    Gamespot has an excellent article on the design of the game and some of its influences (including Crouching Tiger, The Matrix, and a Donald Duck game (!)). Not sure if it's premium content, but in any case it's available here: http://www.gamespot.com/features/6079652/index.html (Incidentally, that article mentions that the auto 3D cam was a late addition to the design, so that probably explains some of its rougher edges.)

    Anyone who enjoyed Super Mario 64 or Tomb Raider will love this game! It's comparable to them, but superior in many ways. Sands of Time is a very worthy successor to the original Prince of Persia games.

    _/ C


    [url=http://fun.clanplaid.net]_/ C's Site o' Fun![/url]
  • edited December 1969
    Re: Prince of Persia: the Sands of Time (long)

    The game's best feature--time manipulation--is a godsend.

    Yeah. In some ways it serves the same purpose as the regenerating shield in Halo... it allows you to screw up occasionally without incurring permanent damage. Some of the puzzles would be very tedious without the time rewind. I tend to use it quite a bit in the fighting as well, e.g. something lands a big-ass hit on me and I rewind. Actually, in fighting it's even more like the regen shield, because you can regenerate your time powers from the creatures you kill.

    Anyway, it's a good thing. My only gripe with it is that your time counter gets reset when you use a special time power... so, if you get whacked and killed right after you use your Freeze power, it doesn't matter how many rewinds you have left, because you won't be able to rewind back far enough to avoid the whacking.

    The dynamic
    range of the game is ridiculously huge. This is a problem if you
    play it in a place where anyone else can hear, because the loud
    bits are REALLY loud, and sometimes the voices are barely
    audible. I'm not sure if this is a 5.1 mix problem or what--I
    play it in Dolby Digital, and haven't tried 2 channel. The
    atmospheric effects and music are outstanding, but the overall
    sound mix seems rough.

    I noticed that Farah's voice is sometimes quite soft. This may be a result of her voice being 3D-sourced, i.e. it's emanating from her head and your camera may be far away from her head at times. Dunno.

    The auto-camera is about average for a game like this, it
    occasionally gets stuck, and sometimes leaves you looking at a
    pillar or something instead of the action. It doesn't screw up
    very often, but when it does, it's awful. Sometimes you can fix
    it with manual control, other times the manual control is
    inexplicably stuck as well.

    I've apparently been lucky in this regard. :-) No unusable camera positions, just the occasional need to fool around with the various cameras to make sure that I can see all the usable (runnable jumpable climbable) surfaces in my area.

    This is a separate issue, but: the camera does ocassionally take on a will of its own when you do something "cinematic" like vault over an enemy or destroy them with the time dagger. That may drive some people crazy. I got used to it pretty quickly myself.

    Anyone who enjoyed Super Mario 64 or Tomb Raider will love this
    game! It's comparable to them, but superior in many ways. Sands
    of Time is a very worthy successor to the original Prince of
    Persia games.

    One thought I had while playing it, is that this is the game that Tomb Raider wanted to be. I'm not ready to crown it the Genre King until I finish playing it, but it's been fun so far.

    BTW, it looks like you can unlock the original PoP and its sequel, somehow (probably by completing the game).
  • edited December 1969
    Finished it last night...

    Good game. The designers really kept their head in the game all the way to the end. The last portion (maybe a couple of hours or so) was a nice combination of all the stuff you learned to do throughout the game, with an additional twist.

    Some interesting "PG-13" stuff in the story, too. :-)

    The combat system still frustrated me at times... it was hard to get used to the idea that I couldn't leap about and hack away any time I wanted to. For example, lying on the ground holding down the guard trigger while you're getting pummeled, you can't pick just any moment to get up and run away -- you can only move once a certain amount of time has expired since you were last whacked. I guess that sort of thing is pretty standard for fighting games (as opposed to shooters).

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