Guest Review: Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands (PS3)

by Matt Damiano

Editor's note: We at Silicon Sasquatch have a problem. We don't get to play every game that comes out simply because we aren't sent review copies by publishers. However, we have friends who, like us, buy their own games, and these same friends also happen to be competent writers. Mr. Matt Damiano is one of those people, and we'd like to congratulate him on being our first guest reviewer. Let him know what you think of his review in the comments!

Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands is the follow-up to the 2008 series reboot, Prince of Persia, which didn't make much of an initial commercial impression despite its generally positive reviews (and my personal favor). Consequently, Ubisoft Montreal opted to return to the original mythos of the Sands of Time games and explore the seven-year gap between Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and Prince of Persia: Warrior Within. Given the studio’s lengthy track record with the Prince, how does Forgotten Sands hold up?

In Forgotten Sands, the always affable and snarky Prince is traveling to visit his brother Malik, who guards King Solomon's castle. Invaders seize the castle upon the Prince's arrival, and in an attempt to fend-off the attack Malik unleashes an ancient, evil army made of (wait for it…) sand. It's then up to the Prince to get the situation under control in a plot reminiscent of Sands of Time. The story is simple and episodic, which lends well to the Arabian Nights feel, but the content never really soars to the heights of Sands of Time. At least the Prince’s one-liners are well-timed nuggets of hilarity.

The series' signature platforming is once again the star, and in that respect Forgotten Sands marks a new high point for Prince of Persia. The Prince regains the power to reverse time, but more impressive is his control over water and other elements. At the press of a button the Prince can freeze cascading water into place to perform sweet parkour maneuvers. The new twist on acrobatics adds a surprising amount of depth to game, especially because it could have been pure rehash. It also looks completely awesome.

Ever since Sands of Time, which had a fighting system I loved, Ubisoft has reinvented the combat mechanics with each new iteration of the series. Forgotten Sands is no exception. In sharp contrast to the last Prince of Persia's one-on-one duels, Forgotten Sands introduces combat with anywhere from 10 to 100 enemies at once. The mechanics aren't bad, as is the case with the other Prince games, but the combat is pretty simplistic even when compared with Sands of Time. I will say that Forgotten Sands does a fantastic job of integrating its melee component into the game: Combat is less frequent than in previous entries, and the transition between it and the platforming is seamless. Players can even jump from one enemy to the next a la Dead Rising. So while fighting is a fun diversion, Prince of Persia fans aren't expected to buy these games for the combat alone.

Furthermore, while I have a deep respect for the folks at Ubisoft Montreal because their sequels often address the predecessor's issues, sometimes the studio overdoes it. Overhauling combat for the umpteenth time was unnecessary, and I can't help but feel like Ubisoft lost its nerve and gave-in to the incessant demands for a new Sands of Time game. And while Forgotten Sands is an enjoyable throwback to its predecessors, the ending practically screams sequel, whereas I want to see the series move in a new direction.

Forgotten Sands doesn't feel like a cheap cash-in that coincides with the release of the movie. And though my experience with the game has been positive, it does feel like a substantial concession to a fan base that wanted more of the same. Thankfully the gameplay is made fresh by the new elemental powers and clever level design, which is ultimately what I -- and presumably most of the fans – were hoping for anyway. If you like Prince of Persia, you owe it to yourself to check out Forgotten Sands.