Prince of Persia

Prince of Persia

Converting 2D to 3D went fairly well for the platforming genre, but considering how much overview and control simplicity is lost in translation the 3D counterparts were much slower and simpler than some 2D games dared – either that, or they weren’t really 3D to begin with. Problem is, routinely failing leeds to frustration (look at any Sonic Game from the last three generations) and frustration doesn’t sell well. Instead of backing away like most others, Ubisoft took the problem head-on looking for innovative solution – the time-rewind mechanic of Sands of Time was born, where really tight platforming challenges were made less frustrating since retrying them a couple of times cost you nothing.

Contrary to what some may believe, rather few games of this scale are thouroughly safe or completely devoid of any innovative design, but tackling a big problem like that head-on with a mechanic that goes against what people have come to expect from games is daring. Not so daring now when they invent another way to solve the same problem, maybe, but the new Prince of Persia continues the proud tradition of doing something new both gameplay-wise and aesthetically, and like Yahtzee pointed out it also shows how Ubisoft had the good sense to renew the franchise for the new console generation. So despite not being fully satisfied with the game I want to give them credit for trying.

I don’t dislike the game by far, rather I had a very good time with it. It is a cool platform game – albeit rather linear once you pick a path – and the remarkably few frustrating moments lead to a lot of just-one-more-level- situations. What I dislike about it is everything else – sure, the backgrounds are extremely well designed and very pretty, but seeing as you spend most of your time running on walls it never feels like a good idea to stop and look at them. Also, while the areas in earlier Prince of Persia games looked like castles, caves or cities, the areas in this one fail to look like anyhing other than an obstacle course. The gradual buildup of the Prince – Elika relationship is a nice touch, but the stereotypical witty banther between them completely ruins the mood attempted at by the ominous antagonist and the scenic environments, and the other parts of the game fail to save this. In addition to this, there are a few really frustrating moments, the gathering of light orbs feels like a tacked-on solution for getting players to explore the world and prolong gameplay and the dialogue animations are rather poor. But again, I liked the game – it just didn’t succed in absorbing me into the gameworld.

Prince of Persia, being more of an experiment in game design than other games, poses some food for thought. Seeing as “dying” only sets you back to the last solid ground you stepped on the toughest challenges simply consist of a lot of distance between patches of it, and the chained platforming challenges are very linear with the game compensating a lot for slightly-missed chances. This kind of onrails-gameplay and brilliant solutions that the developers felt the need to gimp in order to make the game challenging would usually enrage me, but I find it surprisingly easy to accept. Most platform games set you back a whole lot when you die, Prince of Persia simply has means to tune the amount of replaying you will have to do for every new situation making adaptive design easier to achieve, and while there’s a lot of “press button at the right moment to not die” – gameplay, boiled down to essentials most 2D platformers have that. I usually play games to explore them rather than to beat them, and Prince of Persia showed me that even if a game has next to no punishment for failing, it can still be interesting and keep your attention by making sure that you can’t complete the individual tasks without being alert, and as such is automatically more engaging than a movie.

It is a tricky concept that I will have to write more about at a later time.

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Posted on Jan 14/09 by Saint and filed under Reflections | No Comments »