Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands Xbox 360 Review
It’s probably a bit of a daft idea to review this. After all it’s been out for over a year, so it’s going to make us all look like a bunch of lazy meandering bums, which isn’t fair because only Andi is really. It’s a year after the film was released too, so we’ve completely missed the boat and stumbled into a ravine by accident, but whatever.
The reason I write this is because Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands is now dirt cheap, and it’s probably worth the 8 pence you’d pay for it. The Forgotten Sands you see, has been marketed as the ‘real’ sequel to The Sands of Time, promising to bring the charm and magic of the original back. Does it do it? Does it hell, but it’s still worth a look.
What’s initially apparent when you boot up The Forgotten Sands is how desperately it wants to be The Sands of Time. Just like in the 2003 classic, the Prince arrives at a palace in the middle of a war and has to leap and gambol his way around its besieged architecture, thus giving the player a conveniently explosive tutorial. There’s a plot but it’s not important. The Prince is visiting his brother to learn how to be a great leader or something, and then with alarming but inevitable alacrity everything goes tits up as his brother accidentally unleashes an army of sand monsters. It’s up to the Prince and a djinn he bumps into to sort things out. This djinn grants the Prince powers on his quest, like time reversal, a homing attack that helps clear massive gaps, and the abilities to stop water and rebuild bits of the environment. As the game progresses you’ll be required to use all these abilities in gradually more challenging environments. For instance, maybe you’ll have to climb up solidified water, rebuild a column, bounce off another bit of solidified water, home in on an enemy on a platform etc. It might sound fidgety but it soon becomes second nature and, most importantly, fun. So far, so Persia.
It looks nice too. It’s not jaw dropping and the Prince himself resembles a slightly inbred Jake Gylenhaal, but the art style that served the developers so well in the Sands of Time Trilogy holds up well here, all in glorious retina stroking HD. The Prince himself is more like the cheeky garrulous twat we know and love, rather than the lonely goth of Warrior Within. His chatter with the djinn is clearly trying to recall the flirtatious back and forth that went on between him and Farah in the other games. It doesn’t work at all, but heck, at least they’re trying.
The controls are instantly familiar to anyone familiar with the trilogy, but for some reason they don’t feel anywhere near as fluid. It’s also quite disconcerting how the Prince jumps. In the Sands of Time trilogy he had a perfectly realised little hop, but in The Forgotten Sands he jumps like frigging Dante from Devil May Cry. He also feels a little bit weightless and floaty compared to the older games. Yes, I realise moaning about the unrealistic jumping and controls in a game about a man who can run along walls and rewind time is a bit pointless but shut up, it really does makes a difference. If anything he moves like the goonish, Seinfeld-esque protagonist from Prince of Persia’s 2008 excursion. That was a fine game, but it was nowhere near as fun, sleek or intuitive as Sands of Time. It doesn’t feel as satisfying working your way around the environment for some reason, and it feels less skilful too. It’s noticeably much slower than the other games, and it takes some getting used to, but once you get past that you’ll be hopping around like it’s the Sands of Time all over again. And if I mention that bloody game one more time I am going to go mental.
God, there’s a theme here isn’t there? Sands of Time this, Sands of Time that. The Forgotten Sands’ biggest faux pas is that no matter how hard it tries to be Sands of Time it will never be more than a passable cover version by a competent pub rock band. Sands of Time was too bloody perfect for its own good, and every 3D platformer in its wake that doesn’t feature an overweight drug addicted plumber has found itself badly wanting in comparison with it. In fact I’d go so far as to say The Forgotten Sands is lesser than the two unfairly maligned sequels. Sure, Warrior Within ripped the guts and charm out of its predecessor but it still played brilliantly and improved the combat. The Prince was a surly wanker in it, but it made narrative sense. If you’d been chased by an unkillable Death-like creature for half a decade you’d start listening to Godsmack too wouldn’t you? The Two Thrones meanwhile clumsily tried to bring the charm and elegance back and it didn’t quite work, but it refined the gameplay and provided a fitting conclusion to an excellent series.
The Forgotten Sands seems like a real step back. Remember the way in Warrior Within you could button mash and pull off amazing looking combos called things like ‘Raging Cyclone of Tempest PMT Fury?’ You can’t do that this time. All you can do is listlessly swipe away at literally thousands of skeletons. You can’t run up walls and slice your foes in half, you can’t pirouette around columns decapitating the utter buggery out of them, and you can’t even grab or choke them anymore. You can hit them. Hit them and hit them and hit them and god it never ends. Combat’s clearly an afterthought, no doubt due to the fact that the game’s clearly been developed with a budget of about a tenner.
This generation has seen a slew of inferior sequels: Resident Evil 5, Devil May Cry 4, and Metroid: Other M. They are however all worthy in their own right, and The Forgotten Sands can easily be perched alongside them. You should still give it a try as despite being a hastily knocked out, low budget film tie in it’s still good. It does everything a modern Prince of Persia game is supposed to. Bounding around on platforms, solving puzzles and gracefully gliding along walls is still an acrobatic intuitive joy. It’s a million times more fun than any Assassin’s Creed game and it makes Andy Serkis’s Enslaved starring Andy Serkis look even more awful, despite the woman’s beautifully rendered bottom. Not Andy Serkis’s.
Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands deserves your attention for the 8 hours it’ll take you to finish. It’s cheap, but definitely cheerful, and you’ll feel pleased with yourself for trying it. Like a parkour trip down to Spar.