Games: ‘Prince of Persia’ takes acrobatics to new level
The Prince flies through the air with the greatest of ease, a daring young man who needs no trapeze.
And that — as well as some spectacular settings — is what makes "Prince of Persia" such a treat for the eyes.
The T-rated adventure from Ubisoft’s Montreal studio presents a new Prince with some cool new moves. But while those moves are the game’s strength, they can also be its weakness.
When the game begins, the Prince is minding his own business — which includes toting looted treasures home from a previous adventure — when he lands in the land where the evil god Ahriman is trying to escape imprisonment. All the Prince needs is a peek at the beautiful Princess Elika and he’s reeled into the tale, which relies very heavily on ancient Persian mysticism. [Elika’s princess gig apparently requires incessant preaching about Ormazd, the Zoroastrian god of light.]
This Prince is actually new to the franchise. He’s swaggering. He’s ornery. He’s fun. He could be Captain Jack Sparrow’s little brother. But he’s also as nimble as a cat and as fierce as a tiger.
And Elika’s new, too. She has a few magical abilities that come in handy in combat, but her main job — at least when I play — involves rescuing the Prince as he’s plummeting toward death, a function handled by the magical manipulation of time in previous games.
The Prince and princess make a great pair, trading barbs and learning more about each other and Elika’s land as they struggle to eliminate the viscous "corruption" that’s consuming the land.
The pair spend most of their time leaping across gaps, running along walls, climbing up pillars or sliding down cliffs. It’s not too hard to pull off most moves because the Prince locks on to his target unless your aim is completely off. Executing an action generally comes down to hitting the right button at the right time and then watching the move unfold.
And the action looks great. Ubisoft used the same engine that powered last year’s "Assassin’s Creed," also an acrobatic adventure set in the Mideast. However, the moves are much more flamboyant — even gravity-defying when a few magical tricks are added.
However, the press-button-and-wait mechanics don’t work quite as well during fighting sequences. The result is basically turn-based combat with a real-time veneer. This feeling is heightened by occasional stuttering as a cinematic sequence loads. In addition, the Prince loses his ability to move freely during combat, which makes the usually nimble acrobat feel like his ankles are shackled to his opponent.
Even though combat isn’t exactly smooth, it usually looks cool. In fact, virtually everything in the game is a visual treat. The artistic style makes the characters look like they’ve leapt from a high-quality graphic novel. The delightfully exotic settings are incredibly rich and textured.
The great graphics and fun platforming elements are more than enough to make you shrug off the minor annoyances that pop up in combat.
Platforms: Xbox 360 (tested), PlayStation 3, PC.On the Web: prince-of-persia.us.ubi.com