Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Review (Xbox)

The PS2 sucks!

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is an update from the first few original games that were played on the old Macintosh machines of yesteryear. The game has grown from a left to right scrolling platform game into a full-blown 3D action adventure that is one of the best looking games to date on the Xbox.

In PoP you play as a young prince with amazing physical abilities. Early on the Prince comes across the Dagger of Time and intends to give it to his father, the king, as a gift. As the king, prince and entourage enters a rival's castle, the king's vizier convinces the prince to use the dagger to unlock a different type of treasure, a huge hourglass. The prince does it despite a warning from a frantic young woman whom attempts to stop him. After unlocking the hourglass the Sands of Time are released and spread throughout the kingdom turning all but the Prince, the girl, (who we later learn is called Farah), and the vizier, into what can only be called "sand zombies". The prince decides he must repair the damage he has done and confront the vizier who betrayed him and his father. Along the way he will team up with Farah, fight many creatures, fall in love, suffer great loss, and discover the ability to manipulate time itself.

One of the great things about PoP is that the prince himself narrates it in past tense. If you die and it brings up the continue screen, the prince will say things like "No, no, that isn't how it happened", or "No, I didn't die there". If you bring up the pause menu he'll ask you "Shall I go on with my story?" When you un-pause, he says "Very well then. I'll continue on". It makes for a great story, as if the prince is talking directly to you and you really want to know how it ends.

While playing you can expect to come across plenty of sand zombies, lots of ledges to walk, ropes to climb and swing from, hazard traps involving swinging blades, pressure sensitive floor spikes, and heavy logs that can and will knock you into even more danger. Almost every room in the game involves figuring out how to get past its obstacles to reach a door or window that leads to the next area. Some of the puzzles are easier than others, but they do get noticeably harder as you progress. Many require you to take leaps of faith when you are up 30 feet or higher in the air. Sometimes you'll be climbing through caverns full of bats, or inching your way around the outside of a castle with a drop so far below you can't even see the bottom. One mistake means death. Except in PoP, it doesn't. Early on you discover the Dagger of Time has the ability to hold small amounts of the Sands of Time. These are called Sand Tanks and each one allows you to reverse time for up to 10 seconds previous from the point you activate the tank. You refill your tanks by killing sand zombies. You will also come across mysterious sand clouds that fill your dagger full of sand no matter how low it is. Every 6 sound clouds adds another tank to the dagger. As you receive more tanks, you receive more abilities. You can stab enemies with the dagger and it freezes them in time for you to destroy with your sword. There is another move that requires all your sand tanks, but will slow down every enemy on the screen while you zip around at full speed. It allows you to dispatch a large number of enemies quickly and is very cool to see.

The default controller set up is well done. The controls themselves are spot on and respond very well for the most part, although you will find yourself adjusting the camera to make some of the more difficult jumps. The prince also has the ability to run along the side of a wall for a short period. You will use this a lot and it will quickly become second nature to you. During combat the prince is all over the place, doing flips, twists, mid-air slashing and wall-jumps, but the controls are set up that all that is required from you is a few pushes of the proper buttons and to push the analog stick in the direction you wish to attack. This makes combat easy to pick up and spectacular to watch. I can honestly say I have never seen a videogame character fight like this before.

PoP looks spectacular. From the huge, cavernous puzzle rooms to the subtle lighting effects, everything is top notch. There will be times before you begin a puzzle you will move the camera just to get a better look at some new detail you never noticed before, like moonlight dazzling off a pool of water or the realisitc way a curtain will gently flap in the breeze. The extra little touches, like the prince's feet kicking up little clouds of dust as he runs, or the extreme smoothness of the prince's animations really stick out and show the amount of attention to detail that went into this game. When you use the dagger to reverse time, they have a great visual effect where the screen slightly distorts around the prince, even the edges of the screen seem to bend just a bit as you go further back.

As great as PoP looks, it is the sounds that give it the final touch needed to make it one of the best games on the market today. From enviromental sounds such as wind and water, to the clank of the prince's sword connecting against an enemy's weapon, it is all extremely well done. The vizier's voice is sinister and creepy as begets an evil villain. The prince and Farah's voices are some of the best I have ever heard in a game. As they first meet, then slowly begin to trust, then care for each other, I had no problems with believing in their relationship. It is just that well done. Some of their arguments are laugh out loud funny and the Farah takes no small pleasure in driving the prince nuts.

There are few small glitches with Farah's AI and on rare occasions you will have to revert to a previous save to try again, but overall PoP is highly recomended. The whole package is here, from top notch grachics, unique gameplay, stellar voice acting and sounds, to a truly epic story that has it all, you'd be hard pressed to find another game that will keep you firmly entrenched in its world.

Reviewed by JimTo. Comments? Send me an email.