If you make a mistake, rewind it and try again. That's been the implict motto of the Prince of Persia series since 2003. But the 2008 Prince of Persia has taken away almost all the player's ability to fail showed that we love the old Prince more - the dying one. So in the end of 2009 Ubisoft answered our prayers - it released announcement trailer of the new old Prince called The Forgotten Sands. And now, few months later, I've got a chance to play it.
Almost everything is much as you'd expect. We're introduced to the Prince as he returns to his homeland, only to discover the family palace under attack by an invading army. The early stages find you racing through the battle, pulling off the usual acrobatic flourishes as you try to reach your brother, Malik, who leads the defending army. Finaly reunited, and with no options left, Malik decides to unleash Solomon's Army, a mythical fighting force that he hopes to make things better.
It doesn't, of course. In fact, it make all even worse. Solomon's Army turns out not to be a supernatural ally but a demonic threat, named after the king it destroyed. Mummified ghouls burst from the ground, turning soldiers to sand with a touch, and the stage is set for what amounts to a game-long chase as you try to prevent your brother from being corrupted by these creatures.
So you leap, scramble and balance your way through the crumbling palace, which falls apart in pleasingly helpful ways, leaving obstacle courses if shattered stone and exposed timber for you to navigate. Every wall-run, every tightrope-walk and every jump feels instantly familiar, thanks to the controls honed by years of experience. More familiar still are the traps that spring into deadly life: swinging blades, roving saw blades and hidden spikes.
The biggest adition is the ability to soldify water, transforming horizontal jets into swing bars, vertical torrents into pillars and waterfalls into scalable walls. Later still, you gain the additional ability to restore missing parts of the scenery, but only one at the time.
Combat meanwhile, has sadly beed reduced to predictable button-mashing, the increase in on-screen enemies (often dozens at the time) forcing a decrease in the number of distinct fighting skills available to you. Rather then a block, thrust and parry swordplay of old, this is essentially God of War: Arabian Edition.
Bad guys swarm you, you hammer the attack button and point the left stick at the nearest foe, and they crumble to dust as you carve through them. A few enemy types require slightly different tactics (for example, shield-bearing creatures must be kicked before the hack-and-slash commences) but a relentless one-button assault gets the job done most of the time.
Boss battles are similarly afflicted, with some impressive, towering foes brought down simply by rolling and hacking away at their ankles until they die. Towards the end of the game you get a magical sword that renders even this level of nuance obsolete, offering one hit kills agains pretty much every kind of enemy.
A quartet of magic powers help with crowd control, but their elemental nature - wind, water, earth and fire should gice you and idea how imaginative their users are. They're certainly handy but, like so much else here, the implementation is functional rather than fun.
It's a short game as well, or at least one of those games that feel far shorter than they actually are thanks to the almost total lack of storyline or character. The connection to The Sands of Time is non existant, with the events of the game never referenced and the lead-on to Warrior Within.
Apart from the Prince and his brother there's only one other speaking part - a sexy female Djinn. You run into her at regular intervals so she can dump another load of back-story in your lap and grant you another magical power before sending you back for another few hours of beige, trap-laden corridors and massive brawls.
It'll take a few evenings at most to finish the story on the default dufficulty setting, and then all it's got to draw you back is a perfunctory time trial offering and a challenge mode that offers eight short waves of enemies to defeat as quickly as possible.
So ulimately, this isn't a cheap movie game, but it's what a tie-in game should be: 10-12 polished hours of fast-paced, mildly challenging fun with high production values. It even recaptures some of the charm that made the Sands of Time trilogy great, and its puzzles, while more linear than ever, are also some of the best the series has producted so far.
You can watch walkthrough for Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands here.