I have absolutely no self control, and that sucks for a variety of reasons. But hey, at least I got to get through Ubisoft’s Prince of Persia: Sands of Time for the GameCube (PoP:SoT) in a couple of nights, when I probably should have been preparing some stuff for the upcoming talk.
And I’m not kidding, I really did finish it in two sessions of under 5 hours each. It’s that short. Here are some thoughts. Firstly, the one game that kept coming to my mind as I was playing this was (Raven’s Quake II engine based) Heretic II. They looked vaguely similar, but that’s not why. This and Heretic II are the only third person action games (you can’t really call them third person shooters since they don’t really have guns) in which I’ve actually cared about the characters as the story progressed.
While I am starting to relate it to other games, I might as well compare it with the other games I’ve played in the PoP series and get it over with. Funwise, it is definitely better than PoP I, arguably comparable to PoP II and light years ahead of PoP 3D.
Now, returning to the star of the show, PoP:SoT. It has a well thought of story that ends with a pleasant twist. It doesn’t follow the formulaic “the evil vizier kidnapped the princess and you must rescue her” scheme, which is nice. You sort of have a sense for what is going on during the game, but it all makes sense and falls into place during the last sequences – like The Sixth Sense. PoP:SoT is also extremely funny at points, realized by some brilliant voice acting. And the music fits the mood nicely. Except, the music sounds more Indian than Persian, but I’m not complaining.
The game is what I call “super linear”. There is absolutely just one path from the time you start the game to finish. If you see something and can reach it (jump across across to a ledge at a 6000 m elevation, say), that is the way you must go. As long as you can move in a given direction, you are progressing along the intended path. Which is actually nice, as it involved very little intelligence, some things most games these days force you to expend waaay more than necessary making the experience less fun. Because of this strict linear path and a not-so-subtle hint system (premonitions warning you of all possible traps and how to get by them), the game is short, and simple, and I loved it.
True to its PoP lineage, a bulk of the gameplay deals with avoiding and circumventing all sorts of devious traps and things that hinder your progress. Now, just as in the rest of the series, one false jump, one spiked ram knocking you off a ledge or just about any other wrong move can kill you in an instant. But since it will be no fun to allow saving after every step, the creative story writers worked in this (sand powered) dagger that controls time (don’t ask). Occasional screw ups are now acceptable because all you need to do is “rewind time” to a point before you made a mistake and get on with it. It sure beats restarting at the beginning of a level and having to go through all sorts of devious jumps and things again. You realize the true glory and brilliance of this simple addition only much later in the game, when it gets taken from you. You then have to perform a bunch of things without screwing up once. It can get irritating when you make a simple slip up 90% of the way through a sequence and have to redo it all over again.
All in all, it’s a super fun game with a carefully crafted story you want to believe, with interesting characters you’ll get attached to, with some very witty dialogue worked in. It’s a pity it was so short, but it still deserves a 5/5.