Three classics in one package with scaled up visuals in 3D at a budget price. Honestly, how could you not want this?
Sometimes this job is good to me. Such as being able to work with no pants on. That’s a good perk I think. But another, non-pants related perk is the fact that I get to play fantastic games. This could not be more true than with the Prince of Persia Trilogy, which give me three times the Prince of Persia experience for a low, low price of $40. The original game in this trilogy, The Sands of Time, is one of my favorite games of all time and reason enough for me to recommend this package to you. The other games are just a fantastic bonus in my opinion. Well, less so with Warrior Within, but…yeah, we’ll get to that.
Prince of Persia, for the three of you that have never played any of these games, follows a prince from Persia who has constant problems with sand based monsters and time traveling silliness. This prince is kind of a screw up, usually causing the sand monsters and time traveling and what have you. However, throughout all (read: most) of it he remains charming, witty, and engaging. You like seeing the Prince interact with the people and world around him. Now, how do you play these games? Well, the game world is set up like a giant jungle gym, and it’s your job to monkey all around it in order to get from point A to point B, occasionally fighting monsters along the way. The really clever part comes in figuring out what exactly the path you should take is. Pretty much every surface in the game is a platform. You can run along anything and swing on anything and shimmy on anything. Oh the shimmying that is possible. It’s simplistic and complex all at the same time. Each room is a puzzle, and all of them are fun to solve. This is made all the better by the Sands of Time aspect. You see, the Prince can use the sands to rewind time, meaning that if you screw up in one of the puzzles, jumping where you weren’t supposed to or something, you can go back and try it again. You do have limited sand tanks, but you shouldn’t ever really need to waste them all on one puzzle. Nor should you, as without the sand tanks and rewind powers the trial and error gameplay of Prince of Persia becomes horrendously frustrating. We’ll get back to that in a bit.
The first game, The Sands of Time, is by far the best of the lot. The Prince is at his most charming, the platforming is the most solid and the graphics are their most colorful. Though, yes, that color mostly consists of shades of brown. But man, when there is color, it shines through. Blues and reds are really bright, grass is bright green, everything just has a tranquil look. You know, when there aren’t any monsters around. Very tranquil up until that point. With the monsters. By the way, did I mention that these games really do look very good for PS2 games? Especially with their resolutions bumped up a bit for the PS3 conversion. 1080P good looks. A nice little makeover the games have gotten. I’d think that would be a key thing to mention in recommending this game. Also, they are in 3D, if you have a TV that has 3D. I do not, so I won’t talk about it that much because it would depress me. But hey, I’m sure it looks nice. So you might have noticed that I talked fairly little about the first game. This is for two reasons. One, its such a classic game that all you have to do is say, “Yes Matilda, you can believe the hype” and people will get it. This is a good game. One of my favorites of all time. I didn’t even really need to play it before doing this review. I could have gone off memory. But I wanted to just to get to experience playing it again. The second is that its so much more fun to talk about bad games. Enter Prince of Persia: The Warrior Within.
You know, I don’t even want to call this a Prince of Persia game. I think I’ll instead call it, “What the Hell is This Bullcrap and Other Tales of a Whining Asshole.” Because that was my experience with this game. I found myself constantly proclaiming bullcrap at the puzzles while not caring one bit about the Prince anymore. All the charm from the first game was just sucked right out. Color? Gone. Wit? Gone. Satisfying puzzle based levels? Gone. Oh, there are still puzzle based areas, they just suck now. A lot of it has to do with backtracking. In Warrior Within you are running around in one big castle. This castle has a central area which then branches off into a few different sections. Now the bad news about this approach is that there will be a lot of backtracking, or at least more than you want to do. The thrill of the original Prince of Persia was running into new areas and scanning the surroundings, seeing what paths you can take in order to get to that door you see on the other end of the room. In this game, because you go through so many similar areas, you know the solution. It isn’t thrilling anymore. Its tedious. It also isn’t helped by the more brutal nature of the game’s puzzles. Warrior Within really ramps up the difficulty of some of these things. There are blades and spikes and pits all over the damn place. And it seems that its much harder to replenish your sand tanks here, so the game is a lot less forgiving. Tedium plus frustration equals a much less impressive experience. We also have a game that devotes a lot of time on combat now. You’d think that the team going back and refining the combat would be a good thing. After all, the first game had rather weak and inconsequential battles. No, wrong. You fight more, but the fighting is still the weakest part of the game. Its like God of War if God of War had no idea how to make fluid and effective combat. Its really hard to describe. It just feels broken and not very fun at all. And all this is before we even get to the change in character and mood for the game. Oh sweet mother of crap is the Prince annoying now. He’s annoying in look. He is “XTREME!!!” in a very 90’s comic book way, one that requires brooding and bangs and the word extreme being spelled with no e at the beginning. The charming and somewhat obnoxious rogue from the first game has been completely overwritten by a brooding ass that I want to punch in the face. And is it just the Prince that got this obnoxious makeover? Oh no! That would be too kind! The entire game is darker, more violent, less fantastic.
The story has the Prince on the run from a monster called the Dahaka (can’t believe I spelled that right on the first try) that is trying to kill him because he was supposed to die during the events of the first game. However, due to the Prince going all time screwy his death was avoided. So the Dahaka is a type of cosmic janitor who keeps the timeline clean of anomalies. Though really, I sympathize with the Dahaka. Its easy to want this version of the Prince dead. But anyways, I digress. The Prince now journeys to the Island of Time in order to stop the Empress of Time from creating the Sands of Time so that he can never release them with the Dagger of Time and thus the Dahaka won’t want to kill him. By the way, anyone notice that the Empress of Time has zero creativity when it comes to naming things? Okay, so in summation, stupid story, terrible redesign of the Prince, not that much fun combat, less fun platforming and…what else? Oh yeah, the soundtrack. The first game had an Arabian theme, of course. Know what this game has? Electric guitars. Lots of them. You know what doesn’t belong in ancient Persia? God damn electric guitars. Just…why? Why electric guitars? I really don’t think a company has ever missed the mark as to why people loved a character and series as much as Ubisoft with Warrior Within. But you know, I should end on a good note. There is one really good thing about this game. There are scenes where the Dahaka chases the Prince through the castle, making sure that you can’t stop for one moment to think. You have to just move move move. Its tense and fantastic. Other than that…yeah, didn’t like it so much.
So you’d think I’d just write off the final game, The Two Thrones, then. After all, that’s what I originally did. I never played Two Thrones before this. But man, I don’t know what happened behind the scenes on this game. They fixed it. Just gonna come right out and say it. This game is good. It is, like, the polar opposite of my experience with Warrior Within. And its a surprising type of good too. First off, the Prince is no longer such a whiny emo bitch. No “XTREME!!!” personality with blood and guts and metal and bangs and whining. In fact, they make it a story point to have the Prince criticize his past behavior, saying how he was desperate and afraid in the last game. He’s much more like the Prince in the first game. A little harder, but still likable. The game is also brighter, taking place in more outdoor settings with more colorful environments. Again, not as colorful as the first game, but still within the feel of that one. That is what we wanted from an evolution of the first game’s concept. Growing it up is fine, but the second game took it way, way too far. But you know what the biggest surprise was in Two Thrones? Stealth combat. The game encourages you not to fight. Combat was never supposed to be the focus of Prince of Persia, yet the Prince can still wield a pretty nasty blade. So what’s the best way to get around that? Have the Prince pull off super violent and highly acrobatic stealth finishing moves from behind…or up above…or anywhere the Prince happens to be when he is in near proximity to an evil monster. Its actually a little bit of genius that I never would have thought of. In a way, the acrobatics of traversing all over the walls and stuff is perfect for stealth gameplay. And speaking of acrobatics, there is so much to bounce off of and grab hold of that I felt spoiled, like a kid in a candy store. Except instead of candy its springs and ledges put into walls for unknown reasons.
Something important about Two Thrones should also be mentioned. You, at times, switch to the Dark Prince? What is the Dark Prince? Well…evil Prince. Pretty simple really. He’s much stronger than regular Prince and blows through enemies without all that sneaking crap. The bad thing about this situation is that his life constantly drains. So, like with the Dahaka chases in Warrior Within, you have to constantly be on the move, looking for pathways while fighting through enemies in order to replenish your life. Oh yeah, sand replenishes the Dark Prince’s life. Killing enemies gets you sand. That’s an important thing to note. Also important to note is that the people at Ubisoft found a way to take the best thing from Warrior Within and adapt it to the new game. Fantastic people. Way to make up for the last game. All is forgiven.
You know, I’ve just realized that this review has gone on for 2000 words or so. That’s probably a good enough summary for these games and the package as a whole. In short, one fantastic game, one huge disappointment and one that makes up for the disappointment by moving the formula forward in all the ways that the other game should have. All in HD, all in 3D and all for $40. If you can’t find it in your heart to drop some money on all that, well, I just don’t know what I could say to get you to.
|It has Sands of Time and Two Thrones on it.||It has Warrior Within on it.|