Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Prince Of Persia
Having wanted to play the Prince of Persia games since their inception - circa 1989 - it's funny that I managed to avoid them until now.
2008's Prince of Persia, taking the original title, has you playing a cynical, sarcastic vagabond who encounters a princess, drawing you into a war between gods. Elika is struggling to regain her kingdom from the dark Ahriman, who was has been released from his prison of 1000 years. As the story progresses, you get to see exactly why Ahriman is being freed and how the princess' role in the story unfolds.
It's certainly one of the more beautiful games I've played. The animation is spectacular, and the fluidity of the character movements was really enjoyable to watch. Small details, like the way your character trades places with Elika when balanced on a narrow ledge, add up to a grand experience.
The world design and graphics are stunning too, and I felt myself pausing for long breaks in the action just to study my surroundings (this is the game to break in your new tv).
POP is definitely a platforming game, though it seeks to reinvent the possibilities, and for the most part succeeds. Much has been written about how it's too easy. When you fall or die in battle, Elika will catch you or save you, placing back on the last flat surface you were on. It's just like any other platformer- when you fall, you restart. I guess what bothers people about POP is that you get to respawn very near where you died. But I found that element of the game satisfying. Who wants to retrace all the easy steps just to get to the hard part?
Plus, in the later levels, they string longer action sequences together, forcing you to be more careful.
In order to unlock levels, you must collect "Light Seeds" throughout the game. The designers put some of these in places where there is no option but to throw yourself into a chasm, making the "Elika save" quite practical.
While the story is a bit derivative and predictable, the characters are well defined. Aside from the typical American concept of Persians being slightly tan Caucasians, the designs are impressive. Elika is high on my list of VG babes now, and the writing is genuinely funny. Elika and the Protag have a good foil/jokester routine and many of the barbs are inwardly pointed:
"A bridge builder would make a killing around here"
P: "Everything's gonna be ok."
E: "You don't believe that."
My only beef with the game would be the fighting. Enemies spawn at a few points in the game, and you fight four different bosses four times each, not including the end sequence. Basically, boss battle are a string of combos acted out by the protag, or in response to a boss' action. Not being the best at quick timing (especially after a few beers), boss battles would take me a long time. I was also handicapped by the XBOX controller, which I was not familiar with at all. Responding with the correct button in the beginning was nearly impossible.
My own actions quickly consisted of the one combo that I could remember, so while there are dozens of ways to fight, I stuck with the only thing I could do consistently enough to beat a boss in under 30 minutes. I was basically a Swiffer for the bad guy's dens. But I slogged through them, and the final battle with Ahriman was very fun.
All in all, a great experience. A nice length (with promise of a sequel), fun gameplay and super super stunning graphics. Recommended.