Review: Prince of Persia

Run, jump, die, repeat
By MITCH KRPATA  |  January 6, 2009
3.0 3.0 Stars

VIDEO: The trailer for Prince of Persia

Prince Of Persia | For Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 | Rated T for Teen | Developed by Ubisoft Montreal | Published by Ubisoft
Pauline Kael titled one of her review compilations Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, saying that those four words (from a Japanese movie poster) captured the basic appeal of movies. In Ubisoft's new Prince of Persia, the hero grouses about a similar formulation, one that could be said to encapsulate all that we love about video games: "Run, jump, die, repeat." It's hard to imagine a more succinct description.

Like its predecessors, this Prince finds an acrobatic warrior navigating a dangerous world. His repertoire of nifty moves includes your standard-issue running, jumping, and climbing, but he can also run atop a wall for a short period, and he executes an upside-down maneuver to cross ceilings that you have to see to believe. The lush, colorful environments are constructed to take full advantage of his physical abilities. It's not unusual to experience a long, unbroken stretch of free running that requires all of them.

Where this edition differs from previous games bearing the Prince of Persia stamp is in its ease of use. The Prince is accompanied on his adventures by an enchanted woman named Elika who rescues him from certain death each and every time and then deposits him gently back where he started. What's more, all those acrobatics of his are context sensitive and don't depend on precise timing. There's a deliberate feeling of separation between you and the actions on screen — your button pressing matters, sure, but there's a sense that the game is taking care of the heavy lifting for you.

Is that good or bad? If your objective when playing video games is to participate in a story and travel through new worlds, this Prince of Persia makes it easy for you to experience its breathtaking, painterly environments. The relationship between Prince and Elika gradually deepens, in part because you can have them stop and talk at any time. They're likable characters both, the Prince a charming rogue, Elika a troubled soul who finds herself beguiled by his irreverence. This is a game that almost anyone could start up and play through without much trouble, from the most skilled elite to the newest newbie.

If on the other hand you play games to "beat" them, you should look elsewhere. Traversing the environments is so simple that most of the time you don't even need to input directional commands. There is some challenge involved in collecting the scattered "light seeds," but you need so few to advance through the story that only the most hardcore completionists will care. Combat is scarce, and what you do get is repetitive and slow. That might be forgivable if there weren't five identical battles against each of four bosses, with only (barely) particularized locations to distinguish them.

Whichever type of player you are, you're apt to have all the fun it's possible to have with Prince of Persia well before the game is over. It's not exactly unpleasant to keep going, but once the new experiences run out, Prince of Persia isn't irresistible, either. It all comes down to how much you like to run, jump, die, and repeat.

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