The Prince of Persia series is nearly as old as the video game industry itself. A video game project that originally started off with one developer overnight became an instant classic in the early 80s. After two lukewarm sequels, the series went quiet, until 2003, when Ubisoft resurrected a dormant classic with what is now regarded one of the best games in the series to date.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, unlike some of its peers in the business, has aged with grace. 15 years ago this game took an addictive mechanic from the original game and morphed it into a three-dimensional world. We got re-introduced to the Prince and experienced the betrayal of his father first-hand. Once unlocking the hourglass it releases the sands, which leads to the devastation of the Prince’s kingdom. Thankfully for us, he came with a bunch of tricks. As acrobatic as he was in the 80s, that old Prince could not hold a candle to what the modern Prince brought with him. He could climb up pillars, wall-jump, jump over foes and all forms of acrobatics, but nothing was as fresh and memorable as his dagger.
Let’s rewind this up
It was a first for video games and something other games (especially racing games) copied thereafter – the ability to rewind time. Unlike most racing games these days you only had a limited number of rewinds to use, dependent on the number of sand tanks available in your dagger of time. To fill each tank in your dagger with sand required you to kill off the various sand creatures. Once you down a sand creature you would have to stab it with your dagger of time to have the sand fill up one tank. Leave any foe, while fighting the onslaught of more waves, and he or she would reawaken and return for more. You quite literally could not kill off any enemy without planting the dagger of time into their chests. The rewind feature wasn’t just used in battle. Oh no, you used it for your failed platforming attempts more often than not.
The dagger and its uses was very versatile.
As mentioned, the Prince had an array of moves at his disposal. Climbing up an object, jumping off it and vaulting towards a trap, which had to be avoided as well, is something this Prince had to deal with to set things right. You would often meet your end unless you had some sand left in the dagger of time. There are more uses than just rewinding time. Sand vision would give the Prince some foresight of what to expect in the near future (helping players unravel where they need to head to next), while slow motion would slow down the time for everyone else (basically bullet-time) while you chopped up your enemy and freeze could freeze them in place while you dealt with other threats. The dagger and its uses was very versatile.
It has to be said that the original Xbox S controller is the perfect fit for this game. The triggers, which weren’t a thing on the PS2 at the time, feels like the perfect input mechanic to get the Prince wall-running and rewinding. While the Prince will spend a lot of time platforming and exploring his kingdom, you’ll have to deal with some tough battles towards the end. It’s something, that over time, has become more evident. The sudden spikes can get a little overwhelming and looking after the few tanks of sand you have left becomes somewhat of an art. Where the game has aged really well is graphically.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’s curtain…
In 2003 the graphical leap for the series was quite impressive and, even with its soft and dreamy-like tone, it has aged very well visually. Textures aren’t perhaps as sharp as you remember it being, but seeing fabric (like curtains) react when sliding down them or brushing past, it is still quite impressive. The art direction still feels perfect. Levels filled with water and the cascading shadow effects brings a very unique mood to any level. The character models aren’t quite as impressive as it once was, but you’ll be far too worried about solving the various puzzles. The puzzles are nontraditional when it comes to solving them. You’re not moving blocks or the like, as it’s more about finding out how you’ll platform your way to a point on the map that looks just about impossible to reach. It’s in these moments that the Power of Destiny (vision) will be of the utmost use. Falling from great heights and inflicting damage is something that happens quite often and should you run out of sand there is only one thing that is going to restore life – water. In Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time water is life. Wherever you see water you can scoop up and drink it to restore your life.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is still a delight to play today. Hearing the Prince and Farah bickering with each other is still adorable. It brings a 15-year old game to life and with the classic platforming and the use of the dagger of time, this game is going to remain a classic for years to come.