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Prince of Persia is a long running platform series that dates back to the late 80's. Here on 360 and PS3 (as it did on PS2 beforehand) it adds a vertigo inducing action adventure into this mix. Jumping and grappling with the environment in a way not a million miles from Assassin's Creed 360.
Platform games task you with getting from point A to point B. The world you journey through is usually based on different levels, and populated with enemies, switches and lifts to be negotiated. As you work through each level you pick up various collectables that accrue score, special abilities and access to hidden areas.
Prince of Persia has always been unique because of the main character's fluidity of movement. This was true of the original C64 and Spectrum versions, was perpetuated in Prince of Persia: Sands of Time PS2 and is now seen realised in full high definition reality on 360.
To navigate the impressive structures, valleys and open landscapes, the Prince has a variety of moves to draw upon. As in Assassin's Creed 360 and Mirror's Edge PS3 this game draws on the super cool sport of Free Running (Parkour). As the player runs. jumps, wall runs and flips their way through levels, the sense of traveling creatively is well achieved - mirroring Free Running in real life.
This sense of movement, and variety of moves is enhanced by an ever present companion in the game. Elika both watches over you (catching you when you fall) and also adds her own weight to jumps and attacks when called upon. Simply navigating the ledges, pillars and other restricted spaces with her by your side is a balletic experience.
Although not as open as the cityscapes of Assassin's Creed, Prince of Persia offers more help to get players into the game. Each level starts with the classic platforming challenge of getting from A to B. Once there, you are challenged to a boss fight that calls on a wide range of attacks, blocks and throws. Once beaten you can then explore the area more fully, picking your own oath, as you collect the glowing orbs - akin to the various flags in Assassin's Creed.
Players will be drawn to Prince of Persia because of its cell shaded art style, fluid movement and prestigious history. Once they start playing these aspects continue to deliver. However, what may not be appreciated beforehand is the success of the game's innovations this time around.
Playing with the constant assistance of Elika increases the sense of tactile negotiation that goes on between the player and the landscape. Edge past her on a cliff face and she takes your hands to swing back past you. Jump onto some vines and she is effortlessly hoisted onto your back. Jump up to a door switch and she follows suit, using her weight to counter balance your own, at the same time triggering the mechanism and opening the door. It is more like playing with two players than one - but these two characters act as one fluid unit, something not seen since the heart warming relationship between Ico and Yorda in Ico PS2.
The game allows you to save at any point although progress in a boss fight or through a particular section of the linear levels may be lost. Early levels can be completed in half an hour or so, but this does stretch out as things get tougher. To get the best from the game tow hour sessions are ideal.
Novice gamers are reasonably well catered for with tutorials and a simple control scheme. This all changes when the end level boss fights are encountered - here more background in gaming is really essential as the right button in a tight time frame are required to win. Although the running, jumping and exploring sections of the game are suitable to be watch by younger gamers, these are interspersed with mild horror clips of back story, and the violent boss fights.
Intermediates will enjoy both the premise and presentation of Prince of Persia which are both clear and well defined. The game is good at giving prompts when players get stuck, and enables them to set their own level of involvement with the back story. Rather than being forced to sit through long diatribes, the player chooses to trigger conversation with Elika with a button press.
Expert games will most likely get the most from the game - in gameplay hours if nothing else. The challenge of collecting the orbs in each completed area will keep more obsessive players busy for hours. For the hard core gamer this is a solid update to the franchise with enough of the new balancing a commitment to the platforming (and free running) values of the previous games.
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