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Rebooting a franchise can be a tricky task but Prince of Persia does an excellent job in re-launching the series from the roots. I found the game challenging the conventional fairy tale in its delivery, plot, and more definitely in its ending. Borrowing elements from the famous mythological book, a 1001 Arabian Nights, Prince of Persia made me feel as if I was living in that mystical era. I felt the message of the game was all about, appropriately, letting go of the past, and showing me that we can once again believe in magical lands where good and evil are as simple as black and white.
Playing this game reminded me of the first time I watched Disney's Aladdin. When the world of Agrabah was introduced to me I was mesmerised by the magic, the wonder, the hilarity, but most of all the pure genius of it all. How could a carpet give so much expression without a face or any limbs? How could a monkey make you cry laughing without saying a word? This is what Disney does best by making you feel and believe in the unbelievable.
This is exactly the same feeling I got with Prince of Persia and it's accomplished by the creation of a believable world. The surroundings have emotion and character that feel almost alive and leap off the screen to me. When I encountered a new area in this game I felt like I was meeting a new person, a new emotion, a new part of my favourite myth.
Thanks to this fresh and dynamic approach the feel of the game was very fluid and I found very few periods of frustration. The puzzles and challenges were excellent. With each new environment offering a new power which in turn opened up unreachable places in previous sections, there was so much to explore, discover and learn. The dialogue was rich and there's plenty of it, but if you want to hear every bit of every conversation (like I do) it can become a very long-winded and frustrating experience.
What kept me hooked was the story. I felt like I was playing a myth, that I was part of its world and I found myself completely gripped by the experiences of the Prince and Elika.
What kept me hooked was the story. I felt like I was playing a myth, that I was part of its world and I found myself completely gripped by the experiences of the Prince and Elika. In fact I found the story becoming very familiar the more I played and it struck me how similar it was to an Aladdin retelling. Being such a fan of this type of myth I couldn't help but make comparisons as I went through the game.
The Prince is obviously Aladdin and just as in the fairy tale our lead character is not a Prince, but a hero that has the potential to become one. As in all the good myths he will need to complete the hero's journey to successfully fulfil his destiny.
Alongside him there's Princess Elika who fills the role of Princess Jasmin in Aladdin and also the magical carpet. Just like the carpet in Aladdin she catches our Prince whenever he hurtles towards his death in the game - a neat way to avoid losing lives and having to start at checkpoints.
Ahriman, God of Darkness and Oramzd, the God of Light fill the roles of Jafar and the Genie respectively. Both are opposite ends of the spectrum with the bad guys taking the typical path of wanting to plunge the world into darkness. If I was a baddie I'd want to rule in a happy light environment, but in Ahriman's case this means the battle between darkness and light can struggle on.
Am I reading a story or playing a game? It feels like a bit of both.
Perhaps the most interesting character is Elika's father - Sultan. He's well meaning, but ultimately foolish in trying to protect his daughter and as a result puts the whole world in danger. He is the unwitting catalyst of everything that unfolds making him that fascinating character undone by good intentions.
Finally, the Tree of Life is Aladdin's Lamp and acts as a prison to trap the dark god. But in order to work it needs energy and light become whole, thus leading the Prince and Elika on their quest.
The similarities are clear but I don't believe that's it's detrimental to the game. Am I reading a story or playing a game? It feels like a bit of both. The main difference comes at the end of the game which surprised me totally. Thanks to the Disney freak in me it even made me regret finishing the game!
When I think back to my memories of Aladdin they are nothing but happy ones and it's the same for this game. Despite Prince of Persia's ending I felt the world that Ubisoft created and the characters that dwelt in it were magical and transfixing. The way the story mirrored Aladdin was to its benefit and I know that I shall look back at my time with the Prince and Elika fondly.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: