'Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time' is a rare victory in the video gaming world. Finally, a sequel to a classic game that doesn't fail miserably. In fact, 'The Sands of Time' is almost as much fun as the classic although it's rather easier. It's a pleasure to play, look at, and even listen to.
During the sack of the capital of an enemy nation, the Prince finds a marvellous dagger which is he determined to keep for himself. Alas, his father's Vizier had other plans for the dagger, and is intent on posessing it at any cost. During a celebration of their victory, the nefarious Vizier betrays the Sultan (seriously Prince... quit trusting Viziers) and unleashes the power of the Sands of Time. Said sands run amok, turning everyone in the vicinity into sand filled zombies, and reducing the general quality of life in the palace. The Prince manages to escape, as does Farah - the captured Princess of the sacked city. She has knowledge of the dagger and if the Prince can only find her, perhaps together they can defeat the Vizier and contain the Sands before the world is doomed.
Naturally, this involves killing a lot of sand monsters, not getting killed yourself, and working your way through a series of linear levels, which are absolutely gorgeous. The architecture is breathtaking, and the palaces have been painstakingly built to truly achieve a sense of enormity. Complete with waterfalls and hanging tapestries, it's impossible not to admire the sheer beauty as you run/swing/climb through the levels. The scenery is nothing short of stunning in places. From underground caverns to the tops of minarets towering above the rest of the level, the game never fails to impress. The character models themselves are pretty good. They may not be the most realistic we've seen, but they flow very smoothly. The particle effects throughout the game are also very well done and don't effect the general framerate.
This Prince does more than look pretty though. He has a dazzling array of moves at his command, and it's easy to pull any of them off, or link them together. Apparently an accomplished gymnast, the Prince easily runs up walls, swings from realistically bending poles, dances across the thinnest of ledges, and most anything else you'd want him to do. His moves aren't just for impressing the ladies though, as he can put a number of them (the moves, not the ladies) to good use during combat with his sand-infested opponents. From catapulting of walls to jumping over the hapless sand creatures, the Prince has plenty of tricks to pull out of his bag. If that isn't enough, he also has the dagger - which is pretty handy when it comes to controlling time. It's powered by a number of sand tanks, which you have to fill up to use the dagger. You can recover sand from your enemies, or convenient little clouds scattered throughout the level. As the game progresses, you'll be able to add more sand tanks, allowing you to use your abilities more often. These include rewinding time to rectify stupid mistakes, and a few others which are more combat oriented.
Fighting in general is pretty enjoyable. It's never too hard, and aside from his noticed athletic prowess, the Prince has a few other special abilities up his sleeve. Using the dagger, he can freeze and individual opponent, and then finish him off with an impressive attack. Should things get sticky, it's no problem to slow down time for a bit and do some housecleaning. The game handles multiple enemies pretty well most of the time. In addition to his abilities, most of the harder battles have a source of water close by. This makes it easy to sheathe your sword, run over for a quick drink, and jump back in the fray. At times however, it can be difficult to properly target the enemy of your choice. This can become very frustrating when one of the sand creatures is down. If you don't stab it with your dagger (as opposed to your sword), it has a nasty habit of getting up to fight again. The problem is, at times it seems the Prince would like to do anything except stab his fallen foes. This includes using the dagger on other foes, and wasting sand by freezing them. It doesn't happen too often however, and when it does, you can just handily rewind and do it right.
Of course, there's a lot more to the game than fighting. The palaces and caves you'll explore are really just series' of obstacles, and you'll need precisely timed jumps and other special actions to navigate them successfully. In general, the game's intuitive control scheme makes this simple to pull off. Sometimes, you have to work on the timing - and in the case of rope swinging, things can get difficult. However, it's nothing a little perseverance won't get you through. Of course, if you do happen to fall into a pit of sharpened stakes, or take it in the head courtesy of a serrated blade, then it's time for a handy rewind. Should you happen to use up all of your sand, the game continues at a point that's never to far from where you died. This eases up on the frustration greatly, and also contributes to the game's overall ease.
The beautiful Farah joins you for many of your adventures, and you usually have to find a way to get her past obstacles that she can't manage. Luckily, this usually involves moving a box - so Farah can find a crack in the wall and crawl through. If the Prince would only lose some weight, he'd have a much easier time defeating the sand infested undead scourge. She also joins you for some of the fights, and usually gives a decent accounting of herself. Her weapon of choice is an bow and arrow so she's usually out of harm's way and manages to give you a hand.
The story is actually being narrated in the past tense, which makes for a delightful way to work through the game. When you die, for instance - the Prince is likely to say 'No, no no! That's now how it happened', or 'No, I didn't fall there...', which manages to keep a nice even flow throughout the game. The voice-acting is excellent throughout, and it's fun to hear the Prince's cultured voice telling you that he didn't fall into the pit of horribly sharp spikes. He did though, a couple times... honest.
Taking into account the easy fights, handy rewinds, and short levels, you should be able to work through the entirety of 'Sands of Time' in about a dozen hours. The game is pretty replayable, but a few more levels or some harder sequences might have been appreciated. The console versions have a little something to make it worth your while - a fully playable version of the classic 'Prince of Persia'. It's great to be able to sit down and play through the original. Not only are you given a sense of how much videogames have evolved, but new respect for how enjoyable old games truly were. Infuriatingly, the classic edition is missing in the PC release, where it would have been enjoyed the most. You can quit trying to find it folks - it's not there.
'Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time' is an unqualified success. It brings to mind the enjoyment of the original game, although it's a tad less cerebral. From gorgeous vista's to incredible moves, 'Sands of Time' rarely disappoints. It's an excellent game on all consoles, and it's just a pity the PC version didn't ship with the original. The Prince of Persia is back, and he's as fun as he ever was.