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I'm a colonist who has declared war on machines and intend to conquer them some day. You'll often find me deep in the trenches fighting off bugs and ugly defects in code. When I'm not tappity-tapping at my WMD (also, known as keyboard), you'll find me chatting with friends, reading comics or playing a PC game.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Game review: Prince of Persia - The Forgotten Sands for the PSP

After the Prince of Persia trilogy that became a cult hit among gamers around the world, UbiSoft announced their departure from the current Prince storyline and their venture into a new cel-shaded version of the game. However, before leaving things out to dry, the publishers of the game decided that they would do a fourth title in the POP series – The Forgotten Sands. Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands was developed and released for multiple consoles including the Xbox, PS3, Nintendo Wii, DS and the PSP.

The Forgotten Sands is another epic adventure of the prince that takes place between the events of The Sands of Time and The Warrior Within. What’s really interesting is that the game for the PSP is not just another watered-down story of the one that exists on larger consoles. This time around, the creators decided that handheld owners warranted a unique experience for the Prince and as such the entire storyline is radically different from the one for the Xbox, PS3 and Wii.

The plot begins with a prophecy foretold to Ahihud, the mightiest of fire spirits - “You will die by the blade he brings. As sure as winter follows fall and day turns to night, a lonely hero with the blood of kings, no mortal soul can withstand his might”. Fearing that the prophecy would come to pass, Ahihud sends his minions to hunt down and kill all those with royal blood. King Sharaman, the Prince's father locks him in the palace for his own safety but the Prince pursues a mysterious guiding light which offers to help him find his enemy. The light turns out to be Helem, a spirit of time.

Ubisoft have taken the PSP game back to its roots by producing a 2.5D platformer(remember the classic Prince of Persia you used to play on DOS?) . The Forgotten Sands is in fact three-dimensional but not free roaming as you would expect in a 3D world. With the help of the spirit of time, the Prince can either accelerate time or slow it down. This makes for some pretty interesting gameplay and inventive puzzle solving. You can make a tiny sandstorm launch the Prince into the air by accelerating it or solidify by slowing it down. Time manipulation is not restricted to sands alone. Any object that Helem hovers over may be subject to acceleration or deceleration. Enemies can be slowed down to a crawl for a short while so that you can quickly dispatch them. Traps can also be brought to a grinding halt for you to safely get past them. As you run through the game, you find glowing orbs of magic called Elixir. Collecting these allow you to purchase upgrades for the Prince. The upgrades are either combat improvements (new combos) or health improvements (extending the health bar for longer life). The good old drinking fountain is still in use as it serves as a checkpoint for the game.

Combat is pretty simplistic in The Forgotten Sands. Basic combat involves mashing the square button to hit enemies. You can use the circle button to dodge or throw enemies into the air. You can also use combos in combat once you’ve unlocked them using collected elixir. Most of Ahihud’s minions are pretty easy to take down and don’t really pose a threat. Bosses, however, can be a different story.

Although, the graphics of the game cannot compete with that of larger consoles, It still looks marvellous on the PSP. The artists have paid attention to minor details such as wind being swept in the desert or tiny particles pulsing in a magic world. The cutscenes are engrossing and there’s nothing more rewarding than watching a brand new cutscene of the game after clearing a particularly irksome level. The environment is truly exotic giving you a “wish I were there” feel. Crumbling platforms are common especially in the later levels where you are engaged in a mad rush to clear the level without stopping even for a moment’s breath!

The soundtrack of the game keeps you right in the thick of it, from the arabic-inspired scores to the dark overtones of danger. Voice acting is spectacular as the story unravels through conversations between the Prince and Helem.

Fans of the POP Franchise would surely want this game since the story is completely different from the other console versions. The game offers some replay value too by allowing replaying of levels to better your time or collect elixir.