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Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands (360)

Rated: 12+. (There's vast amounts of hack'n'slash but it's mostly against humanoid sand monsters that disappear in a puff of silica rather than collapsing in a bloody heap.)

Story: Set after the events of The Sands of Time, the Prince goes to visit his brother Malik in a desert fortress, only to arrive in the middle of an invasion. His forces overwhelmed, Malik decides to release the legendary army of sand contained beneath the fortress. Rather inevitably, this makes matters far worse.

It's up to the Prince to seal the army away again. This involves much leaping, a great deal of hacking and not quite enough witty banter.

Gameplay: Jump, wall-run, swing, jump, swing, wall-jump, swing, hack, hack, hack, hack, hack, hack, kick, hack. Repeat.

The Forgotten Sands is a very linear platform game. There's little exploration - it's mostly a case of getting the timing right to avoid falling to a spiky doom as you follow a path of leaps and handholds. Every so often, some monsters turn up. Dealing with them requires hammering away at the X button a lot.

As the game progresses, you gain abilities to freeze water, leap long distances at enemies and make crumbled bits of architecture reappear. These are all needed to get about the later levels. You can also rewind time to correct your mistakes.

Killing monsters brings experience points which can be spent on health upgrades, damage bonuses and special attacks.

Save System: Automatic save after completing every short section. This can unexpectedly prevent going back to explore, though. There's also a bug with the upgrades to watch out for.

Comments: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was one of the best games of the PS2 era. Everything about it was like a breath of fresh air - the free-flowing platforming, the exciting combat, the graphics, the frustration-avoiding time rewind, the likable characters, well-structured story and the amusing dialogue. Unfortunately, none of the games since has been as good. They've all managed to break some part of the formula while also having the disadvantage of seeming overly familiar.

The Forgotten Sands is clearly an attempt to get back to basics while cashing in on the release of the Prince of Persia movie. The complicated plots and fighting systems of the later games are ditched in favour of a near re-run of The Sands of Time. It's another leap and fight through another ruined palace to put right another lapse of judgement concerning another ancient magic. Quite simply, it's just another day at the office for the world's most acrobatic prince...

As such, however, the game is very polished. Taking on a horde of enemies at once is fun and platforming is still a breathless thrill. The problem is, if you've played all the previous games, The Forgotten Sands feels like a step back in time. This is maybe where the series should have been in 2005. The gameplay is more streamlined than The Sands of Time and there are some extra bells and whistles but it's almost the same game with HD graphics, a worse story and easier combat. There's nothing more. Trying to find the secret areas highlights how little exploration there actually is - looking around is a constant battle against the camera which is desperate to point to the next handhold and herd you inexorably onwards. Half the upgrades are worthless. Why waste experience points and magic power on other things when the shield ability makes you totally invulnerable? Niggly issues, such as trying to get levers to turn the correct way, are still present. Even better, the main way of replenishing health and magic now consists of going round smashing pots. Who thought that would be entertaining?


And yet... The Forgotten Sands is very enjoyable. The Prince of Persia magic is there. If you haven't played any POP games before, then you'll think it's fantastic. If you're a long-time fan, you'll enjoy it for the nostalgia value even while you're dreaming about the Assassin's Creed 2 team getting the next stab at revitalising the franchise.

Conclusion: The best movie tie-in ever or yet another workmanlike sequel? You decide.

Graphics: Initially great but rather monotonous after a while.

Length: Short.

Rating: 4/5 if you've never played a Prince of Persia game before but 3/5 if you've played more than one. That said, if you thought the last game was an interesting new direction for the series, you might just want to go cry in a corner...

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