Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands (Xbox 360) PAL   Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands (PS3) PAL 

Set after the events of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and before the events of Prince of Persia: Warrior Within, the Prince is sent to his brother in a neighbouring kingdom, he arrives to find it in a state of war. Invaders from a foreign land have come to take the kingdom from his family. When he eventually meets up with him, Malik is about to open a seal to King Soloman’s army. Despite the Prince warning him that it is a desperate measure that will probably make things worse, the seal is broken. The result is that everyone not holding the seal pieces is turned to sand statues and an army of undead soldiers starts running amok in the castle. After getting separated, the Prince wanders into a strange portal to find that the seal wasn’t Soloman’s Army, but an undead army led by the inferno Djinn ; Ratash. Razia who is incidentally a water based Djinn, says that the only way to stop the army is to reunite the seals. He must now safely find his brother and stop the invasion. The plot is entirely too predictable with the major twists becoming all too obvious as you progress. It’s hard to not laugh at some of the dialogue for its campness, but with the recent film release it was probably going to be that way anyway.

The landscapes are given away from the mention of an old collection of Middle Eastern countries called Persia, so expect a lot of deserts and Arabic architecture. A lot of the environments are completely interactive, such as the flags and banners surrounding doorways and the pots that are scattered around the place. Most of the time they will churn nothing, but there is an odd occasion where health and energy can be replenished. There are occasions of the old invisible wall syndrome one would have expected to have been eradicated in the last 10 years, but these are few and far between. Scale has certainly been achieved, but at the cost of any charm. We certainly have the desperation element from the sand statues, but other than this the castle is as lifeless as the current inhabitants. Fitting certainly but appealing; not so much.

Backdrops border the somewhat epic, but it gets too easy to know where to go.

Along with the Prince’s ability to warp the perceptions of time and space to make sure he doesn’t die, he will gain access to a few new interesting abilities along the way. Solidifying water is perhaps the first you’ll come across and the implementation is brilliant. There are occasions where you’ll need to solidify it to turn into poles, whereas waterfalls make temporary walls to run up. The other two aren’t as important, but are very useful for mobility nonetheless. Being able to home in on a single enemy from far away renders seemingly un-passable gaps almost redundant, while being able to recall a location’s former glory to create platforms is a novelty idea that is quirky enough to find charming. A few locations will use several of these in tandem, but because of the nanny state of games thanks to tutorial systems and “breaking in” jumps and obstacles, these will rarely frustrate you. There are a couple of sequences where brilliantly timed jumps are essential and an incredibly long puzzle involving the tedious simplistic task of opening a gate, but these points are the only real point of challenge.

This is because combat is like going ten pin bowling with the world’s largest bowling ball. On the outset, it seems like a God of War clone with enemies; en-mass and only a small sword to keep you company. But as you progress through the game, certain abilities learnt from the outset such as leaping from enemy to enemy as if they were car tyres on an obstacle course and aerial slashes make taking care of individual enemies a doddle. The real kicker however comes from the ever present upgrade system. You get sand essence from defeating enemies which translates into experience. Each level will allow you to choose an upgrade from the menu. If you chose wisely and go with health and energy first, closely followed by Stone Armour upgrades, then the difficulty takes a severe Olympic style nose dive. Levels are obtained far too quickly, making you seem overpowered incredibly quickly. It doesn’t help that the higher levels of the elemental powers of fire, ice, earth and wind can be abused with little to no drawbacks. The Prince of Persia series has always been more about the jumps and traps, and this is very apparent in the new game, but including a combat system where anyone who knows not to just mash on one button can triumph with little effort is just worrying. Where did the imaginative thought process go? It was there for the platforming sections, but is inconspicuously absent from the combat. Heck, there are even instances where the two boss battles and the titan enemy types seem like a walk with a particularly moist Victoria sponge, which leads me to the most heartbreaking thing about this “interquel”.

Episode 3 of "Xtreme Shower": Gravity defiance

You know that a game isn’t particularly challenging these days when the achievement list includes amongst others: “Defeat the final boss without getting hit”. It is a baffling choice and one that the development team might come to regret. Outlining the simple difficulty of an entire game, with the only thing to add to it being “…it’s easy”. There is a saying: “life isn’t always easy” just really doesn’t apply here in the slightest. The most difficult thing in the entire game is the tedious search for X amount of collectable MacGuffins that are scattered over the ruins of this oversized sandcastle. Here it is the ever macabre Sarcophagi. But even these are somewhat easy to find because there is always a lingering blue haze whenever one is nearby. In a way, it’s like being in a rather packed lift where there is a lingering smell. You are definitely sure that this was the location, but you’re not sure who the culprit was or indeed where they might be in the lift. Oh well, the UPlay enabled capabilities have some merit for use with other games, and that is a plus I suppose.

I wasn’t expecting much when the game was announced to be available as well as the film release this year. To say that is fairly bad is a bit of a damp squib but when one or two aspects show sign of promise, it is a little tragic. This had the potential to be special. It had the potential to be a great title that surpassed expectations. What we got is a game where two separate teams worked on the two styles of play; one team who had a moment of genius, and the other team who had moments of dementia. Who didn’t see the conflict of interest? Some people had the desire to create something special, while the rest decided to sit on their bums and pick their nose; yet they all get paid the same. I love how in Ubisoft games they always make a statement saying “the development team is comprised of people with different beliefs”. From this example, that isn’t the only thing that is different between them all.