I made this review for GoG.com. It’s a page which ports older (better) games on newer computer systems(Win7) and sells them at prices of $5,99 and $9,99, always DRM-free. So if you aren’t interested for this page, please ignore the mentions about it. BTW, the first sentence is directed at Half Life, so that no one gets the joke…hehe:
One day, the scientist Gordon Freeman went to work at Black Mesa. He was told to test a new material in the labortory. Little did he know, he caused a vortex to another dimension and aliens invaded his world. All other scientist became HEADCRAB ZOMBIES.
The story of Prince of Persia: Sands of Time isn’t that afar. A young Persian prince joined his father on a typical “Father and Son-on-work-day” by invading India. The young Prince,a really spirited and idealistic warrior, found a mystical blue dagger at the Maharadja’s treasure along a mysterious hourglass which keeps the Sands of Time. Later on, in an Arabian castle named Azad, the Prince was told by the treacherous Vizier to use the dagger to open the hourglass. Little did he know, he caused the release of the Sands of Time which invaded the world. All humans except him and the Vizier and the enslaved Indian Princess Farah became SAND ZOMBIES.
… to be honest, I wonder if this kind of plot device makes every game succesful and unique, or if zombies make any game awesome. Because Sands of Time clearly is. You’ll find in every game page and forum positives critics of this game being considered as the best game ever. Even Yahzee, a really well known critic of Zero Punctation, is favouring SoT as his most favourite game along Portal. With good reason!
The game is a very unique piece of art, and along it’s sequel Warrior Within,Beyond Good and Evil, Splinter Cell 1-3 and Rayman this is the best game you’d ever find on the Ubisoft catalogue.
It influenced even later games due it’s mindblowing gameplay, as the biggest example God of War and the newest example Garshasp, an Iranian indie game still under developement.
But now enough of buttering it up. Let’s get to the review
Sands of TIme plays in a medival islamic setting of the Middle East during 10-11th century. But the architecture is a mix of everything. Who is into orientalism will find many different styles such as Indian,Arabian to Archaimedic and medival Persian. For 2003’s standart the architecture and the environment is really rich and manifold. Each level uses a complete different look and it’s been taken with good care to let you focus more on the environment than on the actual gameplay.
When you find the abonded halls of Azad or visit the balcons of the palace or the Sultan’s zoo, you can always gape at it’s wonders and it’s richness.
Even the models of the characters, the enemies and the weapons are worth to note. I don’t want to spoiler much,so you have to look it up yourself.
Prince of Persia shares a long history of plattforming. The oldest game from Jordan Mechner was a rather spartanic looking 2D-Plattformer with a real challenging gameplay because the game tried to take realistic movements and momentums of jumping and climbing. What the game made alot harder were the fast chance of dying by traps or deep ravines. If you think Mario was hard, try this one out!
Nevertheless, the team of SoT decided to make the game a lot easier for more casual gamers but still keeping the challenge of plattforming. For a 3D game, the plattforming reminds everyone of Tomb Raider, a classic plattform franchise. But SoT took a more stylistic touch on the movements of the Prince which goes to the impossible. You can even run along walls! Due the good porting from the team the plattforming is faster to adapt than on other plattform games because you quickly get the thrill of running along walls, jumping and backflipping around, you love every minute of it. The Puzzles are especially fun to solve due their hard challenge and innovative concepts.
The Prince is the Middle Eastern Batman, that’s for sure. The battles are no longer based on duels between two conterparts but of dynamic hack’n’slash taking on more than one enemy. You are using two kind of weapons, the dagger and a sword, to dual wielding against the zombified court of the Persian King and the Sultan. Like the plattforming is the combat based on style, so you tend to make impossible moves while you take on the enemies, for instance, jump over them and give a devastating Dante-like “BLAST OFF”. The game is heavily combat driven, you are going at certain parts of a level and must finish off the respawning enemies by absorbing them with your dagger. The combat tend to become repetitive due it’s huge amount of dealing with enemies but the experience stays unique.
Music and Sound
The soundtrack of Sands of Time is composed solely by Stuart Chatwood, a british Pop-Singer(lol) from a band called “The Tea Party”. The soundtrack is one of the real treasures of game soundtracks, taking on David Wise’s “Donkey Kong Country 2” Soundtrack. The music is a mix of soft pop with oriental music (Indian, Arabian, Persian, it’s all in one) with some anonymous high talented female singer giving the player a refreshing experience from all those epic music derived soundtracks.
The sound effects of environment and enemies are also really at top notch and memorable, such as the high quality voice acting. It’s one of the first games which took British voice actors which many other developers copy from.
Many games of the 3D generation have issues with adding female characters into a game. Either they are over sexualized sluts(DoA) or become mary sues being perfect at anything(Tomb Raider). Farah, the arrogant Indian princess, is one of the only female characters I ever enjoyed in a game. She is a stuck up smart *** and a bad archer. If she tries to support you in combat, she tends to miss the enemies and shoot you. She can’t plattform like the Prince and is forced to use cracks(lol) to accompany you on the journey. But Farrah gets an undeniable important factor of the game later on since puzzles accomplish are depended on her support more and more. And if she dies, the game is over,simple as that.
Farah opens in SoT a new definition of game interaction. She becomes your ally and you can try alot out for the LULZ. I don’t want to ruin your experience, so I leave that open to you.
Jordan Mechner, creator of the first 2 Prince of Persia games and current screen writer of the upcomming Disney movie, wrote the script of Sands of Time and proved to be worthy of being entitetled as a genius. Being inspired by the old Persian epic Shahnameh by Firdausi Mechner took alot of elements into the writing to give the game a more Persian athmosphere than on his other releases. And his writing stands up to many other scripts you come along games. Mechner even tops big block buster games such as Metal Gear Solid and God of War with his witty and ironic screen writing.
The author gets into a kafkaesque perspective of the Prince, so the view is solely based on him and thus pretty subjective. The Prince tends to make a lot of soliloquies during the game and gets easily sarcastic. His encounters with Farrah are especially downright hilarious!
And we shouldn’t forget memerizing ironic lines like “Look, a crack! ” to make you throw off of your current game concentration.
The little things matters
But what actually made Prince of Persia: Sands of TIme really big wasn’t only the combat or the environment. It were the little details the gamer could explore but wasn’t entitled to do so. For example if the Prince get dirtied and you don’t controll him for the next minutes, he cleans himself up properly.
Again, Farrah. Hehehehe….
Sands of Time
Now how could I forget the most important factor which made the game even as succesful!
The sands of time is the most unique factor of the whole game! If you are at the verge of death, you can reverse your mistake for limited number of times and retry again. How cool is that?!
As I like to quote another reviewer named Shmenonpie: “It never gets old seeing yourself epic-leap up a cliff, get unstabbed and backflip over an enemy whilst going back in time – getting killed becomes a 5 second entertainment, in a way”
Oh you bet. And again, I want to direct you to Farah. MUHAHAHAHAHA!
If you want to try out a GoG, real true GoG-gem, get this game! You are doing yourself a favour than Ubisoft who are working on their next fail sequel “The Forgotten Sands”.
The bonus is promising aswell and rich for fans who dig Sands of Time, topping it over you get the awesome Soundtrack of SoT!
If you enjoyed Sands of Time, I recommend you to be careful with it’s controversial sequel “Warrior Within”. Warrior Within is a really good game despite it’s critics, but if it pains you to see the Prince turned into a tragic Shakespearan hero who suffers from the consequenses of SoT and the sequel take on a much darker approach, you shouldn’t play it. But if you want to try it out. You can buy Warrior Within on Steam and on D2D and Gamer’s Gate. But you should rather vote on the Wishlist for the sequel and wait for it’s shelf here. Because Warrior Within is an awesome game by itself.
The movie adaption of this game, written by Mechner aswel, will come out this month and will probably be the first succesful movie adaption of a game! If you are exited, play ones more this game to prepare yourself 83.
“Do you wish to leave while I finish my story? “
PS.: Don’t buy the Forgotten Sands. This game looks aweful, gameplay and storywise and spits on Persian culture. This archivement pretty sums it up how the gamer will feel about it:
“As you wish”