We live in a wholly imperfect world. A world filled with hate, anger, war, and famine. As indisputable as that fact is, there are surely some people who would argue it. They would tell you that God is perfect, or that newborn babies are perfect, or even that Love is perfect. They lie. Only one thing is perfect in this world, and that one thing is Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. God kills dogs, babies throw up on you, and Love sleeps with that dirty guy down the street with the meth lab when you're at work. Prince of Persia would never do that to you. Prince of Persia loves you.
When I say this game is perfect, I am saying it with the conviction of a man who has found his salvation. I'm usually a pretty harsh critic, but nothing about POP feels wrong to me. So many games have had you running on walls, and almost as many have had you swinging on ropes and wall-jumping and climbing poles, but none has ever done it and made it feel so, so right. Every single button command is executed so well that the weakminded player might be frightened into thinking that the game knows what he wants to do before he himself does. Every time you need to make that precise jump, the control is there, and every time you need to run along the wall just underneath a moving saw blade, the control is there. Consequently, every mistake you make is yours, so there's no blaming the game or the controller this time, you pansy. The mechanics are flawless to the point where nothing is ever a chore, no matter how many unbelievable stunts the game might throw at you. That's also a lot of what makes it so rewarding. After many of the bigger battles or trying stunts, you're shown a montage of the challenges that await you, in a sort of flash forward. Each time, they look to be so difficult that it'll make you wonder just how in the hell you'll ever manage to do that. However, you'll manage, and it'll make you feel like you’re actually good at something for once.
Besides moving saw blades and beds of spikes, you'll also have to overcome such obstacles as giant swinging, spiked logs that will try to smash you against the wall; moving spiked pillars; and the ever-famous floor tiles with spikes hidden in them, &agrav; la the original Prince of Persia. That's a lot of spikes. And in addition to the rope-swinging and wall-walking, there's also plenty of inching along ledges, swinging from flag poles, and solving puzzles to keep you busy. And don't worry, the puzzles are neither too difficult nor too time consuming. Like Baby Bear's porridge, they're just right.
The Dagger of Time, acquired early on in the game will help you make a lot of these stunts and challenges possible. If you screw up and fall on a bed of spikes, or send yourself cascading down several stories on the outside of a castle, the Dagger gives you the ability to rewind time all the way back until before you realized just how much you suck. You can't suck forever though, since the amount of uses the dagger has is limited, though they can be refilled by killing enemies with it and by finding magical piles of sand. And speaking of slaughter, the combat system and camera are as well done as any other part of the game. You can flip, dodge, block, and slash the bejesus out of enemies with any of the swords you find throughout the game. That sounds like a lot of other action-platformer type games, but unlike many of them, the camera in Sands of Time is pretty much always where you need it to be, so running and flipping off walls and stabbing enemies in midair is as easy as crying when they still kill you. There are a lot of battles, and they get a bit tough later in the game, but Ubisoft Montreal makes it just tough enough to keep you playing but easy enough to keep you from not quitting. The only downside is that several of the battles require you to protect your love interest, and though that's never been done well before, it's done well enough here to keep it from dragging down the rest of the game.
You want graphics? POP is sexier than your mom. Everything has that beautiful new look of a room with a fresh coat of paint, the Middle Eastern setting is there in incredible and immersive detail, all the animations are as fluid as a Disney movie. Not one of their straight to video ones either, I mean the real ones. It can be run in progressive scan the way God intended, too. It's tough to really describe the beauty of the game in words, but rest assured that the first time you run along a wall and across a tapestry and you see it ruffle under your feet and swing back, you'll be in love.
Voice acting in games seems to usually be there just so the developers could say "Look, voice acting!" Prince of Persia has real voice acting. It's well written, well planned, and equal parts funny and intelligent. The Prince as a character is really formed throughout the game by the dialogue. For a game with relatively little dialogue and few cut scenes, the supburb voice acting does an incredible job of developing the characters and the story, so much so that you won't feel any less fulfilled at the end of the game than you would at the close of a really good movie.
The best part of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is that when I was finished playing it, I felt like I'd finished something that couldn't possibly have been any better than it was. The graphics are perfect, the sound is perfect, the gameplay is perfect, and it's the perfect length (10-15 hours). Playing the game, you will realize not only that you're playing something that a group of people put a lot of time and work into, but that they loved what they were making, and wanted the player to as well. They succeeded, and that's the highest compliment I can give any developer.
· · · Derek Durham