Ignoring the free-running, rather mouthy Prince from 2008’s HD Prince of Persia, The Forgotten Sands is set between Sands of Time and Warrior Within, playing as the expected combination of platforming showpieces, close combat and simplistic lever and button puzzles. As the Prince’s first original adventure on Wii, it has to be commended for being designed specifically for the machine rather than ported across from other formats. Regrettably that means some all-too familiar Wii mechanics raise their heads to spoil what’s otherwise a good package.
Prime amongst these is combat. With the Remote as your sword, combat is intuitive at first but it lacks the fluidity of a Zelda: the responses aren’t quick enough to make you feel involved, so you end up swinging the controller to slash wildly. There are plenty of moves to earn along the way that introduce variety, but the foundations are unstable and combat soon becomes a chore.
The platforming fares better, relying on a single button to jump and wallrun, the two moves forming the majority of the challenges. A white beam of light shows where your jump or wallclimb will take you, removing the need for leaps of faith, and certainly helps to take the guesswork out of jumping in a 3D space.
In fact, the game doesn’t really give you full control over your jumping: instead it “snaps” you to the ledge, hook or beam you’re aiming for, and this ends up being a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it alleviates frustration from narrowly missing platforms and builds up remarkable fluidity when tackling complex sections, but on the other it feels the game is more in control of your jumps than you are: you may be pushing the direction and button, but as long as that white beam of light is there, you can’t fail. Platforming newcomers will appreciate the level of assistance, but genre veterans are likely to find it irritating after a while.
That’s not to say it sours the experience completely: the thrill of chaining together leaps, swings, wallruns and slides is still intact, and the game’s better sections set a lightning fast pace that the whole adventure sticks to, with no loading screens or level selects to break up the adventure.
In terms of design, The Forgotten Sands proves its worth as a good-looking title with some interesting bosses, ornate level design and pleasing textures, though occasional camera problems mar the engine’s good work. The slow-motion effect applied during certain high-profile moments may not be to everyone’s taste, but it certainly adds drama to proceedings, as do the cutscenes between the Prince and his genie companion, the dialogue between the two being of a predictable quality.
Occasionally the game switches to a classic 2D viewpoint, and there are more such stages unlocked throughout the title, proving to be enjoyable deviations that emphasise the lack of a need for precise control. The original Prince adventure –a version of which is included as an unlockable extra – asked for pinpoint accuracy from the player, demonstrating that a lack of finesse would result in death. The Forgotten Sands’ 2D stages stick to the semi-automatic style of control, keeping the pace high but removing some of the tension that drove the original levels so brilliantly.
Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands is an admirable attempt to make what could have been a complex 3D platformer accessible. The use of the light beam and jump assist will be a blessing to newcomers, who should find themselves zipping through the world in no time. For veterans, the lack of full control can be off-putting, seemingly lowering the level of skill required to succeed, but if you can see past that you’ll still find something to enjoy.