Image: All images in this article were captured on PC — Images: Nintendo Life

It’s not everyday that we demo a game at an event and immediately ask to go back for seconds. The upcoming Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown managed to quickly sink its daggers into us with its punishing but rewarding combat, breathtaking vistas, and flashy animations. So naturally, we couldn’t walk away without taking another stab. This new Metroidvania-style take on the frenetic, spike-trap-dodging platformer is shaping up to be every bit as incredible as the genre it’s taken inspiration from — and all from a team that’s created some of Ubisoft’s best platformers.

Revealed in the opening moments of the Summer Game Fest 2023 live show, it's been 13 years since the series was last on consoles in The Forgotten Sands. Initial reaction to this new entry was somewhat divided, with some longtime fans disliking its presentation and others absolutely psyched to see the series return to its 2D roots. We went hands-on with a demo build at Ubisoft's Forward event and came away excited to play more.

Instead of taking the role of a time-rewinding Persian prince, you play as Sargon, a warrior led by a team of royal soldiers known as The Immortals, who are on a mission to rescue their very own Prince of Persia. Now look, we know how it could feel if Link was swapped out for a random Kokiri kid in the next Zelda game, but trust us. Sargon is a breath of fresh air and an incredibly acrobatic swordfighter that you’ll quickly grow fond of.

Generally speaking, The Lost Crown feels close to MercurySteam's Metroid Dread. You’ll explore a 2D map full of different biomes in search of secret rooms, hidden passageways, puzzles to solve, and enemies to tear down that’ll reward you with upgrades and new abilities. That's not to say this is some ripoff trying to cash in on Dread’s success. Ubisoft Montpellier has been developing The Lost Crown since 2019. This is the team who’ve shaped Rayman since the very beginning, and it seems to be giving this new Prince all the care and attention you'd hope for given the team's past achievements and the lineage of this series.

Combat is fast and fluid and Sargon having a wide range of weapons and skills at his disposal. You can hit close range with dual blades, long range with a limited amount of arrows, or fling a chakram infinitely at will. Character movement and weapon aiming is all controlled with the left analog stick just like in Metroid Dread. After dealing enough damage, a meter will slowly fill up giving you the chance to unleash a few different specials that either send an energy wave towards enemies, or create an area-of-effect healing spell for a limited time. You can also equip Sargon with a limited number of amulets that give him stat boosts and new abilities, like the power to turn your chakram into a vortex or simply restore a bit of health after a successful parry.

What really pulls the combat together is the fact nearly every enemy attack in the game can be parried with a tap of the 'L' button. Standard attacks and projectiles can be a bit trickier to deflect, but if you see an enemy swing towards you and their weapon starts to glow yellow, a successful parry means you’ll be able to counter with a unique move, occasionally accompanied by a unique animation. However, if you see the enemy glow red, you’ll want to leap back or sprint away as you can’t withstand or parry those.

In 2003's Sands of Time, the Prince of Persia series became famous for enabling you to turn back the clock momentarily to retry an enemy encounter, or to take another leap of faith. This time around Sargon comes equipped with the ability to teleport back to a past location. By tapping the 'ZL' button, you can create an apparition of yourself on the ground or in the air, and by hitting the button again shortly after, you instantly teleport back to that exact location. This can help you to get the upper hand against an enemy with a sneak attack, or to leap back up to a high vantage point after missing a jump. In theory, it’s similar to using the Sands of Time but in this case, time never moves backwards.

As you'd expect from the series, we encountered a few areas full of spike pads, pits, and rollers to leap over and plenty of poles to swing from (which no longer require perfect input timing — just aim the analog stick in the direction you want to jump). We’re hoping these kinds of areas will be sprinkled throughout the final game. We stumbled upon an area with a fairly lengthy string of traps to weave your way through which had our heart racing and made us feel right at home. A midair dash and the ability to hang and slide on walls like the maverick hunter Mega Man X also make the world a fun playground to explore.

We played through the half-hour-long demo on both PC and Switch, but we were genuinely surprised and pleased to see how well the game performed on Nintendo’s little console, even in handheld mode on a first-generation model, even if we had to squint a little. While chatting with a few developers during and after our demo, we were told The Lost Crown is indeed targeting 60 FPS in both handheld and docked mode. We were told that development is “Switch-led” and the Switch experience is one of the team's main priorities. It feels like fewer and fewer Switch versions of multiplatform releases get this much attention, with the aging hardware causing headaches for developers also targeting PS5 and the Xbox Series X. Even though the 4K beauty of the PC version first captured our hearts, we didn't feel too miffed to switch over to that 720p five-inch screen.

All images in this article were captured on PCImage: Nintendo Life

Visually, The Lost Crown shows off everything the Switch is capable of with a buttery smooth cel-shaded art style. The boss we encountered at the end of the demo took some effort to take down, but after dealing the final blow we were treated to a stunning cutscene of a Sargon ripping into it. There’s nothing better than being rewarded with a fancy animation after a big fight, so we’re looking forward to all the scrapes we’ll get into.

Given the number of leaked games and announcements these days, it seems like a rarity to be genuinely surprised by a game reveal. Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is one we’ve been excited about since we first laid eyes on it, and we’re pleased we haven’t had any reason to be disappointed by the gameplay we've sampled so far. It’s going to be hard to sit back and wait till January next year for the game to launch, but we’ll do our best to enjoy the anticipation. After many years away, it's good to see this series back.