Genre: Action Developer: Publisher: Ubisoft Classification: G Release Date: 17th Jun 2010 Platforms:XBOX360
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Contrary to popular belief, this is not a tie in with the recently released Jake Gyllenhaal feature film Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, so let's get that out of the way right from the start. Movie crossovers tend to have a negative stigma attached (deservedly so), and this is a cut above the usual cash in.
Set between the events of the Prince of Persia The Sands of Time and Prince of Persia: Warrior Within, the aptly named, "The Forgotten Sands" is meant to piece together the two, though ironically enough, the actual plot is so simple and forgettable you'll just move from set piece to set piece with little concern for the overall scope.
While escaping from an invading force the Prince and his brother, Malik, attempt to magically awaken a long lost army to defend the city. Before you can say "predicable plot twist", it all goes to Hell in a hand basket.
They lose control of Solomon's Army and find themselves battling all manner of sand mummified enemies and their immensely powerful demonic looking leader, Ratash. To help you defeat Ratash, you'll come across the mysterious and top heavy Razia, who acts as your guide, eye candy and imbues you with mystical powers to combat his horde.
As you would have surmised by now, the plot is of little consequence, merely a device to move you between platforming puzzle to platforming puzzle, of which there are a lot. In fact, it would be easier to describe this as more of an exercise in puzzle solving than anything else, though the "time rewind" function is back reinforcing the old school feel, as is the return of voice actor, Yuri Lowenthal for the Prince, rather than Nolan North in the last outing.
Initially you'll move about the entire city, switching from combat to acrobatics as you negotiate your way to your brother through the bowels of the city. Combat is incredibly simple with a basic attack, powerful strike, air strike and kick. The combinations could have definitely been fleshed out a tad more, as it is a little to simplistic for my liking.
Though you can string moves together, for the most part you'll lack the time as the army attacks in waves - with you often fighting fifty or more creatures at once. Here, kick is your best friend as the domino effect comes into play, though you do get some nifty powers to help you along the way.
As you get your killing on you'll earn XP, which you can spend on upgrading health or your "rewind time" powers, or improving the damage done by regular attacks. There are also four other powers mapped to the D-pad for easy access. These are variations on Fire, Ice, Wind and Earth. Fire leaves a trail of damaging flames in your wake, Ice blasts enemies as you attack, Wind knocks them down for easy finishes and Earth gives you stone armour which is completely impervious to damage.
In all honestly, I only used each of these to rack up easy achievement points with the exception of the stone armour, which became my go-to power before any boss battle. In fact, by the time you reach the final battle, you'll be so powered up that even previous mini-bosses that you struggled with will fall after only several sword strikes.
The star of the show is, by far, the platforming and cog turning puzzles, which takes on several new slants and may cause you to fill whole dictionaries with new curse words - I sure as heck did. You start with all the usual princely bells and whistles, wall running, leaping, scaling columns, sword assisted banner descending, all with your trusty "rewind" power in case you mess up.
The new twists will require you to hone your timing to perfection and practice yoga for finger dexterity. At later points you will come across many fountains and spouts billowing water, but by holding a trigger to freeze the water, suddenly a spout becomes a staff to vault to or a hardened column to scale. Since you can only freeze for a limited time, you'll need to be quick on the trigger.
These puzzles are raised to new heights when you reach the final sections, where you'll have to juggle between freeze and a new power to recreate crumbling ruined sections to their former glory. As you can only recreate one section at a time, and freeze and unfreeze for limited periods, you will often have to solidify, or freeze... MID-JUMP before you land, leading to some of the most inventive and aggravating platforming I've ever experienced - though immensely satisfying once each section is complete.
By the time I reached the anticlimactic final battle, I found the path I took to reach this point far more enjoyable than the end result, with my victory almost assured. Those of you expecting a return to the Prince's former glory may be disappointed, though this is definitely a step in the right direction. Though the combat left a lot to be desired, the puzzles and platforming were some of the most inventive I've ever played, and if you're even a casual fan of the franchise it's worth persevering for these alone. Enjoyable, but instantly forgettable, rent it over a weekend and knock this puppy out.