Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Pros & Cons:
Pertaining to My short list below.

More complete Pros & cons review coming soon...

While the graphics are a bit outdated, they hold up well, with a beautiful--often drop dead gorgeous--style, ranging from the architecture to the character design; the very immersive atmosphere's mystic glow permeating the environments; and although the core characters tend to be a bit one-dimensional, the story is cinematic in scope, with full narration by the Prince to move it along, and a great score throughout. The game's controls, mixed with the Prince's fast and fluid movements and animations makes it more than easy to pull off his incredible acrobatic moves, making it fun to jump, climb and use his time bending powers (which take some strategy) about the organically designed platform and puzzle based environments.

You'll often find yourself outnumbered--not outmatched; aka, they're not too clever.

On the negative side, although the combat system "looks" cool, it gets old fast, and is plainly too frequent and repetitive; there are a few combos and counter attacks, but none are needed, and the combat boils down to vaulting over the enemy, hitting them twice with your sword, extracting their sand essence with your dagger while they're down, and repeat. This would be fine, if the enemy wouldn't block you from your prey, constantly gang up on you, and attack you while you're busy with another (knocking you down, making it very hard to get up)--combat is a plain, dreaded chore.

The save points show up as glowing clouds of sand, and when you enter, they show a glimpse of future gameplay, and you then save--which is fine. The problem is, you come across these clouds every 5-10 minutes, and the visions are kind of boring and honestly a bit usless, which throws off the gameplay's pacing quite a bit--I see where they were going with the time concept, but they should have scrapped it altogether and implemented a less obtrusive auto-save instead. For the genre, this is a decent length (at about 10-12 hours), but other than finding (if you didn't find them the first time, that is) the secret health fountains, collecting all sand clouds and unlocking the original versions of Prince of Persia 1 & 2 (on Xbox only), there is little incentive to play through again--unless you simply loved the campaign.

Closing comments:
But overall, despite its annoyances, this is considered to be a modern gaming classic, and it should definitely be experienced at least once by action/adventure fans, as the Prince controls brilliantly, the atmosphere is gorgeous, haunting and surreal, and it has some genuinely well done platforming and puzzle portions.

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Content review for this game:
Pertaining to the ESRB rating.

Content sum up: Although there's negligible blood, no language, you're fighting sand monsters (not humans), and the tone of violence is more mild than most in its genre, this game is simply too intense for younger ages, with the fact that the Prince brought about turning all of the reluctant inhabitants (including his father) into monsters and then having to kill them is quite tragic; there's a brief scene suggesting the Prince and Farah slept together; and beyond content, the gameplay and its difficulty is a bit too complex for kids--it's just more suited for younger teens. So, I recommend this game for ages 13+.

Blood: The blood effects puff in negligible amounts when the Prince is hit by enemies and/or the many spike/blade traps set to block his way; the intro area has you fight against humans, who--like the Prince--shed red blood; you see a couple of undetailed human bodies impaled with swords (in the intro); and in a later area, there's skeletal remains and light blood stains on the floor. However, blood does not linger or splatter onto walls or floors, and after the intro, your main enemy--sand monsters--don't shed blood. In addition, the Prince does gradually become more bloodied in appearance as you progress the game; if he falls into one of the many spike pits, you'll see a full, but undetailed view of his impaled body (with a tiny blood spurt) before you rewind time; and the Vizier is seen coughing up blood into a handkerchief near the beginning, and coughs up more blood at the end. There is no option to turn blood off.

Suggestive themes: Three quarters through the game, the Prince finds Farah (main female character) naked in a bathing pool (seen from shoulders up). She asks him to join her, he strips (not seen), there are a few brief shots of her naked silhouette (no visible details), they go to kiss, the scene fades, and it is suggested that they sleep together--however, it is hinted that the incident might have been some sort of mutual dream and may not have physically happened. Also, on the same note, Farah wears a small, cleavage revealing top throughout; the female concubines (a sand enemy) wear small loin cloths, bikini-like tops, and move in a sensuous manner--which is offset by the fact that they are sand monsters; there are some undetailed statues and carvings of the naked female form scattered throughout; and the concubines former (male) guards are garbed in what appears to be some form of bondage gear.

Violence: A young prince follows his father into battle with a rival kingdom, and fights his way through the castle to its treasure vault. After reaching the intended chamber and retrieving his target, the Dagger of Time, he returns to his father, finds him with the rival king's Vizier (now supposed ally) and The Sands of Time (a large hour glass full of mysterious sand). When they present an allied king with the hourglass, and the defeated king's enslaved daughter as a gift, the Vizier tricks the prince into placing the Dagger of Time into the hourglass, thus unleashing the Sands of Time, and turning everyone but himself, the Vizier, and the enslaved princess (Farah) into hideous and mindless sand monsters. Time for the Prince to undo what he's done...

The base gameplay consists of using the Prince's incredible acrobatic skills to climb ladders, run across walls, jump gaps, scale and jump off poles, dodge spike and blade traps, swing from ropes, and navigate thin ledges; use the Dagger of Time to rewind time, allowing him to undo deadly platform and combat mistakes; move crates, and pull switches in conjucton with Farah to solve block, lever, mirror, and timed puzzles in order to progress the game's environment (which are huge puzzles in themselves); and fight the dozens of sand enemies in his way, as to reach the tower where the hourglass is being held, stop the Vizier, and ultimately set things right.

The Prince will be fighting the previous inhabitants of the palace (guards, concubines servants, and wildlife; birds, scarab beetles and bats--now mindless sand monsters) with his sword and the Dagger of Time. The combat system is moderately chaotic, as the Prince fights multiple enemies at once, taking them out by first knocking them to the ground and then extracting their sand essence with his dagger--after which, they disappear into a cloud of sand. They will grunt and scream as you fight, and you can often cut them in half, but since they're made of sand, they react accordingly, making the combat subdued, bloodless, and in no way graphic or gratuitous.

When it comes to age, this game is simply too intense for kids, with the fact that the Prince brought about turning all of the reluctant inhabitants (including his father) into monsters and then having to kill them is quite tragic; there's a brief scene suggesting the Prince and Farah slept together; and beyond content, the gameplay and its overall difficulty is a bit too complex. However, there's negligible blood, no language, you're fighting against sand monsters (not humans), and the overall tone of violence is more mild than most games in its genre--it's quite appropriate for younger teens.

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