Sands of Time
Welcome retro gaming enthusiasts, to a new series about the Prince of Persia gaming series as a whole. Rather than starting at the beginning, we'll take a cue from the "Dagger of Time" and do this in a different order. For the first three articles, we'll be going in-depth with the new(er) POP trilogy, the aptly named Sands of Time Trilogy.
In 2003, the Prince of Persia series was in desperate need of a facelift. The developers at Ubisoft saw an opportunity in reviving this old-school franchise and their gamble paid off. They took the POP series and ran in a new direction - one that would see it go back to its old-school gaming roots without compromising the accessibility of the franchise. Thus was born Prince of Persia - The Sands of Time.
The game had a very simplistic story, but then, so do most great works. The prince is seen at the beginning of the game visiting Farah, the daughter of the Maharajah who his father had defeated, to recount his story. The game makes use of one of my favorite elements - time travel. The Prince recounts his entire story (which you play out) by going back in time to stop the whole thing from happening. The main mechanism that makes this happen is the "Dagger of Time", a magical dagger that the Maharajah's Vizier wants in order to make his grandiose plans of world domination become a reality.
The actual game begins with the unleashing of the Sands upon the world - transforming everyone but the Prince and Farah into Sand-monsters who must be defeated. The game then takes you throughout the entire palace of the Maharajah in a desperate quest to lock the Sands back into their enormous hourglass and save the world.
What really makes POP:SoT shine are its gameplay segments - taking a page from the Parkour movement (which, back in 2003 wasn't even really a movement), the Prince is able to run across walls without ropes - to climb, leap, and move around in moves inspired by free-running. The free-running is, of course, only one aspect of the game.
Featuring several tricky segments and incredulous jumps, it certainly sounds like the game may be a little too "hardcore" for the casual gamer - such is not the case when you factor in the gameplay twists created by the Dagger of Time. After the Sands are unleashed, the Dagger that you find at the beginning of the game suddenly becomes active and can be used to slowdown, rewind, and speed up time. While the slowdown and speed-up segments are well done, nothing beats the ability to re-do a tricky platforming segment using the dagger (even after you've died!).
Overall, Sands of Time ranks for me, personally, as Top 5 best games ever material. The time-travel segments are so well-interlaced and the story so well told that you just have a blending of all these perfect worlds.
Next time, we'll be taking a good look at the second in the Sands of Time trilogy - Prince of Persia: Warrior Within.