Article written by Blair Inglis.
Published on 06/08/2010 at 07:00 PM.
The Prince has been through a lot in recent years; a new direction with the 2008 game, a movie, and now a journey back to his roots in The Forgotten Sands. The game may have been released at the same time as the movie, but don’t write it off just yet, there’s a whole new story in here for fans of the original Sands of Time trilogy or even newcomers to the series to enjoy. Essentially, Ubisoft have used the Power of Time to rewind back to a period just after The Sands of Time and before the grim sequel.
The game starts off with the Prince in a distant land, trying to avoid the war going on as much as he possibly can in order to find his brother, Malik. After a warm welcome and a good catch-up, Malik decides to finish the war once and for all, by releasing Solomon’s Army, an army of sand creatures that outnumber the grains of sand in the desert (don’t worry, you won’t have to fight them all) by using a magical medallion. Thankfully, the Prince and his brother are protected from being turned into sand statues by the parts of the medallion that they both have.
This provides an interesting set-up for the experience points, energy points and health points, with them feeding directly into your half of the medallion. These orbs will fly out of enemies as you defeat them, the experience points allowing you to upgrade your abilities, and the energy and health points restoring your meters. You’ll also collect different powers as you progress through the game; the first is the Power of Time, making a return from The Sands of Time. Having problems with the floor breaking beneath your feet, leaving you to fall to your death? Don’t worry, you can simply rewind time and this time round, you’ll know it’s coming. How about if you’re running along a wall and realise the pole you were about to jump to is actually just a spout of water? No problem, just freeze it and it’ll become a solid substance for you to swing across.
The platforming is undoubtedly the best part of the game. You’ll be methodically running along halls, avoiding traps, solidifying water and rewinding when you fall at first, but further in to the game you’ll be doing all of these things at the same time, with some of the later platforming sections providing a real challenge to overcome. The linearity works well with this, as it allows for focused sections with mighty traps, challenges and timed doors. And it’s when you are given the ability to recall parts of the environment to see the land as it once was, that you’ll really appreciate the platforming; running along a solid waterfall only to jump to a pole that has to be recalled in mid-air so you can swing over to a frozen water spout flows perfectly and this makes these sections stand out from the usual platforming formula: jumping over gaps and getting it over and done with.
Unfortunately, the gameplay found with the combat is not up to the high standard of the platforming. It feels slow and clunky in comparison to the Prince’s acrobatic wall running, and it becomes easier to defeat the already weak enemies as you upgrade, rather than providing a progressively difficult challenge. The singular weapon that you have simply isn’t enough to make the combat fun or interesting, hacking through enemies is as simple and boring as continuously tapping a button. Sure, you can kick enemies down or charge up your attacks, but these two moves don’t provide much variety and the lack of combo moves is appalling. The boss battles, however, are a good blend of intense, acrobatic platforming and slow paced combat, and the large boss sequences are a glimmer of hope that the combat could actually work.
Even though you’ve only got one weapon, there are four elemental magic powers that breathe some life into the ugly combat system. Stone armour protects you completely, even if you are blasted back; Trail of Flame does what it says on the tin, a fire-trail will follow you, damaging enemies that get in its way; Whirlwind is a mighty gust of wind, it will either knock enemies down or suck them into a tornado once you have upgraded; and Ice Blast fires out ice shards along the ground as you swing your sword, impaling enemies that stand in front of you.
Your powers are upgradeable by spending the experience you’ve collected, although each only has four levels. These elemental powers are just a part of the game’s more magical approach, and the only real problem with them is that they could have been implemented better, working with the main powers rather than just being additions to combat.
Puzzles act as a welcome intermission between the action-packed platforming and tiring combat sections. They are few and far between, but there is a colossal puzzle at one point in the game that will leave you in awe. The precise timing of the platforming sections are somewhat like mini puzzles, so you are always left thinking about how to get to the next area. The problem with this is the necessary repetition that comes bundled with limited ways to construct these sections, but the systematic unlocking of main powers throughout the game allows for differently structured areas.
Sadly, the remedy to the repetition is also the game’s downfall; it’s simply too short. Even though a new power will be unlocked every few hours, there’s only three to unlock after the initial introduction. Thankfully, the experience you have during this time is a fantastic one, and as long as you just treat the combat as an interlude between the platforming and puzzles, you’ll feel extremely rewarded by the end.
The game looks fine. There are some nice effects when you use powers, but it’s nothing outstanding. It doesn’t need to be, though, as you still get the impression of an epic war going on from the very start. There’s much more attention to detail than the previous games in the series, but it still doesn’t match some modern games. The platforming animations are great and the Prince looks like he is actually freerunning, but the combat animations can act extremely abnormally at points.
Although the soundtrack is fantastic, it is crippled by the lack of intense music in big battles and the fact that the music will sometimes come to a complete halt. Prince State-the-obvious narrates the game and enjoys pointing out every detail, which can be an annoyance, but the voice acting in cutscenes is great. They’ve even used the voice actor from The Sands of Time, which makes it feel like a real return to the Prince’s roots.
- A return to the roots of The Sands of Time series
- Intense, satisfying platforming sections
- Some moments will leave you in awe
- Sound and animation flaws
- Lifeless, sluggish combat
- Short story that leaves you wanting more
The Prince makes a triumphant return to his roots in The Forgotten Sands, and all of your fears of this being a rushed game to simply be released alongside the movie can be abolished; we’ll put that one down to good timing. The magical feel of The Forgotten Sands and the extremely smooth platforming sections heavily outweighs the problems found in the combat sections of the game. Although the experience is over quickly, you may find yourself slotting the disc back in soon after completion, just to prolong your enjoyment of the game. The Forgotten Sands provides an excellent entry point to the series for newcomers, whilst acting as a true sequel for fans of The Sands of Time.