Last night, I concluded my rocky love affair with the newish Prince of Persia game, “The Sands of Time.” I actually started playing it a while ago, and got about 70% of the way through the game, when I was stymied by a bug. I had recently saved, and a platform that was supposed to rise when I stood on it did not. Since I had no save game since 40%, in order to make it any further, I had to restart play at that point.
The game is beautiful. I think that it my be, graphically, the peak of what the PS2 will achieve (though Gran Turismo 4 won’t be any slouch, either). It has amazing lighting, shadows, and modeling. Part of the effect is acheived by giving the entire game a hazy sort of look, but it works for me. Even better than the way it looks, though, are the controls. I have never played a game with such a rich palette of character controls that was so effortless to use. It’s challenging while not being frustrating, with everything from running along walls to swinging around poles and sliding gracefully down ladders. It just works.
And the controls clear the way for the best part of the game: the puzzles. The game is basically one long string of movement puzzles, with a few fights thrown in. The puzzles usually revolve around getting from one room to the next, either by climbing or descending or opening a gate. Frequently, you’ll screw up, and end up plummeting to your death or impaled on spikes. That’s where another unique aspect of the game comes in: the dagger of time. With a press of a button, you can reverse time for 10 or 15 seconds, and give that tricky jump another try. It removes all the frustration but none of the sense of acheivement from the game.
Last night, I finally finished it. It took maybe 20 hours of gameplay, which in the age of Final Fantasy X seems paltry. But it was very satisfyingly spread over a couple of months, including the time to replay half the game :P. The game is out, I think, for the PS2, gamecube, XBOX, and PC, so there’s really no excuse for not giving it a spin. Probably the best action-based game I’ve played in years.