Hall of Fame: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Every week we want to showcase a game that we're playing, that you should or you should not play.  This is Hall of Fame is, a place where each month we talk about some of our all time favorite games, like Prince of Persia. You can checkout last month Hall of Fame here or last week's feature, Into the Red, here.

A hall of fame inductee, to me at least, doesn’t need to be perfect. It just needs to be special. Games like Pac-Man and Super Mario will always hold their spots as games that anyone and everyone can love but that doesn’t mean all games need to reach those standards in order to be Hall of Fame quality. Take Prince of Perisa: The Sands of Time, for example. Is it perfect? No, I think many people will complain about the combat being repetitive and easy at times. Is it special? Well, that’s an objective question, but I’m about to explain why I think the answer is a resounding yes.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was one of the first games I beat multiple times. There wasn’t branching story lines that made me want to see every conceivable ending, there weren’t dialogue options to explore, and there were no RPG elements to build my character in different ways. What hooked me in and made me want to replay the game again and again were the game world and the environmental puzzles. Oh, and the ability to control time was pretty cool too.

The Prince, he never has a name despite what Jake Gyllenhaal would have you think, is an arrogant and somewhat oblivious member of a powerful royal family. After watching his father conquer a foreign land he sees his father’s reign come to a crumbling end through betrayal and treachery. But all is not lost, it seems the Prince can reverse all the terrible things that the Sands of Time have unleashed, mainly sand-zombies, by flipping through levels and rewinding time. What follows is a storybook tale that holds up pretty damn well, if I do say so myself.

The main gameplay element in PoP is the environmental puzzles. Every time the Prince walks into a room you’re greeted with a sweeping view and a slight idea of the path you can take. This is what makes PoP so special, seeing the Prince glide easily from wall to wall, jumping on bars and swinging from rods is a fun and intriguing sight. If I had to describe the gameplay of PoP in one word it would be: fluidity. The movements flow so easily from one to the other and the Prince traverses the landscapes and rooms with such ease that it makes you feel extremely powerful. Of course, there is always the occasional slip-up and you watch the Prince fall to his death, but that’s where the sand comes in.

The Prince’s Dagger of Time allows him to rewind time, think of it as the original time-rewind-potion. In this day and age time control in videogames is nothing new, but back then it was a rarity. Even with how far games have come I still find the rewinding of time, especially in the way PoP handles it, to be astounding and fresh. Not to mention the fact that the rewinding noise alone deserves its own Hall of Fame induction.

Combat, that’s the sticking point for many people when they talk about PoP but to me it was never about the combat. Think of the combat as a way to get to your next puzzle, just like how in God of War a puzzle is just blocking you from your next fight. The combat is easy, I’ll admit, but the puzzles make up for it in such wondrous and exciting ways that you really can’t hold the combat against the game’s greatness.

To me, a Hall of Fame inductee needs to be timeless. Many people would claim that since the Assassin’s Creed franchise has taken off there is no need to play a game like Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time because that traversal element has been extrapolated on in Assassin’s Creed. I’d agree with you, except for the fact that PoP did it first and I seem to have far more frustrating missteps in Assassin’s Creed games that I do in PoP. I believe this is due to the tightness of PoP both in its controls and its environments. You’re not running around recreations of giant cities in PoP but instead are navigating rooms of a magnificent palace. The environments are still what you would expect from a big budged Ubisoft game, even by today’s standards, and I believe that because the rooms are smaller there is less room for error. When you’re running after a villain or trying to solve a puzzle in one fluid movement you don’t want to jump right when you meant to go left. Prince of Persia gets that right and the feel of the game is incredible.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time holds up extremely well. If you don’t believe me go buy the game on Steam or get the PS3 trilogy and see for yourself. The story of the Prince is predictable and the combat is fine but the world you traverse and the way you traverse it is what makes this game worth of a Hall of Fame induction. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time paved the way for other traversal games, making it possible for games like Assassin’s Creed to exist. Its storybook atmosphere and fluid gameplay make for a special experience that will have anyone who finishes it saying “Kakolukia”.

Well, that does it for this week's Hall of Fame entry. Check back next week as we look a games that are available to purchase but not necessarily ready for review.