The new Prince of Persia game for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 represents a fresh start for the series.
I was never a huge fan of the original Prince of Persia games, but when the series was reborn in 2003's The Sands of Time, I quickly became a fanboy.
The ensuing trilogy on the PS2 and Xbox took the Prince's plaforming roots and turned them into full-scale displays of acrobatics and dazzling swordplay.
But the Prince's ability to reverse time became the core of the three aforementioned games - and it's mysteriously absent in the franchise's debut on the PS3 and Xbox 360.
But it's not the end of the world because the new Prince of Persia represents a fresh start for the series. Not only is the time control mechanic gone but the visual style has been completely overhauled, placing the Prince in a colorful yet gritty cel-shaded world.
Fans of the series will be relieved to hear, though, that stunning leaps and wall-runs still form the basis of the gameplay. There's also a new sword-based combat system and abundant environmental puzzles to solve. The new foundation proves to be a boon for the Prince because the old formula was starting to smell stale.
In my opinion, the new storyline, visual update and improved gameplay mechanics are just what the doctor ordered-it culminates in a game that is much more fun than its close cousin, Assassin's Creed.
Prince of Persia: healing a Dark World
The plot line that began in The Sands of Time and concluded with The Two Thrones has officially ended. Our new Prince appears in this game, caught in a sandstorm, attempting to make his way home.
"Farah!" the Prince shouts, several times over - a nod to the previous trilogy where fans might think the Prince is looking for the Indian Princess of the same name. But he's actually looking for his donkey, Farah, who has wandered off with his gold.
What he finds instead is a mysterious woman named Elika. Soon they are both drawn into story that has the duo racing to restore beauty to the land, corrupted by the god of darkness, Ahriman.
Where past Prince of Persia games were usually about the Prince and his journey, this one is more about Elika. Strangely powerful, she compliments this new "average" Prince nicely. Elika is connected to the land and her powerful abilities give the Prince the ability to traverse the world in search of light seeds, which allow her to unlock four special abilities (these abilities factor into the "platforming" aspects of play), attack enemies and save the Prince whenever he falls to impending death (thus replacing the need for time reversal).
Because Ormahzd, the god of light, is nowhere to be found, the Prince and Elika are out to restore the land to its colourful, green state all on their own.
Prince of Persia: exploring at Will
And so the game plays much more open-ended than other Prince of Persia games. I was a bit confused when I first began playing because this game is structured quite differently, encouraging you to forge your own path. But there's ample guidance along the way, specifically through Elika whose magical trail allows you to see the path to your next destination at any time, which comes in handy.
There are four special powers to unlock to progress to the end of the game-these allow the pair to fly, run and perform other special moves to reach "locked" routes - but to do that, the Prince and Elika must heal about 20 corrupted areas, each one linking to the next, making a chain of obstacles for the duo to platform through.
Each "healed" area turns colourful and fertile, opening up 45 seeds to collect. Some are easy to reach, and others are much more difficult. But each of the four main powers requires a specific number of seeds to unlock, so you'll need to collect hundreds as you progress through the game. Not all of them are necessary to get, but finding them is half the fun.
Prince of Persia: amazing acrobat
And that's where the insane platforming and acrobatic maneuvering comes in. Because Elika can reach out and save the Prince from any deadly fall, repeating obstacles over and over is usually avoidable. This gives the game a more fluid sense of play, and keeps it moving forward at a steady pace. I found this much more pleasing than the often frustrating challenges of other Prince games, usually because if you died, you'd often have to repeat some rather lengthy sections.
Most of the corrupted areas require a boss or mini-boss battle to heal them, and these get progressively difficult along the journey. I was initially put off by the fighting system, but about halfway through the game, I really started to enjoy it.
There aren't an abundant amount of enemies, but the fighting system is puzzle-y by nature-like a mini Metroid or Shadow of the Colossus. Blocking is essential, and well-timed blocks allow the Prince to counter attacks.
Sword attacks and grabs are the Prince's only way to physically attack enemies, but he can also call on Elika to unleash a series of magical melee attacks.
The tricky party comes with phase changes. Ahriman's dark enemies rise from the corrupted ground like a geyser of black fog. Easier enemies can be attacked in several ways, but more complex ones shift between phases where only a specific attack will work, and in some cases, you can't block.
Certain enemies can't be hurt at all, so you'll have to use the environment to take them down. While you won't see the multi-thieved sword fights of the Prince's past, once you get accustomed to this new system, it becomes very rewarding, with nods to Zelda-like adventure games.
NEXT PAGE: ropey dialogue
Get free games downloads. Visit PC Advisor's dedicated Games website to download hundreds of the latest titles, to read gaming news and reviews and to pick up tips and discuss your favourite games in the popular PC Advisor Games forum