Developed by: Ubisoft Montreal
Published by: Ubisoft
Platforms: Gamecube, PS2, Xbox, PC
Feeling Like: Final Dune
I’m a little concerned about this one.
And according to the Irishman, if somebody says they’re a little concerned, they’re very concerned.
It’s not like I don’t think Prince of Persia: Sands of Time isn’t worthy of its placement. I’m sure I could nitpick about how it doesn’t have the creative level design of Rayman Origins, or the insane premise of Eternal Sonata. One look at some videos show how 2003 it really is and is a stark reminder of how long 20 years actually is, especially when it comes to the video game industry.
But I’m not confident it had a lasting legacy. My immediate reaction is one of slightly skeptical fondness, but the rest of my memories are shallow and I appear to not be the only one; a search on Youtube results in a shockingly low number of retrospectives. Either we haven’t hit the 30 year nostalgia cycle with this one yet, or Sands of Time is unnoteworthy.
The game looks great and muddy at the same time. Bloom lighting is everywhere, even the most bland surfaces seem to be hit with an invisible spotlight. I can’t say it’s aged well, but at the same time the game does a terrific job presenting a desert palace that you want to visit. Torches, trees, windows and pillars all look like they were plucked right out of a fantastical Persia. The soundtrack places you right there as well. One thing you can’t accuse the developers of is a lack of quality world building.
Combat was repetitive, which I really didn’t mind. Every section was appropriately built up and, like so many games of that era, would make it obvious when enemies were entirely cleared of the section with a dramatic white flash and a heroic pose. I never found it challenging, unless encounters got cheap with multiple enemies swarming you. It soon became a game of hit and run; take a swing, then run up the wall because another possessed soldier is mid-swing already.
The real hook was the parkour playground that presented itself in nearly every room. You’d think vaulting yourself across chasms or flipping through monkey bars would cease being satisfying after 10 hours, but the fluidity of movement and the environmental puzzles are so well done that it never becomes a chore. Because of your “Sands of Time” dagger, you can rewind time to correct a foolishly timed jump and try again. More than a few games have repeated and improved on this mechanic to great effect; it ensures players are willing to experiment, since they have a few mulligans to work with. Although the objective is usually clear, it’s nice to have some breathing room. It also leads to a funny narration of your main character, saying “no no no, that didn’t happen!”
That’s the whole enchilada; despite it being at 235, I have shockingly few memories of playing through this. When it came to the Gamecube, I was obsessed with playing every highly rated title that I could. This was certainly a member of that group, though inconspicuous. There were a few sequels, and a remake but obviously the original didn’t connect enough with me to take the plunge. I can’t wind back the clock to remember any more details, but I do know that the core mechanics were robust enough to warrant a placement this high.