Prince of Persia: Warrior Within
Five minutes into Prince Of Persia: Warrior Within, you realise that we've come quite a way since we left the posh, foolish and slightly fey youth that we left atop a minaret last year. An older Prince - I can understand that. He's had a hectic day and not had time to shave - that happens to us all. But he's facing an evil woman
whose arse has almost entirely filled my screen with a close-up so intense that you can almost see the veins, and a leather G-string that could garrote a doormouse. Jesus wept! Ladies and gentlemen, it appears we're not in Kansas anymore...
Blame those marketplace realities. Prince Of Persia: Sands Of Time sold bugger all, so a bunch of overweight men in suits came up with a Powerpoint presentation that clearly had the kidz' as its focus. Gone is the charm, gone the delightful relationship between the Prince and Farah, gone the absolute uniqueness that sold me its predecessor so utterly. To be replaced instead with tits, arse, decapitations, combos, rock music, big monsters and slow-motion depravity.
But Hang On...
Thing is though, I actually quite like tits, arse, decapitations, combos, rock music, big monsters and slow-motion depravity - so I find myself in a bit of a pickle. I'm angry that something that I held so dear has been taken away from me, but the fact that the new game is actually pretty good certainly lessens my fury. The nuts, bolts, jumps and spins of the old game are still here you see, they've just been put through a heavy goth filter that might take away a lot of the originality, but they certainly add a fair dollop of fun.
The somewhat befuddled story has it that the Prince's prior time-fiddling and death-dodging has enraged the Empress of Time, who has sent her vengeful Dahaka demon to ensure that the Prince meets a grisly fate. In an effort to avoid this, the Prince sets off for an island full of cogs, gears and spinning blades where he can nip between the present and the past in an effort to stop the roots of the problem (the Sands Of Time) from ever being created. Among all this, there's a nice woman with astounding breasts and the voice of Monica Belluci, the aforementioned evil woman with the prominent arse and a variety of vampire women who really like it when you bite back.
Combat lies somewhere in the deadzone between buttontapping and carefully planned swipes - which (as someone who normally regards blocking in beat 'em ups as something that happens to other people), I initially struggled with.
The learning curve is steep - far, far steeper than the Prince's original outing, and it was a while before I felt brave enough to enter the game's vast list of teen-friendly, yet invariably spectacular combos. Once the simple beauty of the thrown secondary weapon and all the possibilities of zombie throwing, wall-pouncing and gut-carving have been explored however, you always find yourself looking forward to the next clash of swords. Every now and then a boss appears that has you fuming at the sparseness of time-reverse sand on offer while you glare at the Game Over screen for the fifth time in a row. However, overall the improved combat system is a massive feather in the Prince's turban.
The required level of acrobatic finesse has also been raised; mainly through the paltry sand and save-point dispersal, and the presence of enemies inbetween your innumerable wall-dashing sorties.
Warrior Within is also brave enough to add in some new features, such as Errol Flynn-style curtain sliding (which is ace); and, kicking in about halfway through the game, the appearance of a cavalcade of rotating surfaces and poles that move lengthways and sideways. The game capitalises on the possibilities afforded by the third dimension to a much greater extent than its forbear, and is far more difficult as a result.
Environments themselves, meanwhile, are pretty much the same as before. You generally run through an area twice - once in the past when all the traps and platforms are shipshape and operational, and once in the present where everything has fallen to bits and has tree trunks sticking in it. It's a nice touch, forcing you to think twice about the same environment, but it often strays into deja vu - and not in the sense it intends.
Essentially, what's happened here is that while the previous game modelled itself in the fashion of Ico (the beautiful PS2 adventure), this version has regressed to the far more traditional, tried and tested mood and ambience of the Soul Reaver series. In this it succeeds wholeheartedly, blowing Raziel out of his grave in most conceivable ways, but a bit of me still misses the charm and the wit of its predecessor.
When Pm 84
The difference can perhaps be best summed up thus - picture the scene. Years from now, I'll be shacked up in an old folks home, sitting with other wrinkled nerds wistfully reminiscing about the Prince (calling him a nice polite lad' who really showed us that games could be different if they tried). In my barmy old age, though, I'll be thoroughly unable to remember Warrior Within. Not because it's without greatness and not because it didn't give me a fun ride - but simply because, the day the Prince reached adolescence, he lost the ability to stand out in the crowd and became lost in the sea of other more commercially-viable titles. Warrior Within is a great game, and one you'll enjoy, but I much preferred the Prince when he was a bit of a div.
Download Prince of Persia: Warrior Within
Rule one, better swordfighting. Rule two, darker characters. Rule three, the same amazingly athletic gameplay we've taken for granted every other time we played the first Prince of Persia. Without a doubt, all three of these goals have been achieved, but not always in a satisfying way. This time around, the Prince is pursued by the evil Dahaka, a creature unleashed when he opened the Sands of Time during the events from the first Prince of Persia. This creature, sent to defend the timeline, means to kill the Prince and restore the timeline. Tasking himself with destroying the Sands of Time to prevent this all from ever happening, the Prince sets out on yet another adventure, this time packing the angsty rebellion of a teenager along the way.
In my opinion, the most crucial difference between this game and the first is the combat system. Much smoother, featuring more options than the last, you can not only dual wield weapons but also steal them from your opponents, and string together combos that range from a series of wicked slashes to a leaping strike that jumps over the opponent and then decapitates them after you land. My only real complaint is of the AI opponents, who are not only vicious and capable, but frequently seem to resist all but the most specific fighting strategy. For a game that's designed to be flexible, giving you the choice of how to fight, I did get the feeling of being hemmed into a pretty specific block, evade, attack pattern. The puzzle solving is pretty much the same as ever, and in my book, that's okay. It was solid to begin with.
Graphically, Prince of Persia is still amazing good looking. The cutscenes are particularly nice looking, with incredibly realistic cloud and water effects. While audio doesn't dominate this title, it doesn't get skimped on either, so you've got your bases covered there too.
All in all, this title was a tad annoying with its combat, and as with Ninja Gaiden. For my money, if you can overcome that, it's definitely worth a shot.