Title: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Developer: Ubisoft
Staff Notables: Jordan Mechner
Publisher: Ubisoft
Date Published: 11/10/2003
Platforms: Xbox, PlayStation 2, Gamecube, PC, Gameboy Advance
ESRB Rating: Teen (suggestive themes, violence, and blood)

The story of this game begins with a prince and his father invading a city, in search of treasure and conquest. Through the introduction, which leads you through the basic game mechanics, you stumble across the Dagger of Time. You soon learn that this dagger allows you to travel through time. However, through the double-crossing of the vizier who allowed the invasion to take place, the Sands of Time are released, transforming everybody but you, a princess, and the vizier into Sand Creatures. In this game, you play the aforementioned Prince of Persia in his quest to save his kingdom and the princess from the Sand Creatures and the vizier utilizing the Dagger of Time, your sword, and your nimble self.

The gameplay is thoroughly enjoyable. Do you want to run up and along walls, jump from pole to pole, and even jump off of walls? You can do your best Le Parkour impressions here. Want to kill bad guys in novel ways this noder hasn't seen in any other video game? You'll be leaping over, freezing, and slashing baddies (looking damn good doing it). Not quite sure what to do next? Consult your vision again to get a hint of where you're supposed to be. Worried about missing the next jump? Just take the plunge, and if you mess up, you can always rewind time using your trusty dagger. This game encourages you to take risks, and doesn't punish you overly much if you don't succeed. A major frustration found in most platformers is eliminated by the fact that the game does not allow you to run off the edge of a cliff: You need to actually jump from a ledge to leave it. In fact, there is only one gripe that I had in playing this game, being that there aren't usually too many solutions to a given problem; the game becomes rather linear as a result.

For those of you reminiscing of years past, you can unlock the original Prince of Persia game in the Gamecube, PlayStation 2, and Xbox versions, and the Xbox version also includes Prince of Persia 2.

This game is but one in a sequence of games:

Prince of Persia - Prince of Persia 2 - Prince of Persia 3d - Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
The Game Boy Advance version of this game is, for obvious reasons, quite a bit different than the PC and console versions. On the surface, it seems like just another 2D platformer - hell, the sprite of your character even looks very much like the one of Aladdin in the eponymous Sega Genesis game. Nonetheless, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is a quite engaging game - probably among the best of its genre. In fact, were it not for a few irritating bugs and gameplay quirks, I'd say that this game is about as perfect as a platformer can get.

Let's start with the good, though. The graphics are superb for a handheld; the detail in both the backgrounds and the sprites is incredible considering the relatively low resolution of the GBA. The background music is not only beautiful, but wonderfully atmospheric; I don't know how culturally accurate it is (probably not at all), but it certainly conjures up images of Persia.

The gameplay and controls, too, are excellent (with a couple exceptions that I'll get into later). While you have only one type of attack, there are a variety of moves and abilities you gain as the game progresses: Wall-walking, projectile absorption, double-jumping, and many others. You can use the Dagger of Time to stop you from falling to your doom or to an opposing blade (though this ability is far from unlimited), slow down traps and enemies, or stop time itself. There are also some minor RPG elements to the game; killing and draining the sand out of enemy "Sand Persians" (People who've been transformed by the Sands of Time) gives you experience which allows you to "level up", each time increasing your maximum health, attack damage, and resistance to damage. The best part of the gameplay, however, is the variety and difficulty of the enemies you face. This isn't your standard platformer where you just run through slashing or shooting as quick as you can; all the enemies in Prince of Persia (with the exception of a couple one-hit kill types) require a certain measure of tactics - you have to figure out what weaknesses the various enemies have, and how you can use them to your advantage - not always an easy task.

Perhaps most importantly, the game is rather long without being exceptionally repetitive - I believe I spent at least 40 hours total (though it would have been less if I had gotten through more of the areas on the first try), and while I sometimes stopped out of frustration with a room or boss, I never quit out of boredom. Not bad for thirty bucks.

Additionally, if you have a GameCube and its version of this game, you can link the two together for extra content. Extra levels appear in the GBA version when three switches have been hit in the GameCube version; if you hit the special switches in the former, you unlock a copy of the original Prince of Persia game on the GameCube. The simple act of linking the two games gives players in each "automatic health regeneration" (or as I like to call it, a "mutant healing factor").

So what's bad in this game? Mostly little things. There are quite a few bugs in the game, and this being a GBA Game Pak and not a PC or console game, there's no way to patch them. For the most part they're harmless animation glitches and sound problems (sometimes a sound effect that's supposed to occur only once will continue until you leave the room, and there are times when the music will simply go away for no reason), but there's at least one which can cause some gameplay problems: when dropping down from a sheer cliff, if there's empty space on the other side of the wall, you will sometimes begin to "ooze" through the wall upon hitting the ground, ending up in a completely different part of the room. (The first time this happened to me, I was rewarded with a face full of whip.)

There are a couple other factors which, while not so bad as to make the game unenjoyable, can be somewhat irritating. Perhaps the biggest of these is the extremely inaccurate health meter: At times you can have as little as a tenth of your maximum possible hit points (which are shown in numerical form in the Pause menu), and yet the health meter will show you as having a full half of your hit points. There's also the invisibility sand (or whatever it's supposed to be) which has to be used in order to get through certain areas; not only does it make you invisible to the traps, but the actual character is all-but-invisible to the player! (Whether or not you can see the Prince when he's "invisible" seems to depend solely on the background colors of the room - in darker rooms, it's pretty much impossible to see what you're doing.) Disappointingly, there's really no way to block or defend yourself from attacks (except from projectiles), and Farah's presence is very minimal (she seems to exist at all only to make it easier for you to get killed).

However, these deficiencies are pretty easy to overlook; they may not even bother many people. So with that said, I highly recommend this game to all GBA owners; it's well worth the money.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time: The Film: The Review

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was a really great game. Good plot, fun gameplay, neat visuals, and actual characters who interacted with each other, having conversations while the player got on with the platforming. Naturally, to build on this success the company made a sequel. They described it with statements such as "edgier" and "more mature". I would describe Prince of Persia: Warrior Within with phrases like "lots of ass shots", "they got rid of the good music and instead went with angry rock", and of course "immature bullshit designed for the lowest common denominator".

The pile of rubbish that was Warrior Within aside, The Sands of Time did get loads of critical acclaim, and so it's not surprising Disney (what?) decided to crank out a film version. The producer being... Jerry Bruckheimer?! Well, at least he's not directing...

The film turned out to be pretty good (for a game-to-film adaptation: excellent), though with four writers it's no wonder the film feels slightly disjointed (points for having Jordan Mechner, creator of the very first Prince of Persia, involved with the script). The bigger problem is that all the cool parts of the game are missing! No blade traps, no sand monsters... and the fight scenes lack time rewinding, which would have been great fun.

The plot involves a magic dagger that, when filled with magic sand, can be used to turn back a minute of time. This was a cool MacGuffin in the game that served a purpose in the gameplay - making the combat and more importantly the platforming a relatively risk free exercise. In the film, it's not used beyond some key moments in the plot. This is boring! We could have had the title character getting killed in combat and then taking it back. Or missing a jump and taking it back. Or anything else involving impending doom.

The effect when time is run back is unnecessarily overblown - the game uses a little bit of screen distortion and lets the player thrill to the sight of what they just did going backwards. The film cuts as time rewinds, making it nowhere near as visually effective. Even better, they could have played all the sound backwards. That's a neat effect too! But we get some music instead. Dramatic music, of course. Which is another sore point for me...

Stuart Chatwood's soundtrack to the game was brilliant. It's really a joy to listen to on its own. I'm listening to it right now. The music in the film isn't bad, it's just... not quite as good. Sadly, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time: The Film: The Soundtrack will no doubt be on sale, and Chatwood's work is going to languish in relative obscurity. But I suppose that relative obscurity is the relative obscurity of all those people who played the game and raved about it, so he can't complain.

One of the great things about the game - the thing that probably got it the most points - was that the titular Prince (I think the various video game incarnations might have names, but who cares? "Prince" is a name... when it's not an unpronounceable symbol) and the Plucky Young Sidekick Girl/Love Interest actually had conversations during the puzzle bits. They had personality. They were likeable. I wish I could say the same about the main characters of the film. Gemma Arterton, who was shown to be capable to some extent of acting in Quantum of Solace, is here a plank of wood. A plank of wood with a whole heap of fake tan to make her look exotic. Oh yes: they went there. As for the villain... Ben Kingsley is good, but I would have liked the implied motivation of the game (saving himself from death) rather than "seize the throne". It's something actually worth risking the world for, right?

I will say that the big "sand glass" (not a giant hourglass, but a crystallized tornado) - and the big explodey underground scene it stars in - was an impressive bit of CGI. The acrobatics and Parkour are in the film, though not quite in the same fashion. They did get one of the key bits right - undoing the events of the story to save everyone - but by the end I was actually relieved to see it, which means they got quite far from the things that made the game so enjoyable.

If you've got the means to play the game, I say track down the game, and watch the film later. The film is quite good, for a popcorn flick. It does for a video game what the first Pirates of the Caribbean film did for animatronic theme park rides. I think I was let down because my expectations were quite high. It's got a couple of funny bits (ostriches, being inherently ridiculous, are a good source of humour), it's done well enough, it's got style... even if that style is stolen from a lot of other films. What it hasn't got is the original Prince of Persia game as a hidden extra.

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