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Prince of Persia Retrospective

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Yahtzee takes the time to explain his remarks about the awesomeness of the Prince of Persia series.

Transcript Edit

So it seems I might have let slip a few controversial statements about the Prince of Persia: Sands of Time trilogy, what with phrases like "best game series of the last console generation" dribbling out of the corner of my mouth. Since what I actually consider a good game is the eternal question that apparently keeps my correspondents up at night, and since the current state of new releases continues to be like staring into a big empty bucket made of air, I figured it was time to dribble out a few qualifying statements on the subject.

So back in the olden days, when Wolfenstein could still call itself "3D" with a straight face, a young squire named Jordan Mechner took a bunch of pictures of his younger brother running around in pajamas, because this was a simpler time before the Internet when you could still do that without someone calling the police. He then rotoscoped the pictures and created the timeless 2D classic Prince of Persia, the first in the subgenre of "realistic platformer" in which you can't jump more than two vertical feet and falling two stories leaves you with your thighs poking out of your lungs. Fast-forward a few centuries to the early days of full-3D, when executives were scrambling around in graveyards looking for old properties to remake in big, lumpy polygons, and one chap with the stench of death about him suggested Mechner's opus.

The first attempt at a 3D Prince of Persia was the predictably-named Prince of Persia 3D, technically a Tomb Raider clone in the same sense that a bucket of mushy peas and old twigs is technically food. It was horribly designed, with bugs up the arse (a particularly uncomfortable place for bugs) and had a terrible habit of arbitrarily killing the player with leap-of-faith gameplay and unlabeled traps in open defiance of occupational health and safety protocols. Let's be more generous than reviewers of the time and say no more about it, except that it was a huge turd.

A few years had to go by before the huge turd passed through the rectum of general memory, but in 2003, it fell to Ubisoft to take another stab at it and release Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. The driving principle was that since instant-death traps are pretty much a staple of the series, then the player should be given an alternative to constantly smashing quickload with the speed of a pneumatic drill, and this was achieved with the power to rewind time. This served to make the parkour platforming more fun than several barrels of particularly whimsical monkeys, when the irritation of an accidental ten-story drop and splatter death could turn into a surreally humourous aside in which the Prince's shattered bones instantly knit themselves back together and he's so surprised he leaps 300 feet back into the air.

Other pros include beautiful environments that could make a jaded architect leap up and hump the screen and actually really strong characterisation. The Prince was a snotty, arrogant dick (in itself not unusual in games), but it's impossible to dislike him because A) he's snarky while being very humanly flawed, and B) if he ever really pisses you off, you can drop him down a pit as many times as you like. And I still hold up his sidekick-cum-love interest as one of the best female characters in gaming. And not just because her tits are reasonably-sized. She too acts like an actual human being, rather than a MacGuffin princess with no brain or motor skills or a supercilious badass action girl wearing enough armour to cover maybe one-quarter of a person.

The one thing I hate about Sands of Time is that the combat is repetitive and boring. The weird foible of the series is that it's always brushing up against perfection, but for every step towards it, they take another step back. The sequel, Warrior Within, had vastly improved combat, but unfortunately, everything else had been beaten with the angsty stick and forced to write poetry with a pen full of black eyeliner. It seems that Ubisoft decided that emo culture was "in," so they went around the office one morning and fired everyone who was smiling. The Prince was suddenly staring out from under a black Robert Smith fringe and growling angry threats at supercilious badass action girls showing off more flesh than a surgeon's convention. The tonal shift was so unnecessary and contemptible that a critical paddling session followed, which was a shame because the environments were still nice and the gameplay was better than ever. It just goes to show: never stick your dick in a pudding. It might still be good pudding, and you can spend all afternoon explaining that, but no one's gonna eat it because you stuck your dick in it!

The very serious and angry Warrior Within made fans of the first game's lightness of tone very angry and serious (which is ironic when you think about it), and it was with rare wisdom that Ubisoft cocked an ear and wound the angst back in time for the third game, Two Thrones. On paper, it looked like everything we'd hoped for: the Arabian aesthetic and lightheartedness of Sands of Time combined with the refined gameplay of Warrior Within. But then, a lot of things look good on paper, like the little blue dolphin patterns on my toilet roll that fail to distract from the issue that I'm wiping my arse with it. While the gameplay continued to be top-notch, with the possible exception of needless and finicky chariot racing sequences, the guy responsible for the charming dialogue and believable characters had evidently been one of the many casualties during the dark times, and Two Thrones's attempt to replicate the snarky chemistry between the Prince and his lady friend came across as forced and cynical, especially since the princess had evidently been on the testosterone injections and turned into a - all together now - supercilious badass action girl like every love interest and their dog. It was like watching the Hollywood film version of a favourite book, seeing beloved characters and themes boiled down to tired, marketable stereotypes until you want to rub Agent Orange into your eyes just to add a bit of colour to the dowdy, homogenised mess.

Between them, the three Sands of Time games have the ingredients of probably the best game ever, and I don't say that lightly. The first game still very resolutely sits in my top 5 games of all time. But it could have been better. Like a variant of the "uncanny valley" effect, the closer a game gets to Portal perfection, then the more glaring the flaws become, and their attempts to correct those flaws in the sequels were akin to removing flecks of dirt from a birthday cake with a shovel. But we live and learn, so let's move on and hope that the new Prince of Persia will be as good as Sands of Time. And that my arse will sprout wings and fly me into space!

AddendaEdit

Wears a lot of black clothing: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw

Also if the Prince of Persia movie they're making turns out good then I will upload pictures of me punching myself in my tiny unsatisfying penis

Identify my top 5 games and you could win my utter disgust

ScreenshotsEdit

PoP Retrospective 1

Leap-of-faith gameplay

PoP Retrospective 2

She too acts like an actual human being, rather than a MacGuffin princess with no brain or motor skills

PoP Retrospective 3

It was like watching the Hollywood film version of a favourite book, seeing beloved characters and themes boiled down to tired, marketable stereotypes

External LinksEdit

The Sands of Time

Warrior Within

The Two Thrones

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart

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