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December 2008
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Prince of Persia and the loss of interest

When I started playing Prince of Persia (website), it was amazing.  Shiny, pretty, happy, fun.  It was everything I wanted in a title from this series.  I was blown away by the ceiling running and the magic plates that launch you into the air.  Even the boss fights were captivating.  Then I got to the half-way point and I realized – that’s all there is to this game.  And there’s a lot of it.  I’ll start with issues that are not spoilers, and go on from there.  But my biggest complaint is going to be the ending.  If you’ve beaten the game, you already know where I’m going with this.

Final score: C-

People who say this game is too easy (and that is exactly what they’re saying) are half-right.  The button timing is very forgiving and you’re never set back very far if you fall.  But then you hit navigation puzzles (particularly using the green or yellow power plates) where you spend a full minute getting almost to the end of the puzzle, you hit a wall, and you have to start over.  More than any other part of the game, these two power plates require you to memorize the path.  Sometimes it’s just too hard to tell which direction to dodge something the first time through.  No, it’s not hard to get through this part.  But it’s annoying to have to repeat the same minute-long puzzle three or four times to get through it.

The boss fights, which seemed interesting at first, lost all sense of fun when I learned that even though each boss is unique, you fight each of them six times.  Each time, the tactic is exactly the same – there’s one where you just mash the X button as fast as you can, which is a terrible thing to ask a person to do.  What began as original and interesting boss fights quickly became monotonous and dull.

The game’s ability to provide new and interesting puzzles extends only so far as the four different power plates that you unlock (in any order) as you play.  Two of then, the red and blue plates, launch you to a preset-location.  The other two, the green and yellow plates, take you to a predetermined location but require you to dodge obstacles.  The only reason to have all four is to make you spend more time collecting Seeds of Light to unlock them.  But I like collection quests, so that’s not really a complaint.

Beyond the four power plates, every puzzle in the game is identical.  I rarely found a place where I had to look for where to go, because the walls are scratched up where you should wall run.  I’m not sure why they’re scratched up, since nobody else with your abilities has been through here.  But they are.

Next complaint: The writing seemed good, and interesting, until I got to the last of the four areas.  Since you can do these in any order, it would make sense to script the dialogue to account for that.  But the last area I chose included a lot of dialogue introducing the game’s concepts to me.  It’s the 3rd area from the left, and there is nothing to suggest which area you should do first, so I was baffled to be talked to like a n00b when I was about to finish the game.

Additionally, if you press Left Trigger to talk to Elika once she’s run out of conversation, you get a repetitive and annoying phrase from your own character.  In Prince of Persia, when you press the dialogue button, you get a few lines from each character and must press it again for the next part of the conversation.  Sometimes the “conversation available” icon flashes when there’s nothing to say, and sometimes there’s more to say when it’s not flashing.  How can you keep from hearing the same generic phrase (e.g. “You’re pretty fit for a princess.”)?  They needed a different dialogue system all around.  This was a clever experiment, and it has failed.

The rest contains spoilers.

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