Malcolm Owen On November 2, 2004 at 8:31 am

I am a poor example of a human being. My body is a heaving wreck of flab and fat. I didn’t want to be like this, I wanted to be thinner, and able to run in races instead of jogging slowly. I wanted to play games such as football and rugby against other people in school, but I couldn’t through sheer lack of fitness. I was also bullied because of my size, and it hurt. I was always the fat person in the back of the gym class, too unfit to be useful in basketball, too unpopular to be chosen at all. Sure, going on diets would help, and daily exercise can try and change what the past has made me become, but I can’t change the past.

In stark comparison, we have the lead character in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. The Prince is an able-bodied athlete, capable of jumping off walls and swinging from poles like a Russian gymnast on steroids. He is physically fit, can wield a sword like an expert, and can rewind time whenever he wants. I will be brutally honest with you, I am jealous.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time sees the aforementioned Prince jumping, dodging and fighting his way through a palace strewn with traps in an attempt to escape from almost certain death. Of course it’s not the Prince’s fault that the place is filled with the undead, as it is in fact more the doings of the “Nothing at all like Jafar from Disney’s Aladdin” advisor that made the Prince open a large hour-glass filled with the “Sands of Time”, which then infested itself into any living thing handily nearby. Cue the obvious story about the Prince and a helpful woman trying to escape from the palace whilst killing anything that gets in the way.

The first few small sections of the game have you exploring and fighting basic palace guards pre-transformation, whilst you try to find a treasure room to get the best thing you can to show your father that you are the best fighter in his army. Shortly you find and are able to use a small sword called the “Dagger of Time”, which you can use to save yourself in precarious situations, mostly by rewinding what you were doing for a short period until you are safe. This is pretty darned handy when you find the Prince running into a trap that suddenly kills him, or the Prince falling to his death down a pit, or when he’s about to be slaughtered by one of the many zombies littered around the place. It also allows you to employ multiple strategies at times that multiple techniques may work well. When one technique may leave you wounded, there’s probably another way that is more harmless, that you can try without reloading the level.

Of course, such a mystical object shouldn’t be limited to just the rewind button of a VCR. There’s also slow-motion, the ability to freeze one enemy, and even all the enemies around you, which can be handy at times that you are overrun. It’s a dead cert that you will be killed (pun intended) at least once in the game, and the whole concept of undoing a deadly mistake from a few seconds ago instead of starting again from a checkpoint some distance away is quite appealing.

The number of traps that you end up meeting whilst travelling through the palace is in roughly the same quantities as the original game from many years ago. Spiky things, moving spiky things, spinning yet spiky things, crumbling ledges, giant pits to potentially fall into, which happen to be filled with spiky things, the list goes on. Whomever created the levels really went to town, making each and every section a miniature adventure playground to enjoy. This sort of level design should be looked at by many other game development teams as an example of how things can be done right.

Every single trap has some way around it that the Prince can jump around. Running along the wall like some sort of Persian ninja would help against giant drops, and constant jumping from two walls close to each other certainly makes life easier in the cases where you can’t find an elevator to do the same thing. The Prince is also fantastically created, acting like an intelligent Lara Croft crossed with Jackie Chan, which for some puzzles and sections isn’t too much of a bad thing. Almost anything you throw the Prince at to do, he will almost certainly do it, enabling the possibilities of experimentation, and getting it completely wrong isn’t a problem with the dagger either.

He’s also not a bad fighter either, and he has to be with the number of enemies that he has to contend with. All of the Sand Creatures (or what everyone else would call a “Zombie”) are hell-bent on separating your head from your body by any means necessary, and the only way of preventing this is to kill them and then suck up the sand with the dagger before they reanimate. This is no mean feat, with multiple enemies attacking you at the same time, but it is carried off well for the most part. The only fighting complaint there is to make is about the easiness of vaulting over the opponents, causing multiple hits and almost instant kills each time. The manoeuvre makes enemy swarm destroying an easy task at times, but it’s not that big a deal.

Out of the entire game, there is really only one major fault that could have been rectified: the camera. It works just like most other cameras in other games, except that there is the extra option of being able to see a wide angle shot of the entire area you are in, allowing you to see roughly what you have to do or where you have to go. Sadly, the camera sometimes moves to forced abnormal shots, such as from in front of the Prince when he’s about to step out onto a thin path on the side of a building. Unless you are quick to compensate your controls when the change is made, you could end up running out to the balcony, then once the camera changes, running back inside again. It gets annoying after a while, but slow small movements when the camera flips makes for better progress.

Aside from the camera problem, there isn’t really much else that can be said against the game. Its sounds good, looks good, and plays damned well. I just wish I was as athletic as him, though.

Back to the Slim-Fast for me, I suppose…


Fresh and easily understood, yet challenging at times.


Mist-filled mystical lands, very Arabian Nights at times


Nice voice acting and great music


Time control is “Flipping” great!

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