Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Prince of Persia HD collection

After playing the first game with all it's lock-ups and sound issues I was almost loathe to continue and indeed it's been some time since I returned to it. Surprisingly the other two don't suffer and I've only had two lock-ups with "The Two Thrones".

The story line is worth playing, but sadly is difficult to relate without spoilers. Simply put in the first game (Sands of Time) the Prince messes up at the beginning and spends the rest of the game trying to correct his mistake. In the second (Warrior Within) the consequences of the first game mean the Prince is being chased by an indestructible monster trying to eradicate him and as such ventures to a mysterious island that may hold the secret of his salvation. In the third (The Two Thrones), once again, the Prince's actions in the second game have major consequences on his home city of Babylon and on himself which spur him to action.

Mechanically the three follow a pattern - the first is a linear mainly puzzle solving layout with the odd spot of combat. The second is more hub-based game with puzzles interspersed and entwined with combat. The third returns to a linear pattern with a more equal conjoining of combat and puzzles.

The second is by far the weaker of the three for many reasons. Unlike the first and third where you could run puzzle sections in isolation and only occasionally needed to clear a room of enemies before you could turn your attention to the puzzle; the second game puts combat in areas where no real puzzles exist and it feels more combat orientated.

Save points in the second are also seriously bad and simply wouldn't get through today's playtesting - in one instance a boss fight occurs followed by running three trapped corridors with the monster behind you each time with a spot of combat in between before you can continue. No save points, no health replenishment, no 'power' replenishment. I had barely any power after the boss fight, and a sliver of health left - not fun!

The hub system is also a problem. It gets spiced up by showing the areas at two different points in time, but it does get repetitious especially having to churn through combat sections.

The third is still more combat heavy than the first, but it makes up for the second outing by introducing "Speed Kills" manage to get behind an enemy and you can initiate one of these for an instant-kill. In modern games this would be a QTE telling you to press circle to grab, X to throw, then etc. This instead is beautiful in its simplicity. Sneak up hit Triangle and the game takes over; at key points the game will switch to black and white and the Prince's dagger will flash blue, hit Square to get stabby and repeat. It means being able to watch the action and best of all failure only means you don't get the instant-kill and just have to fight them normally.

This makes a big difference in that using the Prince's athleticism makes sense. Instead of just dropping into a courtyard and wailing on three enemies the emphasis is on leaping from walls hanging on chains and getting behind the enemy and timing the kills so as to take one down without alerting the others. I still enjoy thinking of the time I took out four guards patrolling a garden without any of the others suspecting.

In terms of longevity the first has a few collectables; the second has loads of extras (too many) and two endings; the third has a few extras, but mainly it's the combat stealth that will bring me back to it.

Perhaps the best way to treat the trilogy as a whole is how most treat "Back to the Future" - a good first, a second that needs to played/watched so as to grasp the plot ready for the triumphant third.