Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands Wii Hands-OnBy Jake Gaskill - Posted Apr 27, 2010
In addition to sharing its name with its PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 cousin, and featuring death-defying acrobatic platforming, Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands on the Wii tells a tale that takes place during the same seven-year gap between The Sands of Time and Warrior Within as the PS3 and 360 versions. The story itself was kind of hard to piece together since the preview build just included a sampling of levels, so let’s just stick to gameplay, shall we?
The first level, Stranded Castle, served as a fantastic introduction to the classic free running platforming that characterizes the Prince of Persia franchise. The Wii controls work great, and transitioning between wall runs and ledge grabs is as smooth as you’d expect. Speaking of smooth, the game’s engine runs at a slick 60 FPS, and this first level took full advantage of it as the surrounding environment cracked and crumbled all around the Prince. There was a great bit of destruction in one of the later levels where I had to actually run up the side of crumbling tower, jumping between the tower and a solid wall, in order to reach the topmost platform. Yeah. It was kind of rad.
One of the Wii-specific additions to the platforming is an electric beam that shines from the Prince to whatever nearby platform/ledge is within his reach. It only shines if you hold the thumbstick in the direction you wish to move for longer than a few seconds, so it’s possible to avoid using it if you’re a purist, but for most, it will provide a nice frustration reliever, especially during some of the game’s more elaborate platforming scenarios.
Another major gameplay element in the Wii version is the addition of sand powers. There were three basic powers I tested out: Sand Ring, which lets you place a ring anywhere on a wall and lets you run up and along walls for much greater distances than you’d typically be able to without it; Sand Pillar, which creates a sand geyser of sorts that lifts you high into the air and allows you to reach high platforms; and the Sand Sphere, which traps you in a bubble, holding you in mid-air at which point you can decide which way you’d like to jump.
Each of these abilities adds a fantastic level of diversity to the traditional Prince of Persia design. Plus, when used together, especially the Ring and Sphere, the platforming gets rather intense and requires precise timing and a bit of creative thinking to figure out. The same goes for the combat, as each of the Sand powers has a combat function as well. Ring lets you temporarily freeze enemies, Pillar shoots enemies into the air and Sphere gives you temporary protection from attacks. These moves keep the combat from being too repetitive, as do the high-flying sword slashes and shoulder-top throws you can pull off with a few swipes of the Wii remote. Dodging could be a bit easier to implement since you have to push down on the D-pad, and that can be hard to reach since you use A to induce jump attacks and throws. That means readjusting your thumb, and this is can be hard when you’re fighting several enemies at once.
The game doesn’t include the franchise’s staple time reversal mechanic. Instead, when you die, you simply respawn at a predetermined area nearby. Die too many times, and you have to start back at the last checkpoint, which are actually water fountains that you use to replenish your health. This system works well enough, but there were a few points where I came across a particularly hard puzzle and just couldn’t stop dying, which meant I had to go back and complete the sections between the checkpoint and the death factory area multiple times, and that was kind of frustrating.
There was one sequence in one of the later levels that featured a God of War-style boss battle with a towering rock monster complete with a super simple quick-time sequence. I’m not sure how many of these encounters there will be in the full game, or if there will be similar sequences in the PS3 and 360 versions, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there are several given that Ubisoft has definitely made it a point to push the combat into the hack-‘n-slash arena.
For those looking to share the Prince’s adventure with a friend, you’re in luck. The game supports two-player co-op, where one player controls the Prince and the other, using just the Wii remote, controls the Prince’s genie guide. The second player can slightly slow down enemies and help the first player solve puzzles and collect hidden items by letting them draw a golden line around the levels to guide the other player around the map. There wasn’t much for the second player to do in the levels that I played, but I’m guessing/hoping there will be a few more entertaining activities in the full game.
Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands on Wii has a lot going for it thanks to the robustness of the Sand Power-ed platforming and fluid combat. There are few control issues that will need to be ironed out, but for the most part, the game looks and feels great. From what I’ve seen, Wii-owning PoP fans are in for a great ride.