Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was released for the Playstation 2/Xbox/Gamecube triumvirate in 2003. It is a reboot of sorts of Jordan Mechner’s classic Arabian stabby-sword-to-skeleton-scrotum Arabian saga of the Eighties. For the uninitiated, then, it’s a tale of athletic to a ludicrous, presumably steroid-infused degree princes, a vast array of increasingly-demented booby traps and the baggiest trousers since MC Hammer’s parachute pants.
Which, incidentally, are uncool now and were so then, whatever he may tell you.
The plot finds an impetuous young prince, eager to appear a worthy warrior to his father (King Sharaman) in his first battle. Their forces are besieging a city as the gallant young man leads an attack on their foe, the Maharaja. The prince would, it transpires, sell his own teeth for a little fame, as he encroaches on the Maharaja’s treasure vaults for a magpie-shiny to impress his father. (He may -may- have planned to brandish it in the king’s face, whilst shrieking, “Daddy, look! A SHINY! Do you love me now? Will you cease the pretense that you have no son?” Or, possibly, “My preciousssss…” Alas, the world shall never know which of these courses of action he intended to take. He elected to purloin the dagger of time, and unleashed a whole crapstorm of doom-tastic doom with extra doom and doom on in the process. Having been fooled into liberating an ancient sandy curse by the chicanery of the treacherous Vizier, our protagonist faces a strenuous journey to break the curse and incarcerate the sands once more.
The sands of time, after all, have the capacity to transform all living things into an abomination known as ‘sand creatures,’ a murderous, mindless entity which is a shade of their former selves. Imagine, prithee, zombies made of sand. That’s true horror, right there.
In deference to the original Prince of Persia, the game constitutes an excess of sword fighting and buttock-stabbing trap avoidance in somewhat equal measure. The prince’s proclivity for physics-defying acrobatics allows him to run up/across walls and other shenanigans that would cause even Spiderman to proclaim, “dude, that’s amazing athleticism! Can I be your friend? Oh, c’monnn, please? I’ve got peanut butter cups.” He will need them all, as the King’s expansive fortress is replete with demented, ghastly obstacles to traverse (where the hell would you find contractors willing to install descending spike ceilings, motion-sensing impaling-devices that protrude from the floor, and other such lethal wonders? Persian builders must’ve been wacky, wacky funsters). There are no levels as such in Sands of Time, the campaign is a continual gamut-running of ludicrous climbing, swinging and combat, where the slightest misjudgment will find you plummeting several hundred feet to a splattery, raspberry jam-esque broken mess on the distant pavement.
Which sounds egregiously unforgiving, and would be, were it not for the wondrous innovation of Sands of Time: the dagger itself. This innocuous-looking implement allows the bearer to rewind time up to ten seconds, so as to retry that tricky jump or misjudged run. It enables you, also, to stab the crotch of the many nasties you’ll be beset by, but the time thing is rather more interesting. With these mechanics, you can also slow down time for nearby opponents, so as to dispatch them easier.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is a rather fleeting yet wonderful experience. As a salutation to the franchise’s eighties origins, it succeeds with aplomb, while the dagger’s utility both ensures variety in combat and mitigates the I’LL PUNCH YOUR FACE… IN THE FACE game-rage of the more nefarious platforming sections. While the sequels fared rather less well (to wit: received a disparaging middle finger from some critics), this first reboot boasts some of the finest genre level-design in recent gaming, and action/platformer fans would be wise to peruse this title.