Ever since its debut on the archaic Apple II machine in 1989 (and its subsequent transfer to the popular console machines of the '90s), Prince of Persia has been one of the most fondly remembered games of its era. A reboot of the franchise in 2003 saw it become popular for yet another generation, moving the game onto the more modern consoles and proving its longevity in its new format.
Now in 2008 we see Prince of Persia undertake another reboot, this time for the "next-gen" consoles, PS3 and 360. An entirely new Prince in an entirely new setting, the game benefits from a new art direction, as well as new gameplay elements. The art direction is the first thing you'll notice, the menu screen alone presented in the form of a fluid oil painting. Once you actually start playing the game, you'll realise that all the marketing hype of a "painting in motion" has definitely been lived up to. The world you find yourself in is a glorious, richly textured beautiful one, but at the same time can be dark and menacing, depending on what stage of the game you are in.
As for gameplay, the guys at Ubisoft seem to have taken all the best bits from the Sands of Time trilogy whilst adding their own positive elements. The acrobatics and agility of the Prince return, this time in a completely open and non-linear world. All paths do eventually lead to the same goal, but it is down to you how you get there. Wall-running, cavern traversing and pillar climbing is both fun and a necessary requisite and thanks to your partner Elika's magical skills, you won't very often be left wandering without aim.
Elika herself is one of the most positive additions to the game, providing some witty banter between her and the Prince, as well as a vital partner in traversing the world and seeing off its enemies. The combat system itself is wonderful, moving away from the frequently used horde of enemies to fend off and towards a more gallant one-on-one style battle. It makes every fight seem like a challenge, with four different attacks (including Elika's magical ability) to string together in any form you want, leading to some magnificently satisfying and beautiful battles.
Much as been made of the fact that you cannot die, with Elika saving you from any potentially fatal falls and stepping in if enemies get the upper hand. However what at first seems maybe as the game holding your hand in times of need, just proves to be the same as in many other games where you die and spawn at the last checkpoint. The only difference in Prince of Persia is that you don't have to sit through a load screen and so it keeps the game moving at the intended pace.
Just as Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time did in 2003, this current reboot has breathed fresh life into an already invigorated franchise. With an engaging storyline, a great script and most importantly beautiful visuals and fun gameplay, it may not challenge you in the most innovative gaming sense, but it is sure to keep you entertained for the 10 or so hours it provides.