Now, if you're anything like me, the announcement of Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands left you a little puzzled. What happened to the fantastic (if admittedly easy) cel-shaded Prince of Persia? Critically well received and incredibly well-designed, Prince of Persia (the 2008 version) was a strong, enjoyable romp that left the player gagging for more. Especially with that cliffhanger ending. So, where did it go?
Michael McIntyre (level design director of The Forgotten Sands and the 2008 title) spoke to Kotaku recently, explaining why The Forgotten Sands harked back to the Sands of Time trilogy, seemingly abandoning everything that the 2008 title stood for. According to McIntyte, work started on The Forgotten Sands long before Prince of Persia shipped, so critical success wasn't a factor in their decisions. Speaking of the differences within the series, Mcintyre says that;
"We firmly believe that Prince of Persia is a brand that can have multiple environments, [so] it makes a lot of sense for us."
McIntyre admits that Prince of Persia was a polarizing title; People either loved it or hated it. Those that hated it claimed it was 'too easy' and gave the player too much of a helping hand, whereas those that liked it, appreciated its fluidity and style; something that The Forgotten Sands seems to be losing sight of, instead focusing on the more complex aerobatic and combat sequences that the series is known for.
"We are happy with what we achieved with that title, and I think games like that can still exist. For me the difference in the 2008 game is that it had less player participation. The player didn't decide when they wanted to be saved and when they wanted to wall run. In 2008 the experience was far more Zen. You keep playing, keep moving forward no matter what. You got in a rhythm and kept moving forward."
Personally, I loved the free-flow element to the gameplay. The levels were designed to such perfection with an ideal rhythm underpinning the game's core mechanics that I never grew bored of exploring the world. So could the cel-shaded Prince of Persia return? It certainly seems likely. McIntyre says that;
Maybe it would be a mix of [The Forgotten Sands and Prince of Persia], as things got harder maybe it would require more skill from the player.
Whilst he says that he enjoyed working on Prince of Persia, McIntyre admits to preferring his time on The Forgotten Sands because of it's similar approach to game design when compared the original Jordan Mechner Prince of Persia. This is because, he says; "I like tough games." And who can blame him? If there's one valid complaint to be made of Prince of Persia, it's that the game never really punished you for failing to complete a sequence - it simply set you back to the beginning of your rhythm.
What else can be said? I certainly hope we see a return to the cel-shaded Prince of Persia (if only to see where the Prince and Elika traveled to next -damn those visuals were pretty) and hopefully we will... Just as soon as The Forgotten Sands is released.
Do you want a return to the cel-shaded Prince of Persia? Which do you prefer - the flowing tranquility of Prince of Persia, or the hardcore combat and acrobatic sequences seen in the Sands of Time trilogy?
Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands is due for release on Xbox 360, Wii and PS3 on May 18th 2010.