Prince of Persia: Revelations Review
Bearing that in mind, I'm not going to repeat everything that Aaron Thomas so eloquently wrote in his review of the PS2 game. Everything he said still rings true, so, if you have the time, click the link and read his missive. Otherwise, I'll just give you a brief run-down of the PSP version's highs and lows.
Combat and interaction with the environment are the game's bright spots. The prince can perform a variety of sword combos on the bad guys he encounters, including slow-motion decapitations, impalements, and disarms. Generally, he's a single-sword kind of guy, but you can pick up and use any other weapons that are laying around in two-handed fashion, if you want to. Parallels between the prince and Kratos from Sony's God of War are inescapable, and that's a good thing. The prince can also grab onto and climb ledges and pillars, slide down draperies, and run up walls, much like Lara Croft or that guy in Shadow of the Colossus. The controls don't suffer one bit in the translation to the PSP. Camera and time manipulation functions have been moved to the digital pad and most environmental interactions are handled by the X and R buttons.
The game's most innovative feature is the ability to manipulate time. Portals let you travel between the present and past, allowing you to access areas of the castle in one time period that are blocked in the other. Also, by tapping a direction on the digital pad, you can slow enemies or give the prince an instant replay style "do-over." This do-over, known as the recall command, lets you backtrack a few steps if you mistakenly fall off a ledge or jump into a trap.
Similar to Sony's recent Shadow of the Colossus, the castle is setup as one huge environment. There aren't any levels in the traditional sense, although save points and cut scenes do break the game up into logical portions. The typical formula for a run between two save points involves entering a new area, watching the camera display the layout, defeating any enemies that are around, and then figuring out how to climb and jump your way to the doorway leading to the next area. Layouts are tricky, so you'll probably invest a good deal of trial and error before you nail down exactly what to do and where to go. The game is very Tomb Raider-ish in that regard. You also have to be on the lookout for traps, such as spike snares and pitfalls, which spring in an instant, usually right after you've gone through a lengthy climbing sequence.
The puzzles truly are clever, and again, the combat is superb (if repetitive). Unfortunately, the game's propensity for unfair traps, as well as the development team's poor choice of camera viewpoints, kicks the fun-factor down a few notches. Frequently, the camera picks a poor vantage point, which makes it tough to see hazards and judge how far you need to jump. Fiddling with the manual camera controls helps, but sometimes you still can't maneuver the camera into the best position. Worse, the camera viewpoint will often change the instant before you need to hit the jump button, or the game will pause to load more of the level, totally blitzing your timing. Also, if the camera viewpoint does change, so does the direction you need to press in order to guide the prince's movement, which means you might end up jumping sideways instead of straight ahead or backwards. Falling off of ledges or running right into a spike trap is frustrating, especially since it's usually the game's fault.
In his review of the PS2 version, Aaron suggested that UbiSoft implemented the recall command to compensate for the game's broken camera. He's probably right. Every single time I made use of it was right after I'd fallen to my death thanks to a nasty camera-related "surprise."
Little has changed with regard to the graphics and audio. The PSP game has the same hard rock soundtrack and monotone voice-overs that the PS2 game had. Visually, too, the PSP game is mostly identical to the PS2. The prince has a ton of flashy moves, they all animate fluidly, and the camera generally serves up the most cinematically pleasant viewpoint of his actions. Castle walls look crumbly, waterfalls generate fog-like mist, and the water physics are so good that you'll actually find yourself splashing through puddles and streams just to watch the waves and sprays that are caused by the prince's footsteps. Much like Sony's Shadow of the Colossus, the game seamlessly mingles normal camera views, expansive panoramic viewpoints, and cinematic cut scenes, giving the whole experience a larger-than-life feel. Keen eyes will notice some new camera angles and visual effects were added to the PSP game (better dust and water particles, for example). That's good, but perhaps the folks at Ubi should have put more effort into locking down the frame-rate, because it's still as unpredictable as it was in the PS2 game. When the game is moving along smoothly, all is well. When the game turns jittery the moment before you're about to take a leap over a spike pit, that hurts.
For better or worse, UbiSoft Montreal has done a good job porting Prince of Persia: Warrior Within from the PS2 to the PSP. You'll probably want to pass on the PSP game if you've already had your fill of it on the PS2, since the content is mostly identical, but newcomers are encouraged to give it a try. Depending on your own personal tastes, you may be able to forgive the unfair traps and the poorly programmed camera, because the combat and environmental interactions are genuinely great. Like Aaron said in his review of the PS2 game, "When everything falls into place, and you get a good camera angle in an interesting room, it's a blast to jump, spin, leap, and flip your way around from ledge to ledge."
3/16/2006 Frank Provo