The original Apple II game Prince of Persia (play it for free), created by Jordan Mechner using an industry-first rotoscope technique, was not only a critical success at the time but is today considered a landmark in the history of games. So in 2001, when Ubisoft approached Jordan to help produce a re-imagined Prince of Persia using modern 3D graphics and storytelling, expectations were naturally high. Therefore it’s a testament to the quality of the game that when it was released in 2003 it didn’t disappoint, instead winning several awards and eventually selling over 10 million copies on multiple platforms.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is possibly best described as an action adventure platformer. While combat is littered throughout the gameplay, an acrobatic style of platforming is its strength. When the prince is not engaged in agile sword combat or solving one of several grand mechanical puzzles, he’s swinging on poles, jumping to and from high ledges, and nimbly running along walls. Near the beginning of the story he uses this nimbleness in pursuit of the princess Farah who, due to a magical medallion, is the only other one unaffected by the Sands of Time that have turned everyone into monsters. You see, the prince got tricked into releasing the Sands of Time… from the Hourglass of Time… using the Dagger of Time (got that?) and is now being sought by the treacherous Vizier, who would use the dagger to gain more power. The dagger allows the wielder to control time itself, resulting in a game mechanic where you can reverse the last several seconds of gameplay and try not to throw yourself into a pit of spikes this time. In addition, you can slow down time for a short period.
Here’s a mash-up of some scenes from the first hour of the game. The music featured in the video is from the soundtrack.
Besides the rewarding acrobatics, the storytelling stands out as one of the most memorable aspects of the game. From the very beginning to the end, you’re engaged in a simple yet captivating tale told by the prince himself. The music, art, and voice acting all contribute wonderfully to this. I enjoyed revisiting the game for this article — that is, once I figured out that I shouldn’t try to control the 3rd person camera with the mouse instead of using the keyboard commands. I enjoyed The Sands of Time quite a bit more than The Warrior Within and The Two Thrones, the latter of which I’m playing right now. While it might be lacking in tech and polish compared to its sequels, the story and gameplay are much more fun.
Where To Get It
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time can be found on several digital distribution platforms, including Steam, GameTap (as a part of their subscription service), and Good Old Games (GOG.com offers DRM-free game downloads).