I think the reboot also benefits from two bold choices. First, Ubisoft decided to take it more open world. Don’t worry: Prince of Persia hasn’t gone in an Assassin’s Creed direction, but the linear sequencing of levels has gone in favour of a sprawling, ruined city radiating out from a central desert temple hub. With certain limitations you can tackle the available areas in several different orders or move from one into another as you wish and at no point will you come across a loading screen. Just as importantly, this world feels like it has been built and tested and polished and retested and repolished to ensure that it’s a joy to make your way around. Prince of Persia has some staggering set pieces – escapes from collapsing buildings, wild rides up the side of a colossal tower – but the bits that come in between are just as enjoyable. Where Mirror’s Edge had the core gameplay sorted but couldn’t deliver environments that really made the most of it, Prince of Persia has both working together in perfect synchronicity.
The second choice is more controversial. When the team at Ubisoft announced that the hero would have a female co-star, Elika, they took pains to make it clear that she would assist, and not annoy. They weren’t just whistling Dixie. While she follows you at all times, there never comes a point where you have to risk your own safety to keep her behind you. Because she has magical powers, she’s always there, swinging and clambering along with you. She’s handy too. Tapping Y in the middle of an impossible leap calls her in to sling you through the air for what’s effectively a double jump, while doing the same in combat gets her dishing out a few crucial, magically-enhanced blows. Most importantly, Elika ensures you can’t die. Fall, and she grabs you and drags you back to the last safe spot. Take a battering in combat, and she stops your enemy and gets you back on your feet. The overall effect is that, just as you never see a load screen, you never see a reload screen either.
For some people this will have a negative effect on the game. From one point of view you can see Prince of Persia in the same vein as Bioshock or Fable II – a game that ‘dumbs down’ a slightly hardcore genre for mass market acceptance. There’s a good chance that anyone who would describe the – in my opinion – excessive difficulty level of Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones as a satisfying challenge will find this Prince of Persia rather too easy-going. In fact, you could even say that the revamped controls can make you feel like you’re not in full control. I’d argue differently.