The sophomore outing for gaming’s Prince is ported with skill to PSP by Pipeworks, but some frustrating design choices in the game itself cause a disjointed experience.
|Franchise||Prince of Persia|
World-building & Story
Taking place in the aftermath of The Sands of Time, Revelations follows the titular prince as he attempts to travel back to before the sands were created to escape his fated death due to meddling with the timeline in the previous game. To do so, he visits a mysterious island and explores the ruins where the sands were created, before finding a portal that can teleport him back and forth in time.
As a direct sequel, knowledge of the prior release is beneficial in understanding what’s happening in Revelations, but it’s not essential. The game uses a simple story thread – the prince trying to escape his fate (and a huge monster named the Dahaka) – to tie everything together, which is easy to grasp whether you’re a newcomer or a Prince of Persia veteran. There are few returning characters; little in the way of mentions for previous events and no locations lifted from Sands of Time. If you’re a handheld-only gamer looking to get into the series, you shouldn’t let the fact that Revelations is the mid-quel in a trilogy put you off.
Of course, one returning character is the Prince himself, who seems to have undergone a personality transplant for this entry. Where he had previously been a slightly irresponsible young adult with a knack for adventuring; here he is a dark and brooding anti-hero full of quip-y one liners and short, sharp sentences. It’s never overwhelming, but it is difficult to like him as a character when he seems driven only by self-interest and achieving his own goals.
Other characters are introduced in this entry such as the mysterious Kaileena, who plays an important part in the overall plot despite her erratic appearances; although aside from this she feels under-used and under-developed. Strong characters from Sands like Farah don’t return which is slightly disappointing, although helps Revelations stand on its own as a story for newcomers.
The game’s strongest point is its world-building, which remains highly impressive throughout. The abandoned temple the prince explores is a fantastic location, full of hidden trap corridors mixed with big open areas and it’s a joy to explore each one. Each zone also feels unique in design, from sprawling waterside caves to the Gardens of Babylon covered in leafy foliage; yet all feel well-placed and organic within the temple you’re exploring. It’s a shame to see the Arabic-inspired designs from Sands replaced, but the team at Ubisoft Montreal have managed to craft a very impressive replacement.
Presentation & Sound
As a title originally developed for sixth-gen home consoles under the title Warrior Within; Revelations had to go through some cutbacks to make it onto the PSP. While this particular version of the game might not hold up to the standards of other platforms, it’s still an impressive piece of PSP tech that looks pretty fantastic on the Vita’s screen.
Character models are probably the weakest part of the overall package, featuring some stretched and low-quality textures for things like clothing that really stand out during close-ups in cutscenes. With that said, everything animates extremely well – whether this be the prince’s acrobatic wall-running to the the way a shadowy enemy slinks across the screen; things seem organic and natural and make up for the otherwise disappointing modelling.
Environments are the other part of the package and these come off much, much better. Thanks to the way the game is designed you’ll encounter a range of areas and each is decorated with care to invoke a certain feeling. One minute you might find yourself in a big open hall, flinging the camera around as you attempt to gauge the scale of it all; while the next you could be running down a narrow corridor simply reacting to the barrage of spike traps either side.
In many ways, it’s reminiscent of the fifth-generation Tomb Raider games but on a much grander scale – there’s a great sense of exploration and discovering long-forgotten areas. The architecture and environmental objects used helps to solidify this – columns are overgrown with plants and fauna; wrecked pottery lies around and there’s just a general feel of desertion. And then the game will transport you to the same area in the past which is an odd nostalgia trip as you see somewhere you’ve just been in all its glory – it’s bizarre, yet works extremely well.
The PSP version in particular does have a couple of issues – cutscenes are compressed to all hell and back and look grainy and poor quality as a result. Thankfully these CG scenes are few and far between, with most important conversations being rendered in-engine; but its still jarring to switch to a scene of the temple where you can almost count the pixels. Additionally, due to some pared-back elements in the presentation, it can sometimes be a little difficult to see what route you need to take to progress; although you can usually overcome this with a little trial and error.
These are mostly minor issues and it is very impressive that the whole game has been condensed down onto the PSP in tact. This includes framerate – I can’t say I ever really encountered any issues with the game slowing down (if it did, it was barely noticeable). As such, the fluid free-flowing nature of Prince of Persia‘s acrobatic platforming shines through, which is a very important part of the overall package.
Sound is interesting – voice acting is solid, if a little uninspired; while effects are used well such as the metallic clash of swords or whirring of a machine. Yet Revelations isn’t afraid to use silence to great effect – much of the Prince’s adventure will be a solitary affair and you’ll have little in the way of accompanying noise other than the patter of his own feet. Music is therefore very sparingly used – again, not dissimilar to the original Tomb Raider games – except here it’s slightly less memorable.
Gameplay & Content
Revelations mixes many genres to great effect – platforming; puzzle-solving and hack ‘n’ slash combat are all present and mesh well together, although some are much more fleshed out than others; leaving a frustratingly disjointed package.
At all times you’ll be in control of the Prince, who is a genuinely brilliant character to play as capable of fantastic feats. He runs around the environments with ease, always running up walls; jumping between ledges and scaling polls (which use a handy lock-on mechanic for ease of movement). And the acrobatics don’t stop there – one of his best manoeuvres is to run diagonally along walls to reach new areas, which is especially useful when combined with some of his other moveset. You’ll easily get to grips with this and it is one of Prince of Persia‘s most rewarding features – free-form platforming that makes you feel like an absolute bad-ass.
Unfortunately, the platforming is also unforgiving – judge an angle wrong and you’ll instantly plummet to your death. The game attempts to alleviate this with its defining feature – control of time thanks to the sands. Should you find yourself in an inescapable situation, you can rewind time to the point before you die and give it another go. Similarly, if you’re struggling with a certain challenge you can slow time to a crawl to help you pass through unscathed. They’re fascinating mechanics that very much enhance the gameplay; adding new, dynamic challenges to the platforming that wouldn’t otherwise be there.
Yet it also adds an unnecessary layer of frustration – your progress is checkpointed and you can save at any water fountain (a very neat idea), but these feel too few and far between because the game expects you to use the sands to avoid a game over. Since these are a finite resource and Revelations often throws unexpected situations at you (a jump going awry because the Prince leaps in a direction you weren’t expecting due to bad camera angles, for example), they can quickly get depleted causing you to have to replay whole sections of the game again and again. There is a lot of this, and it sucks some of the enjoyment out of a playthrough.
Aside from platforming, you’ll also engage in combat and puzzle-solving. The former is alright – you’ll be able to chain combos; pick up and throw offhand weapons as well as parry attacks, leaving a decent amount of variety in tact. Unfortunately, fighting itself is often drawn out by foes who constantly evade away meaning you have to follow very specific patterns to beat them, which is fun the first time but tedious the next hundred times you fight them; leading to the latter part of the title feeling like going through the motions every time an enemy appears.
Puzzles will either be the best or worst part of the package depending on your viewpoint. Early on they’re relatively straight forward if a little generic in design – pulling a lever to open a door; climbing a wall and crossing some ropes then dropping down into a room of enemies etc. Then later on, things get much more complex – big rooms full of separate doors that need opening by different methods where it’s far from obvious where to go next at any one point. I would say that most players (myself included) would need a guide for these sections just to stave off frustration, although if you can figure them out on your own it’s a rewarding feeling.
Overall, there is quite a lot to do in Revelations and you’re looking at a good 15 hours just to get to completion. I’m led to believe there are PSP-specific challenges added on top of the PS2 original although without a point of reference I couldn’t verify this. Whether you have the stamina to see the game to the end is another question – it’s a rewarding experience when you pull off a perfect platforming combo or solve a particularly challenging puzzle; but there’s often a lot of frustration to get to that point.
Revelations is undoubtedly a good game – it’s an impressive port of a well made title that was great on the PSP and is still good on Vita. It will test your problem-solving skills; platforming reflexes and ability to work out enemy patterns and once you figure out any one of these parts, you’ll get a great sense of achievement. The issues come in with the difficulties getting to this point – repetitive enemies; a wonky camera and some frustrating challenges that drag the overall package down – although it’s one that’s still worth experiencing if you’re willing to slog through.