A prince in time saves nine


When a young prince steals a magic dagger, he inadvertently empowers an evil magician with dark powers. In “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time,” a three-dimensional adventure game from Ubi Soft finally making it into the Japanese market, the eponymous prince must find his way through his ruined palace to set things right.

“Prince” is both a new phenomenon and a terrific revival. Based on a classic computer game released in 1990, this version for the PlayStation 2 retains its progenitor’s formula of daring jumps, spiked floors and tall drops, but it adds brilliant three-dimensional settings and all the trappings of a thoroughly well-produced modern game.

This is a true adventure game — far more about exploration than combat. Possessed soldiers, zombie dancers and snarling animals await the young hero wherever he goes, but the real challenge is in the going itself.

The prince’s path takes him along narrow ledges, over collapsed balconies, past spinning columns lined with razor-sharp blades, and more. To make the universe right, he must traverse an enormous palace one gigantic chamber at a time. Fortunately, the agile heir-apparent knows no fear as he runs across walls and leaps for far ledges.

Acrobatic though he may be, the prince would never survive without his purloined dagger, a magical knife that possesses the ability to rewind time and take back fatal mistakes.

If you played “Blinx: The Time Sweeper” for Xbox, and I suspect two or three of you have, you will be familiar with the way Blinx could control time like it was a tape in a VCR. The prince has a similar ability. He can take back seconds and relive them — hopefully avoiding the errors that cost him his life the first time out.

You can take back fatal jumps, run from enemies instead of fight them, and stuff like that.

This game’s production values are without equal. The architecture and settings are gorgeous and consistent with the Persian theme.

The characters and monsters are among the most attractive on the market today. And the story line, which is relayed through brief animations, keeps the player interested.

The music is fine, too. I cannot comment on the Japanese localization, but the voice acting in the English-language version, which was released more than a year ago, was superb.

Yet “Prince of Persia” has a major drawback. It gets dull.

The point of the game is not to battle enemies or save the princess. In the end, this is simply a game about figuring out how to get from point A to point B.

Every time you enter a new location, the game stops. The camera pans around the room showing you where you want to go and letting you decide whether to run along the ledge or jump from pillar to pillar. You must find the one safe way to reach your destination.

And then, if you’re lucky, you get in a big fight once you get there.

While many players find this challenge intriguing, others get tired of the endless acrobatics and simply would like to arrive at their destination.

I wanted this to be like a “Legend of Zelda” game, and it isn’t. It is a puzzle game in which the puzzle is figuring out the safe path.

In the West, “Prince of Persia” became synonymous with bad sales. Ubi Soft eventually ended up giving customers who purchased “Prince of Persia” a free copy of the game “Splinter Cell.”

Now I may not like the constant puzzle-solving aspects of “Prince of Persia,” but I respect the game for the art within it. This is a well-made game — a game that deserves to succeed in the Japanese market.