Prince of Persia Review: No One Here Gets Out Dead

At first the not-dying seems like a gift to more casual players, and it is — but then you start mistiming jumps and grip-slipping off golden rungs, and you realize the live-forever shtick hasn't altered the need to still play skillfully. Getting around isn't any easier, there's just more space to cover and less to inhibit you exploring it. Ascending from the bottom of a pit to the highest spire in the land while gathering precariously situated light seeds to unlock new lands or fill optional bonus quotas takes serious time, because the game's simply quintupled its tour-able area.

Superbly executed animations help to sustain the notion that you're the world's most gymnastic dude. The prince stabilizes his wall runs by scratching rocks with a sparking metal glove, the same glove that impedes slides down surfaces like some hep form of gravitational surfing. He can roof-run, scrabbling along the undersides of surfaces and grabbing rings to add inertia to his lunges, and you'll eventually rail-slide, ring-leap, ledge-surf, and ceiling-skitter, as tendrils of corruption curl out like lethal tongues to dislodge you. Vermillion petals flutter from vine-scribbled walls buttressing baroquely exotic architecture, lending environments an Arabian fairy-tale pastiche, and instead of clipping past Elika while perching on narrow beams, the Prince cross-links arms with her and pirouettes in place. It's dazzling to watch, a seamless synthesis of kinetic grace and fantasy beauty.

Solving puzzles in an area depends on stringing moves together that have an organic grammar, allowing you to develop more sophisticated acrobatic sentences. There's an elegantly mechanistic quality to the way the prince moves, accompanied by a satisfying clockworks sound, as the prince skids and skates from grab point to grab point like a piston sliding into place. Entire sequences can be played by tapping a single button, lending the gameplay a subtle rhythmic vibe that's no less exacting than positional angling. Even the boss fights iterate intuitively, building on what you've learned on the go. There's one against a shambling pile of cerulean-colored rock that takes a while to puzzle out, then offers a solution that gratifyingly trounces the three-hit dispatch cliche.

If you're ever disoriented, a button-tap induces Elika to mutter something appropriately exotic and discharge a twirling, sparking beacon that dances ahead to light the way like a bouncing karaoke ball. It matches the game's 360 degrees of possibility perfectly, and you'll never feel prohibitively astray here.

You'll eventually experience moments where knowing you can't die seems faint and irrelevant. Like standing tiptoes on a high ladder reaching up into the shadowed corners of a vaulted ceiling dozens of feet from the ground to whack a wasp's nest, or even brush a paint line at the angle between a wall and ceiling. Moments where your face is so near the upper limits of a structure that it's like facing inches toward a floor...and that much more stomach-churning because you're all-to-aware by how staggeringly much you're not.

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