Have You Played… Prince Of Persia: The Sands of Time?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

A few notable exceptions aside, platformers became pants during the transition to 3D, especially on PC. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was one of the first to win me back over, a slick, stylish, wall-running take on Jordan Mechner’s classic 2D games. It’s a grand adventure through – and over, and edging around parapets of – a colourful Arabian palace in a fairytale of swords, sorcery, sweet flips, and sand monsters.

The Sands of Time was the first 3D platformer I played that really made levels come alive. You scale pillars, swing from flagpoles, and run across walls, each grand room being one big jumping puzzle. Interesting architectural details turn out to be critical paths. And if you cock it up, well, you can rewind time.

Because magic, the Prince holds a dagger that can rewind time a short while, letting you recover from mistakes. The game’s story is wrapped up as him retelling past events to someone else, so if you die it rewinds time and is cleverly treated as him making a mistake in the tale, rolling failure into the game. Though I’d doubt the credibility of a storyteller who says “And then I fell and the spikes speared me from groin to throat… wait, that’s not what happened” seven times.

We wouldn’t have Assassin’s Creed without Sands of Time, would we?

40 Comments

  1. Det. Bullock says:

    Played it a bit on my brother’s PS2 and I was completely rubbish at it of course.

    • Jalan says:

      Also played it on the PS2 (never on the PC, unfortunately) but found it amazingly easy to pick up and enjoy.

      I remember being in a game shop and the clerk trying to upsell me on it. He was enthusiastic about it. The one thing that kept running through my mind as he talked it up was the last Prince of Persia title (3D) that I’d played on the Dreamcast and found to be all too mediocre, so I was hesitant to just drop money on something at the recommendation of a guy who likely got a little bonus based on how many sales he made. Afterward, I went home and noticed all the insanely glowing reviews the game was getting from just about everywhere and went back and bought it – unfortunately not from the same clerk but I told the person who I did buy it from that day to pass word along to him that I wished I’d bought it on the spot when he recommended it.

  2. Brosecutor says:

    “We wouldn’t have Assassin’s Creed without Sands of Time, would we?”

    Great, now I don’t love Sands of Time anymore.

  3. Beefenstein says:

    This is one of my most replayed games. Was not much else on our Gamecube for a few months.

  4. Laurentius says:

    Well I played it consider this the weakest of this three games. Two thrones is the best, even this dark Prince is kind of cool, giving PC some introspection. And of course despite RPS hate, 2008 PoP is glorious beatiful and fun. The worst part of Sands of Time is combat, especially these teleporting and spawining out of nowhere enemies, this is infuriating and kills the fun.

    • Premium User Badge

      basilisk says:

      Sands of Time and PoP 2008, which are both games that I adore, also have the very rare distinction of being videogame love stories, and very beautifully executed love stories at that.

      (They are also both rather repetitive, but wonderful experiences nevertheless. It just depends on what you want to get out of them, I suppose. They’re more about the feeling and atmosphere than anything else.)

      In the Sands trilogy, TTT is probably best as an overall package and WW certainly has the best combat and gameplay, but for me, nothing quite beats the pure charm and heart of the first one.

      • baozi says:

        Played all the PoPs since SoT and liked them but SoT and 2008 were certainly the most memorable ones to me. Totally liked the banter.

    • Urthman says:

      Yes, The Two Thrones is better in every way except for story, writing, and voice acting. The platforming is better. The puzzles are better. The level design is better. The graphics and the environment art is better (Sands of Time has, perhaps, better character design). The combat is vastly better.

      Two Thrones is the only game I’ve played that uses QTE-type mechanics well. When your dagger flashes (with no ugly “PRESS B” interface), you have the opportunity to do a cool finishing move. If you fail, there’s no instant-death-go back-and-watch-a-cutscene. Most of the time if you miss the timing, you just have to fight the enemy using the regular, quite fun, combat. It’s a bit like the backstab mechanic in Dark Souls.

      But what’s great about giving you the option of using platforming to sneak up on your enemies and then take them out with a quick finishing move, is that it brings together the combat and platforming more successfully than any of the other PoP games. It feels more cohesive, much less like combat and platforming are separate games that you go back and forth between.

      • welverin says:

        You forgot to mention the awful chariot races and the overall bugginess that drag it down and make it a worse game than SoT.

        • RimeOfTheMentalTraveller says:

          Oh god! I still have nightmares about trying to beat the game on Hard and bouncing off it hard because of that horrible chariot boss duo. It was fucking awful, especially how the controls somehow misinterpreted my button presses, so I rolled right and one of the brothers finished me off.

    • The First Door says:

      Good gravy do I dislike PoP 2008. Maybe it is because I enjoyed the style of the original trilogy, but I really dislike the way the Prince looks in the new one, and I find the environments much less interesting. The actual platforming bits felt so much smaller. Still, I gave it a chance but I couldn’t get over how boring it was to play. The combat felt so much less fluid that Warrior within and Two Thrones, and the platforming relied way too heavily on those odd super jump or flying wall symbol things. It changed it from a game where I could imagine the Prince being able to do the acrobatics, if I squinted a bit, to being out and out fantastical.

  5. Cryio says:

    Prince of Persia – The Sands of Time trilogy is a marvelous trilogy of games that should be experienced by any gamer.

    Absolutely superb from all points of view. Especially story, level design and gameplay.

  6. Xocrates says:

    I actually really disliked the game when I first played it. I suspect that a huge part of it was that my PC at the time couldn’t quite run it, so trying to platform/fight with low FPS turned the game far more frustrating than it needed to be.

    I’ve considered going back a few times, but I genuinely cannot recall any other aspect of the game I actually liked. The story was rubbish and barely existent (presented well, yes, but rubbish), the levels were largely indistinguishable shades of brown, and you’d meet pretty much every enemy type by the mid game, which gave the game zero sense of progress beyond how much clothing the dude was wearing.

    Combat was also overlong and not always fair (this is probably the only game I’ve ever played where not only do enemies become immune to certain combat moves, but actually punish you for using them. This was worsened that many moves were very easy to make by accident).

    But my memory by now is a bit fuzzy on the game, and I have no pleasure in being negative on such a well regarded and influential game. So I’m genuinely asking, WHY should I give it another go?

    • Robert Post's Child says:

      If you remember the levels as all brown, its possible you’re thinking of the wrong game? Sands is a very colorful game, if nothing else.

      • Xocrates says:

        I actually looked up screenshots before posting that just to make sure I was not misremembering. By the looks of it the levels are largely very brown (and occasionally, blue), it’s the characters themselves that are colourful.

        • Xocrates says:

          As an addendum, when I played it, it was probably close to minimum settings, which might have removed a lot of lighting effects that gave the game some colour.

          • Robert Post's Child says:

            Ah, well. I think if there’s any specific reason to replay, you’ve already said it – trying it under more forgiving technical conditions could certainly make it go down more smoothly. Frustration has a way of sucking all the fun out of things, after all. But otherwise I think you’re ok just chalking it up to different tastes, if you’re not overly keen on going back.

  7. Drunk Si says:

    I gave it a go a short while ago, after I had sorted out the resolution and got rid of the fog that made it impossible to see anything I found that I couldn’t get my 360 pad to work properly with it. If it weren’t for that I probably would have liked it, but not being able to run was quite frustrating.

  8. Rao Dao Zao says:

    Never played the game, but I rather enjoyed the film. Even got myself some Lego of it, it was that good!

  9. unraveler says:

    I think Warrior Within was the best in the trilogy?

    • Cryio says:

      Yep. Best combat, best level design, gameplay urgency, mystery, unexpected twists galore, 2 endings.

  10. Wowbagger says:

    It is an excellent re imagining of one of my favourite old games, I recently watched the Summer Games Done Quick speed run of it and was flabbergasted by the technical skill and cheeky glitches.

    I found the story really involving and was impressed by the narrative style, especially when you died and he said ‘no, no that’s not how it happened.’

    But Farah is a turd, a painfully bad AI made of crisp packets that dies in seconds.

  11. Anthile says:

    I replayed it about two years ago. Surprisingly, it doesn’t play nice with modern gamepads. While it does work, it doesn’t control too well but playing it with a keyboard is even worse.
    There was also a pretty interesting speedrun of it at the recent AGD: link to youtube.com
    It’s mostly interesting because it went horribly wrong.

  12. Darkrast says:

    This was the first game my brother, a very casual gamer, actually finished. I played the first few Prince of Persia games on PS2 and enjoyed the hell out of them. Probably worth returning to now.

    Good recommendation.

  13. Razumen says:

    I really liked Warrior Within’s combat, and it’s probably my favorite one, though it did get a bit too “dark and edgy” for it’s own good. Two Thrones was probably the best balanced of the three though.

  14. Titler says:

    I’d heard so, so much praise of this game when it was first launched, but never got around to playing it until last month; A disabled person I care for had a copy, and wanted me to play it with him… and … it’s rubbish! It’s just the barest of bare bones puzzles, almost entirely jumping puzzles, set in endless stone grey tedium. And when the Amiga original was divisive for being exactly this too, it’s hard to see how even at launch the game got such absolute praise for being something new.

    It reminds me somewhat of the Dark Souls game, one idea stretched to incredible lengths but made extremely challenging, which seems to appeal to repetitive masochists. Which is fine, if that’s what you’re into, but it also includes extremely dodgy voice acting (Cheeky London accents in ancient Persia?), pace killing set pieces (The rotating room with the 4 columns again), incredibly simplistic backgrounds (so you have plenty of space to wall run, but still)… It’s such a flawed game even just looking at it by itself, that I just don’t get where the unreserved praise comes from?

    I felt the same about the Amiga original for that matter too. It was just nice to play a well animated, smoothly moving main character for a minute or two, but it had no real depth or interest. Nor did Rick Dangerous for that matter, a similar praised to the heavens masochism simulator. Only by the time Sands of Time released you had a huge Tomb Raider-esque genre to pick alternatives from. I… just… don’t… get it.

    • 321 says:

      So this is how bad taste looks like.

    • Sulph says:

      Different strokes. SoT’s strengths were its visuals – especially the lighting and the soft Arabian Nights glow it was enveloped in, the platforming design, and the story – if you didn’t feel anything for the banter and developing relationship between the two, you quite possibly didn’t play for more than an hour or two and/or have no soul.

      What wasn’t SoT’s strength was the combat and to an extent Farah’s AI – but the combat was easily cheesed by spamming the wall attack, which also helped Farah not die, so that’s two birds stoned, or something. It’s

      • Xocrates says:

        While the banter/relationship between the characters was done well, it was an utterly generic movie romance between utterly generic characters. Honestly, I overall liked the 2008 game more than this largely because the characters and plot was vaguely more original and interesting.

    • Gramarye says:

      I have literally just finished the game. For the most part, I agree – Sands of Time is over-praised. The controls are finicky, the combat is tedious, and the camera is a rotten bastard. Sometimes I’d have difficulty entering a room because the camera would suddenly flip to face me in the doorway, so that my pressing “W” to go forward into the room was instantly reversed, sending me back out of the room and flipping the camera AGAIN….
      You’re constantly interrupted with unskippable mini-cutscenes, for the most part showing you obvious features of the room you entered. (Yes, I know the button at one end of a trapped hallway opens a clearly visible door at the other end.) The game had some interesting environments, but for the most part, it’s drab. (Not “all brown”, but it’s not what I’d call “colorful”.) I liked the Prince’s voice actor, but Fara’s definitely had mediocre stretches where she didn’t seem to care much. The romance was decently done but standard and predictable. The only thing I enjoyed without reservation was the soundtrack.
      *Minor spoilers*
      The feature hyped the most is rewinding time – it’s a clever way to let you retry in the middle of platforming puzzle. Shame they took it away for several long platforming segments by the end, forcing you to restart completely if you failed.
      *end spoilers*
      I don’t think this is that amazing when played today. I have no doubt Sands of Time was groundbreaking and probably among the best of its time. That time is past.

  15. Marblecake says:

    The Sands of Time Trilogy is one of my favorite things in the world. While my personal favorite is Warrior Within, I always come back to Sands of Time.
    I replay it at least once a year (not so much with WW because hard) and have fun doing it. I just love trying to finish a room as quickly as possible and feeling like a parcours master.

  16. solidgriever says:

    oh boy… it’s not that i’m a fanboy but PoP:tSoT is an awesome game. Very good game design (minus the repetitive battles). It’s still in my top 3 favorite games of all time. I don’t understand how AC is Ubisoft’s top franchise… it just doesn’t have a soul. “Time only knows”

  17. gabrielonuris says:

    This is one of the series I keep close to my heart, together with the Legacy of Kain series. The Warrior Within was my favorite one though, the combos and fighting style, together with the overall dark theme really caught me. I thought WW was so good, that I bought The Forgotten Sands thinking it would be kind of a “Warrior Within 2″…. Boy was I wrong….. >_<

    • Cryio says:

      So true. Prince of Persia Sands of Time trilogy and Legacy of Kain are my most loved games of all time.

  18. gpown says:

    I need to point out that Forgotten Sands, while scores averaged around 7.5/10, was mechanically the best platformer in the series. It had no QTE, a new trick in its playbook (freezing time, and water), but unfortunately it was a bit worse in the storytelling department (although the sword lady was interesting) and the combat was disappointing in that it was more about crowd control.

    Still, my fav game in the series purely because of its platforming, and IMO one RPS should be pointing out instead as the unnoticed gem :P

  19. Premium User Badge

    syllopsium says:

    SoT is mixed, and I only got a few levels into it.

    The graphics are glorious, the story is good, and it is superb on a stereoscopic display.

    Unfortunately the camera could be better and it has a horrid sequence where the player has to quickly jump from side to side to ascend a shaft. It took me over forty fucking minutes to get to the top, and I’m still bitter about it.

    VVVVVV’s hardest trinket took at least as long, but that was a fun challenge, and each attempt took little time. This wasn’t. Please, do tell me the point of inflicting having to achieve a precise rhythm to win, where failure means wasting more minutes of your life..

  20. Scandalon says:

    I must say I’m surprised by the love that WW is getting. I loved SoT, but I hate-hated WW it was so over-the-top “gritty/dark/teenage-angst-gothified” (without tipping over into parody or being bad enough to enjoy the terribleness), that I just couldn’t bring myself to trudge through it. Sure, the combat was “enhanced”, but it was all just so…well, the title song was Godsmack, right?

    I did eventually get around to playing through Two Thrones up until the final bossfight – never could be arsed to finish that one…

    • The First Door says:

      The really sad thing is that I think that WW is the best game in the trilogy, but is by far the worst styled. I think the levels are some of the best PoP has ever had. I still remember the garden and mechanical tower quite vividly. It’s a really generous game too, with a whole second act I didn’t expect and some nice story beats. Plus, the secret challenge rooms are fun to find and complete and give you a ‘better’ ending.

      It’s just a shame then that it’s wrapped up in such guff.

      • April March says:

        I didn’t mind it that much, possibly because I played it on a GameCube, so I knew it’d be the closest thing to a God of War game I’d get.