Superhero and cartoon characters are integral parts of the electronic entertainment industry. With this in mind, I salute the meld of pop-culture character and video game with a look at Prince of Persia (for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, Ubisoft, rated T for teen, $59.99).
A two-decade-old gaming legend has returned for another round of wall running. This premiere platform puzzler, loaded with sandy action, awaits a single player who dares control the re-imagined acrobatic warrior.
What's the Story: Paraphrased from the manual - For 1,000 years, the Ahura, the Warriors of Light, have tended the Tree of Life, keeping Ahriman, the God of Darkness, imprisoned. As time has passed, their faith and powers have waned and the Ahura have dwindled to a mere handful of the faithful. Now the Tree has fallen, and Ahriman's voice can be heard whispering from his prison, plaguing the lands with corruption once more. Only a nameless warrior and a princess can save Persia.
Control your destiny: For Ormazd's sake, help the Princess collect light seeds and heal the dozens of fertile lands to stop the God of Darkness from escaping.
The Prince still has the sword expertise and agility of his former incarnations, but he looks like Hugh Jackman; has the annoying, wisecracking charm of Brendan Fraser; and uses a taloned glove to slide down walls. Additionally, he works closely with Princess Elika, a slightly playable character who has the feistiness and beauty of Milla Jovovich.
Get to the action: My most feared foes were the slew of environmental obstacle courses that met the Prince and Elika as they ventured to clear cursed lands and sacred structures of gooey black slime. Compared to running up and along walls, bouncing between pillars, flipping over poles, climbing along crevices and sliding over platforms like Tony Hawk, it was almost a relief just to slice and dice Ahriman's evil minions and bosses.
Fighting was especially fun with help from Elika. She unleashes magic spells on enemies, teams up with the hero on some combination moves and constantly saves the Prince from fatal blows.
Memorable moments: It's all about the cute love/hate relationship developing between the gorgeous Elika and the Prince. Besides the constant witty repartee with her companion, she intuitively knows where to move and is always ready to help.
A few of their visual interactions include her sliding over while hanging onto a pole as he tries to get into position for his next stunt, taking the hand of the Prince to toss him to a platform or falling into his arms as she slides down a wall.
Anytime the hero falls into a deadly abyss, a too-often occurrence during my journeys, she lends a magical assist to place him back on the nearest stable ground.
Violent encounters: Flashy sword fights and contextual wrestling matches against massive foes devoid of any too-graphic elements, enemies oozing to their demise and a hero who can't die make for a milder-than-anticipated experience.
However, violent episodes may occur as the gamer throws down the controller after realizing he has no idea what to do next or where he is or is asked to perform a maneuver only Wolverine could pull off after downing a barrel of Red Bull.
Read all about it: First Second Books offers the 190-page graphic novel "Prince of Persia" ($16.95) which follows a pair of Persian princes seen in earlier games. Jordan Mechner, creator of the original Prince of Persia titles, authored the story.
Pixel-popping scale: 9.0 out of 10. Wow, this animated, mixed-media, cel-shaded masterpiece will consistently cause a gamer and casual observer to drool as they ogle the gorgeous watercolor worlds, the range of rich characters and the eye-catching Princess.
What's it worth: The latest Prince saga is a Hollywood blockbuster of epic proportions that melds sweeping, open-ended exploration with a story of romance and adventure. Average players - as well as the most desensitized veteran gamers - will find more than enough to appreciate.
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