Ever fancy walking over walls Kung Fu style? Prince of Persia Sands of Time lets you do just that, and I love it. The Prince can do an assortment of moves taken from The Matrix and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and they are all important in getting through the 3D platform levels. The sword-fighting is fast and furious and once you get past the stage of frantic button pushing it is also quite enjoyable.
Sometimes the game seems to set out to prove wrong all Jesper Juul's ideas on game time. From the start the game is told as a story, and every time you restart the narrator tells you that you didn't die and it all happened differently. So the game acknowledges from the start that its narrative is set in stone. In fact the whole game is very linear, but since you will be pre-occupied by mastering all of Prince's moves and enjoying the environment it is hardly a drawback. Throughout the game you get visions of the future that contains hints on how to proceed trough the next stage. The sweeping camera movements that show you around a new area serve the same purposes. This way you hardly get stuck and always have an idea of where to go. Another brilliant game device is the Dagger of Time itself with which you can rewind time for a few seconds so that you can try again when you missed an important jump. It functions almost like a save game but not quite. The uses of rewinding time are much more strategical, especially during combat, and so well integrated in the game it will not break the spell of a continuous play. Often you will be able to make it from save point to save point the first time round. You might have used the dagger a couple of times, but that isn't the same as reloading, is it?
Unfortunately, sometimes your biggest enemy is not one of the Sand creatures, but the camera. Because the direction of movement is always relative to the camera position, controlling the camera is important. If you press 'up' Prince will move away from you. However, sometimes the camera position is dictated by the game and might change in the middle of the action. This can lead to the frustrating experience of walking into a trap because the camera suddenly changed position. Sometimes you are really struggling with the game to control the camera, especially in confined spaces.
But once you get used to the camera and the special moves of Prince you really feel in control. And being in control of a wall running Prince makes for an excellent game experience.