Back in 1989 a game appeared on the PCs of the time. That game was called Prince of Persia. Like a mix of an Arabian Nights storybook and Indiana Jones, this adventure had it all – sword fighting, exploration, and platforming across many traps. It’s also one of those rare games that used rotoscoping; the developer used a model of his brother for all the prince movements and fighting techniques. It was a huge success and the rest is history.
But over the last decade or so the Prince of Persia franchise has been on a bit of a hiatus, all as its younger Assassin’s Creed cousin took the limelight. But now Prince of Persia is back and with The Lost Crown it is found harking back to that original game as inspiration. Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is all the better for it.
Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown’s story feels a bit like an epic Saturday morning cartoon show. It’s a new story in the franchise – or should I say a new imagining. There is a group called The Immortals, very much like The Avengers, all with differing personalities, fighting styles and powers. The Prince of Persia is a young man called Ghassan, but he has been kidnapped by a loyal member of his fold. You play Sargon, the youngest member of the group, travelling with the team to Mount Olaf to try and get the Prince back. Mount Olaf though is a strange place, one full of traps and demons. And its timeline isn’t as solid as Sargon would believe.
This is a fun story with some great characters and old-fashioned narrative beats that don’t always land. But it’s an entertaining tale with some fluid pace to it. The Immortals themselves are a great mix of different characters, there’s an engaging backstory too. However, I personally lost a few threads as progress was made, especially when I went off course and explored the world, getting involved in side missions. But visually the game does a good job of tone setting with some great cutscenes, full of action and passion.
At the start of the journey you get a choice on how you want to play this Metroidvania-type game. You can choose to play with markers for missions or be completely exploration-led; ditching the markers and allowing the world to unfurl as you go. There is also a difficulty level, but be warned, even on the easiest of these, Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown gets as hard as nails. You’ll need to be on your guard if you wish to save yourself from the deadly traps.
With its 2D world, The Lost Crown first introduces you to combat. Here you have a main attack to play with, in the air or on the ground. A parry system is also present, whereby yellow enemy attacks can be stopped with an impressive parry, allowing you to then attack. If the attack is red, then it is best to dodge, getting some distance or zooming underneath your foes. There are some special attacks too, utilised once a focus bar is filled up. And in Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown, boss battles are plentiful, each requiring you to learn, making the most of strategies as you go. Later in the game you get the use of a bow with limited arrows, whilst further skills and tricks come to the fore the more you progress.
The combat mechanics of Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown are fast and furious; every battle requires thought and is fun to play through. It’s a tricky game though, and not just a matter of manic button pressing. There are amulets you can collect during your playthrough too that when worn can grant extra abilities like health or added attack power. These can be collected around the world or bought in shops in certain areas.
Exploration is also impressive, mostly because you’ll find yourself getting lost, exploring every nook and cranny in hope of uncovering secrets and little side missions. Certain areas feel impossible to navigate too, but once you require a new skill (a dash in the air for example) it’s a cinch to go back to see what is hidden away and on offer. Save points come in the form of magical trees, dotted around the world, allowing you to respawn when you die. A fast travel also opens up and this is extremely useful.
The platforming side of Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is great fun. There are traps to jump over, a world that needs navigating using your skills, as you make the most of environments around you. At times you’ll need to examine every last detail in order to find a way through. This can occasionally feel frustrating but when you complete your way through a section you will start to feel like a god.
Visually, Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown comes with a nice tone; a glorious cartoon world with a great colour palette. The level design is superb and you can see that the developers have had a Rayman influence on things. The cutscenes are a mixture of hand-drawn stills and fluid scenes that I enjoyed; full of vigour and excitement.
The soundtrack is of a dreamy quality when exploring, ramping up nicely within the fighting sections. The audio effects are great and the voice-over work has some lovely performances in it as well. Perhaps some of the more minor characters can feel a bit static at times, a bit robotic, but on the whole it works.
It’s great to see the Prince of Persia franchise back in the public eye once more, especially with The Lost Crown paying homage to the original 1989 game. A twenty-hour running time does feel a tad long, but everything else – from the combat to the world exploration – is a delight. It isn’t going to be a game for the faint-hearted, what with the difficulty, but there is so much fun to be had that it’s very hard to put Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown down.