Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands may take place within the Sands of Time trilogy, but it plays like a spiritual successor to the 2008 reboot of the franchise.
The 2008 Prince of Persia was all about momentum. The world was split into multiple linear tracks connected by various hubs. Once you started down a track, it was difficult to turn back. Every obstacle along these tracks corresponded to a specific button: A allowed the Prince to jump (from poles, platforms, or a double jump midair), B allowed him to grab onto hooks, and Y allowed the activation of magical plates. Players had a small window of opportunity to hit the right button at the right obstacle to keep the Prince moving forward. Since every track was placed above a huge chasm if players missed the opportunity or hit the wrong button, the Prince would fall and have to start the track over. Many reviewers compared it to a rhythm game because the platforming relied so heavily on timing and on reading the environment ahead of you.
In the beginning of The Forgotten Sands, the game plays like any other Prince of Persia game from the Sands of Time trilogy. That is to say, it has a strong focus on environmental puzzles; the fun lay in figuring out where to go. But there’s also a subtle focus on momentum and reading the environment that builds throughout the game until the end, in which The Forgotten Sands plays more like a sequel to the 2008 reboot.
It seems a tricky challenge, but the timing is easy when you can see the whole set of valves in front of you and can study them for as long as you need. Further into the game, the patterns become more complex and you have less time to prepare. For example, you’ll be sliding down a tunnel that ends at another pit. It’s surrounded by malfunctioning water spouts, so you must figure out the pattern in seconds before you reach the end of the slope. Moments like this represent an evolution of the momentum-based platforming from the 2008 game, combining it with the more traditional environmental puzzles. You’re moving fast when you come to a puzzle, so you must solve it even faster to sustain that speed.
The final platforming magic given to the Prince in the The Forgotten Sands is the Power of Memory, which rebuilds broken sections of the environment. When used by itself, it has the same role in puzzles as the Power of Flow. The Prince can create a platform to stand on, then jump off and create a place to land while in midair. However, when combined with the other powers, it adds new twists to the puzzles that we’ve become used to and adds another step in the complex pattern of obstacles. Now you’ll have to first create a pipe to get water flowing and then freeze the water or use all three powers in quick succession: Fly to an enemy, jump off it, rebuild a pole, freeze/unfreeze any water, and repeat.
In this way, The Forgotten Sands plays like a sequel to the 2008 game, mixing that timed platforming into more traditional environmental puzzles. But this similarity only highlights the odd decision to return to the Sands of Time universe, and it’s my hope that these advances will find their way into a proper sequel in the not too distant future.