Prince of Persia: Warrior Within

February 19, 2006

Have you ever been so enamored with a game that you rabidly waited for the sequel, only to have your beloved franchise ripped to shreds and defecated upon right before your very eyes as you played it? That pretty much sums up my experience of [i]Prince of Persia: Warrior Within.[/i]

Once again, you are the beloved and sexy Prince of Persia — only much more morose, dark, tattooed and… [b]EDGY[/b]! You saved the Sultan, Farah, Daddy and your army from certain doom by killing that conniving Vizier before he could betray you. But there’s a small catch: you were supposed to die along with Daddy and all your buddies when you released the Sands of Time. By going back and stopping the Sands from ever being released, you screwed with the Timeline.

So now, a few years later, you’ve got something called the Dahaka, a dark, [b]EDGY[/b] monster that looks like something from a bad yaoi-themed hentai, chasing after you to ensure your quick tentacle-involved death so you can’t screw with the Timeline.

A brief pow-wow session with an old seer at the beginning of the game sends you on a quest to the Isle of Time, where the Sands were created. You didn’t Get the Girl in [i]SoT[/i], but you did get her pendant, which has special powers. Maybe you can somehow use it to travel back in time and prevent the Sands from ever being created. Then you can go home, wrangle an arranged marriage with the Girl and live happily ever after.

The plan seems to be going well until a storm and some baddies from the Isle of Time ambush the Prince’s ship, killing everyone except the Prince. The bad guys are captained by Shahdee, who has a penchant for shopping at the local Middle Eastern S&M store and making sure the camera catches her barely-covered ass as much as possible. (The other primary female in this game is Kaileena, who wears more fabric than Shahdee, but still manages to show just as much skin.)

Yeah. Like I said: [b]EDGY[/b]!

After you dispatch the enemies, the Prince’s ship sinks and he washes up on the shores of the Isle of Time. And the fun begins.

The problems with this game become evident early on with the battle on the ship. In [i]SoT[/i], you were eased into the action with relatively simple puzzles and enemies. Here, you are dropped right into the battle, without the benefit of getting used to the controls before kicking some ass or climbing around like a monkey.

It obviously assumes that you’ve played [i]SoT[/i], since it glosses over single-weapon combat and leaps into dual-weapon combat. (More on that later.) Also, the traps at the beginning in [i]SoT[/i] were mostly navigating ledges and poles and running along walls. In [i]WW[/i], they drop you straight into the balance beams and bladed traps. And they make the traps even more heinously difficult as the game progesses, adding such things as horizontal spinning logs, stationary spinning logs, retracting squishy blocks and floor buzzsaws. Thank Allah that they gave Slow Time more teeth, allowing you to slow the traps down and get around them more easily.

The dreaded in-game camera causes a multitude of problems and is my main gripe with the game. So enemies pop up seemingly from out of nowhere and it screws with you more than once when navigating the traps. Frequently, the camera switched angles while I was navigating a trap, causing me to screw up because I wasn’t expecting it and overcompensated. It also hid ledges and other ways out of traps in its attempt to be more cinematic and [b]EDGY[/b]. I made a lot more leaps of faith than I should have.

I applaud UbiSoft for making use of the GameCube’s highly underrated graphics engine, but the game’s graphics are so dark and [b]EDGY[/b] that I often missed the solution to a puzzle, a way out of a trap or the next step in a dungeon because I simply couldn’t find it. It was usually hidden in plain sight because it looked no different from the rest of the landscape or was hidden by foliage. I ended up having to consult a walkthrough for some of the puzzles as a result.

And will someone tell the character and background designers that there are other colors aside from red and black, please? Sure, there were a few dashes of color to break up the monotony, but a lot of the landscape just seemed to bleed together. And I don’t think it’s because you’ll be backtracking several times through the game.

A big part of the game is jumping back and forth between the Past (before the Sands were created) and Present (where the Dahaka is trying to kill you). Some areas, like the Central Hall, you have to go through up to five times. The designers were merciful enough to vary the traps and obstacles enough between the two timelines to keep it from getting stale. Plus you gain either a new combat trick, a Sand Power, or Sand Tank to fuel the former two every time you use a portal.

But if the constant backtracking isn’t irritating enough, the game has another trick up its sleeve to make you tear your hair out. Every time you jump to the Present, the Dahaka eventually finds you and starts chasing you again like some homoerotic stalker. And if he catches you, you’re dead. So you have to remain at least two seconds ahead of him as you navigate obstacles through an [b]EDGY[/b] ’50s noir-like haze to the [b]EDGY[/b] guitar riffs of Godsmack’s “I Stand Alone.” The chases provide an interesting challenge and the obstacles you have to navigate through aren’t particularly difficult. Thankfully, the designers weren’t ass enough to put bladed traps in your way. Which is good. Because one wrong step or moment of hesitation costs your life.

But that didn’t make the chases any less irritating. And I looked forward to finally beating the crap out of him at the end… provided that I remembered to pick up the sword at the end that gave me that ending.

Speaking of swords, let’s talk about the combat, which was the only consistently good thing about the game. Since the Prince no longer has the Dagger of Time (having given it to Farah at the end of [i]SoT[/i]), what are we going to do with that Y button? Enter the new [b]EDGY[/b] dual-weapon system! All the ultra-cool acrobatics are there, but you can also pick up, attack with and throw secondary weapons. The secondary weapons have a limited shelf-life, but that never became an issue with me because I chucked them at enemies more often than I used them. It wasn’t like they weren’t lying all over the place.

There are some new moves added to the system, such as swinging around columns and both throwing and strangling your enemies until they die. They made vaulting (towards enemy, A, B) over enemies more difficult, in my opinion, since I kept rebounding off of them more often than I vaulted over them. However, they made the ever vital wall jump (you only have to press B while pressing toward a wall) and the ultra-cool Haste function (tap L while blocking) much easier to execute.

While they seem to shop at the same S&M store as their mistresses, the enemies are pretty varied and there are vastly different strategies to defeating them. Some are a sucker for the wall-jump. Some buy it after you throw them over a ledge. You can chuck your secondary weapon at them. You can carve them up until they suicide bomb their buddies and you laugh maniacally from the ledge you managed to scramble over. Some are so slow that the Slow Time function ruins them. You can even throw or lure them into traps and laugh sadistically as they get murdered by their own convoluted security system. Or you can just become a human Cuisinart and carve up the entire board for eight seconds. Any way you choose, they are sure to die in a gruesome and [b]EDGY[/b] fashion.

While the combat is great, it still has flaws. For example, some points in the game require you to lure jihading wolves over to a crumbling door or wall, carve’em up and get out of the way as they blow said door or wall open. They give you a busticating sword later on. So why not give it to you before any busticating became necessary? I guess that just isn’t [b]EDGY[/b] enough.

Why does the whole screen have to turn red when you utilize the Haste function? I found it hard to fight enemies wearing red, which coincidentally the harlequins wore. They, along with their invisible and S&M cousins, were the ones I used Haste on the most.

And why did UbiSoft think it necessary to add blood and gore to this one? True, you can turn the blood off in the options menu, but [i]SoT[/i] seemed to do just fine without blood. The enemies just bled… sand.

Ah, yes, sand. How do we get the sand to fuel our cool time powers now that we don’t have the Dagger of Time to suck it up from enemies? That’s where Farah’s amulet, which is implanted on the Prince’s armor, comes in. Apparently, the enemies still have suckable sand, which the amulet absorbs after you defeat them. It makes the blood and gore thing seem even more unnecessary, in my opinion. You can also find it in barrels and jars. Combined with the secondary weapons you find in the racks, it gives you a reason to bust stuff up in the game.

Another change here is that [i]WW[/i] makes you work for your health upgrades. [i]SoT[/i] gave you a beautiful hallway with shiny, happy music that lead to a pretty fountain. [i]WW[/i] makes you navigate a hallway of gritty, nasty, [b]EDGY[/b] traps to get your upgrades, ensuring that you’ll burn through a few sand tanks to get there. Mercifully, the traps deactivate afterwards, but it’s still a chore to get through those nightmarish traps.

Other than the upgrades, the only unlockables you get are some secondary weapons with special abilities and “artwork chests” that you break open to unlock [b]EDGY[/b] pictures. Ooh.

Some more miscellaneous bitching before I’m done here: The voice acting is horrible! Many times, the lips don’t match the words. The dialog isn’t much better, so I didn’t care one bit about any of the characters aside from the Prince. I missed Farah and the funny dialog she shared with the Prince in [i]SoT[/i]. And the enemies didn’t need [b]EDGY[/b] dialog. Just grunt and scream while I’m kicking your ass. That’s all I ask.

Not you, Prince! I don’t need to have the hero of my game sound like he’s taking a crap after eating a dozen cheese pizzas while he’s fighting for his life.

I am also trying to wrap my mind around why UbiSoft decided to pepper the game’s soundtrack with heavy metal. This is supposed to take place in the Middle East during the feudal ages. So what’s with all the S&M and guitar riffs? Oh, I know! It’s [b]EDGY[/b] ! I’m gonna go slit my wrists now.

It’s obvious that UbiSoft rushed this, because there are glitches galore in this game. I’ve seen the floor spikes stay up after I’ve run through them. Kaileena’s outfit blurs out several times during her time on the screen. The sound goes out on several occasions. Occasionally, a glitch in the game caused me to fall to my death and burn a sand tank. And the big boss battle in the end featured sand tornadoes, which didn’t seem to go away when they should have. (The screen still blurred and the sound still went a full thirty seconds after they disappeared.)

I don’t know whether or not the glitches are unique to the GameCube version (the red-headed stepchild for multi-platform games), but that doesn’t make them any less annoying.

All in all, the game was a very disappointing experience for me. While it was a mildly amusing romp and is mercifully short at around 10-15 hours of gameplay, I don’t think I could make myself pick it up again. Unless you are a die-hard [i]PoP[/i] fan, I suggest passing this atrocity by and picking up [i]The Two Thrones[/i]. But if you absolutely have to play it and have a spare weekend to kill, do yourself a favor and rent it from the rental place of your choice.

Score: 2/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.