People, apart from a small bunch including myself, generally didn't think much of 2008's Prince of Persia, so it's no surprise that Ubisoft went back to the formula that had proved successful in the past. The Forgotten Sands is very much in the same vein as the much loved Sands of Time and PS2/Xbox swansong Two Thrones. Even with fancy new HD visuals, though, can it live up to the memory of one of the great games of our time? Well, not really, but it's still a hell of a lot of fun once it gets going.
Characters and story play rather muted second and third fiddles to the old-school platforming and combat. The Prince arrives at a great palace to find it under attack. His brother, unable to fend off the massive wave of enemies, unleashes an undead army from beneath the palace grounds. It might have seemed like a good idea at the time, but these creatures cause havoc, turn allies to sand statues and almost completely total the palace. A medallion, split in half between the Prince and his brother, must be joined once again to rid the world of the menace, but things aren't as easy as they sound. The medallion gives the Prince's brother great power, corrupting him and sending the siblings on a collision course.
All this means that you have to fight through hundreds of monsters and traverse the now crumbling palace grounds. The platforming is by far the game's high point, with the classic swinging from pole to pole, wall running and beam balancing all present and correct, but it's the addition of two new abilities that elevate it above previous games in the series. Fairly early on in the game you gain the ability to freeze water for a short amount of time, turning a liquid into a solid object. This results in the creation of hard walls to run up and along, pillars to grab hold of and poles to swing from. Initially it seems like a nice gimmick, but nothing more. It's only after you've grasped the basics that things really take off.
Numerous mechanics make for some truly devilish and ingenious puzzle-like platforming. At times you'll have to release the freeze while in mid-air, then refreeze fractions of a second later in order to grab hold of another solidified stream that only appeared a fraction of a second earlier. Towards the end of the game there are sequences which require such precise timing and hand-eye coordination that after a few failures you'll wonder if progress is even possible.
Add to this an ability to bring back pieces of the palace that have crumbled and you've got a game that requires constant concentration and dexterous fingers. A mid-air dash, used to propel yourself into nearby enemies, is another element to consider, enabling you to whiz about the environment with speed and style. There's absolutely no doubt that this is by far the best platforming the series has ever seen.