Despite Prince of Persia's ancient setting, there's something very modern about the game design that could well be used as a template for many games to come. In Ubisoft's latest you can't die. Jump off a cliff, get stabbed by a dark demon or fall into a pool of dark corruption all you like, because you'll get saved and returned to safety. It might sound like a gimmick destined to make for an entirely forgettable, unrewarding experience, but it's not. Prince of Persia does away with one of the most fundamental game design rules and is all the better for it.
The Prince is a cocky guy, no doubt aware of his rippling muscles and rugged good looks, so when an attractive young lady appears in the middle of the desert it's no surprise that he takes an interest. Elika, clearly a girl from the rich side of town, appears to be running from her father, and she's important enough to have guards trying to stop her escape. All isn't quite as it seems, with Elika's father being the King and some kind of deal being made between himself and Ahriman, the evil dark lord. After a fight inside an ancient shrine, corruption (a kind of dark matter) is spread throughout the land, and the once beautiful kingdom is thrust into darkness.
Being the good guy he is, the Prince takes it upon himself to go with Elika on her quest to rid the world of this corruption, revitalising one area at a time. Inside each of these 20 zones is a patch of fertile ground on which a magical tree sits. Elika is able to use her own magical energy to restore life to the area, ridding the corruption and releasing 45 light seeds into the surrounding area. These are used to unlock new magical powers which are needed to reach certain parts of the game world.
This wouldn't be too tricky if it wasn't for the way the city has crumbled (with platforms often being held up by narrow pillars and broken away from each other) and the evil corrupted beings that now live there. The game world is essentially split into four, with each zone ruled by one of Ahriman's slaves - enemies so corrupted that they now possess an incredible amount of power - with your goal being to make it to each boss' 'lair' before dispatching them for good.
Although Prince of Persia is most definitely an action game, combat is only ever against single enemies. As you make your way through the open, albeit fairly linear landscape, attempting to find each of the fertile patches of land, you'll come across plenty of standard corrupted enemies. These are pretty easy to kill, with the Prince able to perform some rather spectacular combos in conjunction with Elika - you can even kill them before they've been spawned properly. Each of the four face buttons perform a different attack (sword, gauntlet, Elika and air), and these can be chained together in many different ways.
Finding an opening is more or less about timing a block (which results in a flash of white light) in order to then counter with a string of devastating blows. It's not quite as simple as it sounds though, with the state of an enemy determining what attack type you need to start off with. For example, when an enemy is completely transformed due to corruption you need to start an attack with Elika, with all other forms of attack proving completely useless. You can't die, of course, but if Elika needs to save you from the jaws of death (usually if you press the wrong button during one of the enemies' QTE attacks) your foe will regain some, if not all of its health.