Action adventure games and the Wii, in my opinion at least, aren't a good mix. Any game in which you control a character running about, viewed from third-person, and have to leap around the environment, occasionally fighting enemies, just doesn't feel at home on Nintendo's motion-control console. Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, is such a game, and as ever, has to compete against the system's single analogue stick and motion-based combat. With a preview build put through its paces, does it manage to overcome the platform's inherent problems?
First things first. This isn't the same game as The Forgotten Sands on Xbox 360 and PS3. This has been built from scratch for the Wii and as such is essentially a completely different game. Most obviously different here is the inclusion of a guiding, glowing fairy, similar to Navi from The Legend of Zelda. You also have an on-screen pointer that you can move around with the Wii Remote, and use to interact with various magical switches.
Platforming - the general act of leaping from ledge to ledge and running across walls - is more or less the same as it's been in the Prince of Persia games down the years. To make the whole process a bit easier the game highlights the part of the environment the Prince is going to jump onto with a blue tinge, which means you shouldn't find yourself using trial and error to get from one platform to another.
So far there's an awful lot of holding A to wall run, and plenty of jumping from beam to beam, and pole to pole. It's classic Prince of Persia gameplay, and death results in a near instant return to a reasonably close checkpoint - there's no user initiated time manipulation like in the Xbox 360 and PS3 game. Activating switches with the Wii Remote lets the Prince use them as hold points, opening up previously impossible to pass areas of the level, while branching paths often reveal hidden goodies to collect.
Combat is perhaps where the game feels most different to its big brother console versions. All the combat here, apart from blocking, is handled by Wii Remote and Nunchuck gestures. Swing the Remote and the prince will slash his sword, while a Nunchuck thrust will result in a punch - wave both together and you'll perform a spinning attack. From the preview build the enemy encounters aren't nearly as packed as those in the Xbox 360 and PS3 games, with no more than a handful of deadly foes on screen at once.
As frequently seems to be the case with Wii games, the camera here isn't perfect, but it does its best to give you a good view of the action or the location you need to navigate across. You can manually move the camera by holding down the C button and moving the on-screen pointer, but it's not something that you'll want to be doing all the time. Hopefully the auto-camera will be fine tuned a little more before the game hits stores, meaning you won't have to operate it yourself at all.
As we move ever deeper into the Xbox 360 and PS3 generation it's becoming increasingly difficult to work out if new Wii games look good, such is the gulf in quality between the two. With some impressive lighting and smart use of colour, The Forgotten Sands looks pretty good, although it's definitely a bit rough around the edges. Perhaps more impressive is the audio work, both in terms of voice acting and musical score. This certainly isn't a rush job from Ubisoft.
So, The Forgotten Sands on Wii is its own game, rather than a hastily slapped together port, but it feels a little basic compared to its bigger brothers on Xbox 360 and PS3. There's no manual rewinding time, no water freezing and the obvious downside of less spectacular visuals, but it has a few of its own ideas and for the most part seems to work well within the Wii's control limitations. Hopefully the final release will deliver the goods for Wii owners.
Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands will be released on Wii on May 21. The game will also arrive for PS3, Xbox 360 and PSP on the same day, with a PC version to follow on June 4.