If there's one area of the platforming that lets the side down it's two of the magic abilities you gain. Of the four, two of these essentially send the Prince and Elika along a set path, either to another magical plate or to a platform with very little interaction required on your part. The other two try to do something a bit different by being far more interactive and at the same time often extremely annoying. One sees you climbing up walls and the other sees the Prince fly like Harry Potter on his broomstick, except without the broomstick, and on rails. The problem with both is that they are about avoiding obstacles, with one bad move resulting in a return to the last checkpoint. This wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the fact that there are some quite lengthy sections that combine all the magical plates, without a mid-way checkpoint, and the camera angle is often so bad that you can't see obstacles until it's too late. While these sections look quite dazzling, they fit rather uneasily into the game as a whole and we'd have quite happily traded them for more traditional platforming sections.
And that brings us to the second main sticking point: the relationship between the Prince and Elika. Elika is extremely likeable, voiced well and with a character that's easy to care for. The Prince isn't. To be fair, he grew on us, with his jock-like dialogue slowly fading as he became more aware of the situation and his relationship with Elika blossomed, but by the end he was still just a guy who we cared very little for. Part of this is down to the choice of voice actor, which happens to be the very same guy who played Nathan Drake in Uncharted on PS3.
In Uncharted he pulled off the cocky modern day Indiana Jones very well, and he does a good job here too. It's just that for the relationship to work here he needed to be a more rounded character. At the end of the game there are a few scenes that would have gone down in video game history had that relationship worked, but they fell slightly flat. It's by no means a complete failure, with much of the dialogue from the Prince, Elika, and the supporting cast of enemies being exceptionally good, but what is a great game could have been elevated to classic status had this key relationship been perfected.
If the relationship had been told entirely through the actions of the characters rather than their spoken words (perhaps in a way similar to Ico and Shadow of the Colossus) there'd be no question that Ubisoft had done a good job. The way to the two leads interact with one another is quite magnificent, from a physical point of view, with the Prince catching Elika as she leaps onto ledges, carrying her on his back as he moves across vines and switching places with a hand-held spin if they cross paths on a tight beam or ledge. The interaction during combat is equally spectacular, with the combos you're able to pull off being real visual highlights.
It's the environments and boss characters that stand out the most though, with the sights on offer here rivalling the best we've ever seen in a video game. The painting-like visual style gives the game a unique appearance perhaps only comparable to Okami, but it's so much more impressive here. The environments are truly epic in scale - so much so that you'll want to spend time simply taking it all in, especially once the area has been healed and returned to its beautiful natural state. Best of all, the frame rate (Xbox 360 version tested) is flawless for the most part. We experienced the odd moment of tearing and some very minor frame rate drops, but they were rare occurrences.
Ever since Ubisoft revealed its reboot of the Prince of Persia franchise there have been whispers of "game of the year", and it's to Ubisoft's credit that it has delivered a game that absolutely delivers on its promise, trumping Assassin's Creed in every way. Game of the year is perhaps a stretch too far, but Ubisoft Montreal has come tantalisingly close to creating a real masterpiece. There's no doubt that a sequel is coming; we only hope that the Prince and Elika have some time to work on their relationship in the time being.