Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands is the next chapter in the fan-favourite Sands of Time universe, read on for our exclusive hands-on preview…

Ubisoft’s new Prince Of Persia title is gunning for a patch that is both exciting and clear-cut, and in case it wasn’t entirely obvious from the few small clues (like the game’s sub-title, and the fact that it isn’t an official tie-in with the upcoming film) then we’ll lay it joyously bare: The Forgotten Sands is a continuation of the original Sands Of Time trilogy. And everyone is right to be excited by that.

The 2008 Prince Of Persia game was an accomplished and well-rounded adventure that housed some of the greatest visuals seen thus far in the current generation, but hardcore fans of the franchise weren’t entirely pleased with it. It was seen by some of them as being far too accessible, and the inclusion of a hub world, coupled with a deficiency of multi-enemy battles and some less-than-taxing puzzles, meant that it lacked the devilish flavour that made the Sands trilogy so moreish and highly regarded. Those three games were some of the finest of their kind, and whilst the 2008 rendition was a slick and involving piece of entertainment, there was never any reason to return to it in the same way that fans did (and still do) return to those original three.

The game’s Animation Director Jan Sjovall, who flew over from Canada to present the title in London this week, revealed that the story of The Forgotten Sands will take place in between The Sands Of Time and The Warrior Within. The game’s plot appears to have massive potential too, and it involves your hero and his brother Malik trying to close Pandora’s box, in the wake of Malik using the mysterious ancient power of the Sand to gain ground in a losing battle with an attacking army. Sjovall also revealed that the project is more or less a dream come true, and is taking full advantage of next-generation hardware. Whereas the original Sands Of Time trilogy was only ever able to have a maximum of five attacking enemies on screen at any one time, The Forgotten Sands is able to accommodate up to 50, and often will do.

The bulk of the new gameplay additions involve ‘powers of nature’ that are used both to enrich the platforming, and also to form the basis for some frankly wicked puzzles. Our short time with the game – which consisted of a sequence set in, of course, a dilapidated temple – was an enticing blast of pure nostalgia, coupled with the ethereal thrill of the new. It felt like Sands Of Time but grander in scale, complimented by a considerable amount of the visual sheen that Ubisoft Montreal brought to the 2008 iteration. Of these new ‘powers of nature’ (which include a teleport-like dash move, and an ice-based spike trail attack) the most fundamental part of the preview build involved the ability to solidify water. Activating various water pumps with levers and switches, before solidifying the jets and using them as poles to vault on, formed the basis for many of the puzzles in the segment of the game that we played.

It is a seriously cool dynamic, and in all honesty it is also one that Ubisoft Montreal didn’t need to work too hard to impress us with. But the game’s puzzles are no cakewalk: they involve considerable deliberation and dexterity, and they hark back to the gently taxing and effortlessly rewarding puzzles that the Sands Of Time managed to resoundingly perfect back in 2003. The combat is every bit as beefy as you’d hope, with an emphasis on “crowd control” that needs to be taken advantage of when you’re facing a substantial number of enemies at once. When you’ve got some of the fire-based powers equipped, you can trap a tougher enemy in a ring of fire until you’ve dealt with the others. You can also leap on top of any enemy who may be using a shield for cover, bounce away in the direction of another, and plunge your sword straight into his chest for a delectable one-hit kill.

There is also an involved but intuitive health and power upgrade scheme, a control system not dissimilar to the one fans will remember from The Sands Of Time, and the revolutionary, still marvelous rewind system is back in full force. The upcoming Hollywood movie – a film perhaps in possession of the most distinguished cast and crew ever assembled for a videogame adaptation – is looking better than anyone had any right to expect, and there is a large possibility that it will entice even more people to pick up a pad and investigate this esteemed franchise. If The Forgotten Sands is even half the game that the original Sands Of Time was, then its going to be game-of-the-year material. After our inspection, the only conclusion we’re able to derive is that it is already much, much more than that.

Watch the Prince Of Persia: The Forgotten Sands trailer here…

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