There are two times each year when it's tough to be a gamer. One is during the summer, when it seems that the advertisements for games coming out in the winter are more exciting than the games arriving in stores. The other tough time is when those winter games finally come out and it's impossible to keep up with them all.
Right now, the Playstation 2 is enjoying its time at the top of the console charts, and a majority of the great games that are being released right now are, if not Playstation exclusives, at least available on that machine along with all the others. Chief among them would have to be Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Not having yet played the Xbox and GameCube versions, I can't say for sure that they'll be as good as the version for the Playstation 2. But assuming they don't mess anything up, the experience should be at least as enjoyable as it as on the PS2.
Prince of Persia is that rare thing these days: a single-player game that tells a story and takes you from point A to point B without trying to be everything to everyone. The plot details the life of a young prince who steals a magic dagger and unleashes the forces of evil from a sandglass (OK, so the story's a stretch). With everyone turned into sand zombies, it's up to the prince (and a young woman, occasionally) to set things right.
What that means is that he needs to run around and jump a lot. This has been the classic mode for videogames since Super Mario Bros., but here the jumping and running has been amped up to 11. The prince is a very nimble man, with the ability to run along walls, and leap from ledge to ledge across a room. Controlling him is the heart of the gameplay, and because it's so stylish and precise, not to mention logical -- if defying gravity could be called logical -- the action never becomes tiresome. It also helps that the game's levels look stunning, drawing on a mix of Arabian Nights and Doom. Oh, sure, you'll also battle some bad guys, and when you do, you'll get to freeze time and slow down your enemies. But this is mainly for show. The real fun comes from exploring and conquering the game's clever levels.
Publication date: 11/20/03