Super Mario Maker Musings

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Super Mario Maker: A race to upload the most obnoxious Mario levels in existence.

Mario is my gaming alpha. He is the man who got me interested in video games back when I was 4 years old. I can’t say what it was about watching my cousins die repeatedly on the first level that caught my interest, but I was so obsessed my parents broke down and got me a Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas that year. So I think it’s safe to blame my parents and Mario for my lifelong obsession with video games.

That being said, I’ve never dreamed up original Mario levels inside of my head. Guess I’m not very creative when it comes to design and the technicalities of it all. This certainly didn’t do anything to smother my excitement for Super Mario Maker. In fact, I was always excited to go online and experience levels created by people with more creativity and spare time on their hands. Unfortunately, when it comes to the (literally) millions of levels uploaded online, the amount of quality levels is really a drop in a bucket by comparison.

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This isn’t the random clusterf**k you think it is.

In fact, my favorite levels are the levels I don’t have to play at all! “Don’t Move” levels permeate the popular online courses. Yes, that’s right… the “player” doesn’t have to do a thing! I know, it sound cheap, but many of these stages are absolutely amazing to behold. They really demonstrate the impressive mechanics and the overwhelming number of options on the table when creating levels. Plus, they’re a nice break from a sad majority of stages that only seem to exist to cause me stress. It seems like every other level is nothing but an annoying, gimmicky attempt at a “gotcha” stage that I have little to no patience for.

This is only mainly a problem due to one of my few complaints about this game. As many of you know, Super Mario Maker allows for amiibo skins while playing 8-bit Mario Bros. levels. If you don’t happen to own 100 amiibos, you can unlock skins by playing “100 Mario Challenge.” 100 is a lot of lives… right?

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Also, get used to level names that LIE, have spelling and grammar errors, and are in other languages.

100 Mario Maker has an Easy, Normal, and Expert mode, which are determined by each stages completion percentage. Easy is brain-numbingly easy. Normal usually has decent stages. But Expert? Ugh… Most Expert mode stages make me want to write death notes for the users who created this painful garbage. I would just, you know, stay away from Expert mode… if I had a choice. Sadly, the game caps how much you can unlock on Easy and Normal modes. So unless I want to go out and buy more amiibos (Someday, but not today) I have to suffer through Expert mode or just not bother. As it stands, I haven’t completed it once. Even with the feature to skip a level (I’d be livid if this didn’t exist) if I still have 8 stages to go and more than half of my lives are gone… I always quit.

I still have a lot of unlocking to do. Time is all that is needed to unlock all the building tools. 10 Mario Challenge will get you some starter levels to tinker with and completing them all gets you Nintendo World Championship Levels. Completing all of those gets you… Wait for it…

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Is that… Walauigi?

Skinny, weird jumping Mario. I have an irrational fear of it. Seriously, it creeps me out.

I still have a lot to unlock and some stage designs to play around with. There is a lot to this game, and with the potential of it being a never ending Mario game with (hopefully) more DLC down the line for level creation tools and layouts (Seriously… No Super Mario 2???? It hurts). Aside from these gripes, I’m so glad Nintendo finally made this a thing. This is the best thing to happen to my Wii U since Shovel Knight.

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Donkey Kong Country Returns

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Ride, Diddy, Ride!

I released this game from the “Games collecting dust I have yet to complete” vault. I played through a lot of it with my brother, but playing video games with an autistic person who is obsessed with grabbing every collectible and killing every enemy with no sense of self-preservation is nerve-wracking.  I gave up at world 7 and didn’t look back for a long time.

Donkey Kong Country Returns is like the Mario and Kirby games on the Wii; you have the option to play co-op if you’d like. And by option, I mean proceed at your own risk. Remember trying to play New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Or whatever the hell it was called) with four players? The chaos, the betrayal, the ruining of friendships? DKCR felt almost as chaotic at times with only two of us playing. Some of the features really made me shake my head, wondering if the developers even tried playing it co-op.

DKCR doesn’t give the player any similar “bubbling” option like in NSMB. Instead of being able to save yourself from certain death as long as the other person playing is progressing and doesn’t happen to “bubble” at the same time you do, DKCR will teleport the off-screen character to (usually) whoever is further along. This was a life-saver sometimes. You see a counter on the side of the screen where the lagging-behind character is hiding before they get automatically teleported to their partner. Unfortunately, the game has no qualms against transporting the off-screen character next to a gorilla leaping over a bottomless pit. Insta-death. Good thing “Game Over” doesn’t mean too much in these games anymore. Same goes for barrels; USUALLY you’ll automatically get transported into the barrel your partner is patiently waiting in to advance. But the opposite seemed to be true of optional barrels. Diddy, who has more maneuvering skills, would be hanging out in a barrel and I’d hope the game would bring me to him, but the opposite happened a few times which was frustrating.

While I’m on the topic, I’m gonna vent about how Donkey Kong totally got shafted in this game. I made the mistake of choosing to play as the game’s namesake and passed off Diddy Kong to Steve-O. Biiiiig mistake on my part! Donkey Kong completely sucks. Diddy gets a hovering ability which makes acquiring all of those hard-to-collect-without-dying KONG letters and puzzle pieces a bit more manageable. Even traversing some of the crazy stages as Donkey made me want to pull my hair out. Or, you know, purposely die and just let Diddy Kong finish the stage without me holding him back.

A lot of my other frustrations align with typical Wii game complaints.  The levels are too hectic at times for two players and/or the funky Wii controls aren’t responsive enough for their demands. Some levels or collectibles demand performing a roll-jump which requires running, shaking the controller, then jumping. Good luck with that. Nine times out of ten your monkey won’t jump when you press the button. Or when you’re only shaking the controller to pound the ground he’ll do a roll instead and plummet to an inconvenient death.

Again, thankfully death doesn’t mean too much anymore. With banana coins you collect from levels you can purchase an obscene amount of lives from Cranky at his shack. We had so many banana coins we didn’t know what to do with them besides frivolously spend them on fifty lives at a time. I’m not ashamed to say we had no trouble blowing through that many lives, either. When playing co-op, TWO lives are taken from you every time you die. Which means every time you don’t press the Jump button with the right amount of pressure you lose two lives during those stupid one-hit-kill mine cart riding levels. I hate those types of levels by the way… pressing a button with the incorrect amount of pressure shouldn’t result in losing two lives.

Aside from riding mine carts and rockets amongst ridiculous obstacles, I liked a lot of the level designs. I’d be happier if they didn’t require more accurate responses than my Wii remotes can give. But, like the Mario and Kirby Wii games, they show a lot of creativity. There isn’t a lot of gray area; I found them a lot of fun or extremely frustrating. The music is reminiscent of past DK games. The premise for the whole game is a bit silly, but isn’t that usually the case?

The boss fights at the end of each world are hit or miss too. They’re either enjoyable or you die about 100 times before finally progressing. So, yes, this game is difficult, but like a lot of games this generation, it is difficult for the wrong reasons.

Oh, and the new final boss is stupid.

Kirby’s Dream Collection

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So… many… Kirbies…

Those “Buy 2 Get 1 Free” used game sales at Gamestop I was referring to a few posts back when I made my “Gaming To-Do” list? Yeah… the sale happened. And it got me good. One of the games I purchased was Kirby’s Dream Collection. Kirby’s Adventure is probably my fondest NES gaming memory. Kirby’s Dreamland 2 also holds a special place in my heart. I played that a lot when I was young using my Super GameBoy. AND this used copy even included the soundtrack! Thank you kind fool who parted with this collection, I am forever grateful.

In case you were wondering, these are the playable games included in the Dream (AKA-20th Anniversary) Collection:

  • Kirby’s Dream Land
  • Kirby’s Adventure Kirby’s Dream Land 2
  • Kirby Super Star
  • Kirby’s Dream Land 3
  • Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards

I was genuinely happy with this list… Until I went to the Kirby History portion of the disc and checked out the timeline. There were all sorts of OTHER Kirby games I didn’t even know about! Whoever put this collection together was basically like, “Hey, check out all these extra Kirby games that we didn’t bother to include in the ‘Dream’ collection, sucker! But you can watch a two minute video of the gameplay to whet your appetite for a game you’ll never get to play!” Seriously, why would you go out of the way to point out your own laziness/skimpiness? Granted, some of the puzzle ones looked kinda blah, but dammit, if I buy a collection I want them all! (I’m looking at you, Silent Hill HD Collection. Can you even call two games a “collection?”)

Something else I learned while reviewing the Kirby timeline was that a Kirby cartoon exists! I couldn’t take more than five minutes of the first episode before I had to turn it off, but it exists! And if I’d known about it when I was 8 I probably would’ve watched the entire series and have the nostalgia-stomach for it now. Oh, missed opportunities.

I haven’t played Kirby’s Adventure on the Wii disc yet. I feel like I’ve played this game 100 times; most recently the 3D version on my 3DS. But when I am jonesing for it again I’ll check out this version.

The first game I played in the above list was Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards. I never owned a N64 and toyed around with the idea of downloading it on my Wii but never did so I missed out on this game until now. My experience with N64 games is limited, but I think this is the only N64 platformer I’ve ever played, as they were obsessed with the new 3D technology when the system came out. I pretty much coasted through the game until I got to the final boss. The normal final boss was a huge difficulty curve for me, not even considering the extra final boss.Those 20+ lives I had stockpiled (which reset when you reload your save file, FML) got put to use real quick. Before you ask, no, I did not, nor do I have any plans to, collect all the crystal shards so I can get my ass handed to me by an unlockable boss. PS4 is coming out in November, people… Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Then I played Kirby’s Dreamland. It’s like a micro-version of Kirby’s Adventure, which was released later. Super old-school GameBoy, I loved it. I was shocked and amazed when I finished this game in one sitting. That hasn’t happened to me in a very, very long time. Actually… it hasn’t happened since I downloaded and played Kirby’s Dreamland 3 on my Wii for the first time. This time around, I didn’t beat KD3 in one sitting. Oh well. I’m not particularly crazy about the addition of animal friends for Kirby to ride around in/on. Aside from the gimmicky parts when you need them, I refuse to use them.

Kirby Super Star is a fun collection of games as well. While starting it up I had a sneaky suspicion I’d already played it before. About ten minutes later I realized that was because I DID already play the DS remake/re-release/whatever. So I replayed Meta Knight’s Revenge and a couple of other modes because they’re a lot of fun.

This collection also has “Challenge Modes” that are suspiciously similar to those found in Kirby’s Return to Dreamland… They’re cute and fun for a little while, but nothing to get worked up about.

Basically, the dream collection doesn’t have any new exclusive content to be excited about. It preserves the Kirby classics we love and cherish (though Kirby’s Adventure will always trump these other installments for me) and, like I said, goes out of its way to show you all the other games they didn’t bother including in the collection. I will say, after playing the 3 Dream Land games and the Crystal Shards game, Kirby moves really… cumbersomely. I hate having to tap a directional button twice to dash. Kirby is slow. Slow, slow, slow. That was hard to get used to again. And going from one game to another I couldn’t remember whether I was supposed to tap up or the jump button again to get Kirby to float.

I also couldn’t find a button to leave a game and return to the main menu. I have to be blind or something. It must exist… I mean, did they really intend for the player to have to reset their system whenever they wanted to play a different game?

If you like retro platformers and/or some of the Kirby relics, this collection is good to have. But I have to admit, after playing Epic Yarn and Kirby’s Return to Dreamland, some of these were hard to go back to.

Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones

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Don’t get too excited; this badass-ery is a double-edged sword-chain-whip-thing.

It’s official: Steve-O and I have come to the conclusion of our journey through the Prince of Persia trilogy on Playstation 2. If you’ve read his “Roast of Prince of Persia: Warrior Within” post, you’d know our experience with the middle installment was less than pleasurable.

So then, does the trilogy end on a high note or a low note? I’m gonna say it ends on a middle note. Coming fresh off of Warrior Within, we were on a  high during the first few hours of gameplay that, unfortunately, quickly faded each time we sat down to play for a few hours.

We had a very sour taste in our mouths after finishing Warrior Within (by glitch-killing the Dahaka, of all things!). I did some sleuthing online and the general consensus seemed to be that Two Thrones was superior to its predecessor. Thank the gaming gods, because we weren’t sure if we could suffer through a repeat of Warrior Within without the Dahaka. The game starts off with the Prince and Kaileena returning to his city, only to find it in bloody squalor. Apparently the stuff he did in Warrior Within undid Sands of Time. Therefore, evil vizier hath returned. Half-naked Sand Empress gets kidnapped and the opening is you chasing her kidnappers through the city where blood is being shed all over the place thanks to pesky sand demons running amok.

Traversing rooftops via wall-running and pole-jumping is familiar territory. Dagger plates and spring boards were added for more variety. Like my programming issues with the other PoP games, you have to hit the button before you actually want Prince to stick his dagger in the plate or spring from the board. I also didn’t like how there was a separate button command to spring from the boards or to spring from the boards and transition into an attack to kill the enemies waiting for you on whatever platform you’re advancing to. There’s never an instance when the player wouldn’t want to kill the enemy. Ever. So just kill them without making me remember to push a separate button when I’m already hectically button mashing X so he’ll jump instead of falling to his death for no reason. Because, again, response time in these games is terrible for the precision that is required.

A new feature that impressed right away was the quick kill. After spending 15 minutes pressing the same button per trash encounter in WW, were were immediately jumping off the couch with glee when we could stealth kill enemies in one or two blows. In the beginning of the game, it really cut down on time wasted dealing with run-of-the-mill sand demons. Sadly, this was not the case for the long haul. This game was released the same year as the first God of War. Let’s just say that between the two of them God of War got quick-time button prompts right and Two Thrones failed. Like, epic fail. As with the rest of the commands in this game, the majority of the time you’re expected to know when to push the button before the game actually tells you to push the button. But don’t press the button a second before the second before you are given the prompt! You’re still screwed then, too. After the first couple of hours of the game, stealth kills turn into 3-5 button presses that vary depending on the enemy you’re killing and become too frustrating to bother with. And they aren’t obvious like in God of War and other games. The screen color fades and you’re given a slight flash of the prince’s blade (which is sometimes OFF SCREEN). Like I said, the prompt is usually displayed after the fact, which is my main gripe.

So yeah, that new feature turned stale pretty quickly. And they couldn’t have left it at that, either. The first real boss can only be killed with said quicktime events. The prompt didn’t even show up half the time (looked online and found out it was a common glitch). This turned the fight into a frustrating guessing game. Then the final boss fight was another hair-tearing practice in quicktime masochism. Being the final boss fight, it was harder. There’s debris circling the floor. This means that every time I failed at a quicktime event, the boss would throw Prince to the ground and he would get hit by at least one circling boulder because he doesn’t know how to get off his butt without staring at the sky for a while and then doing three fancy acrobatic rolls first. I’m very glad I never have to do that again.

Due to certain plot events I probably shouldn’t disclose for fear of spoilers, you now get to play as the prince’s alter ego. Dark Prince pops in at certain points throughout the game. He’s actually pretty funny. I laughed quite a bit whenever he berated the prince for being such a lame softie. Dark Prince and WW Prince would’ve gotten along just fine. As the game’s cover art suggests, when Prince turns Dark, he literally turns black and also gets an awesome whip. This awesome whip makes stealth kills way easier. The way it alters battle is fun. However, the new battle perks come at a steep price. Remember the end of WW, when the prince was a sand wraith for a little while? If so, I’m sure you recall the health drain. While annoying, it wasn’t a game changer because the drain would stop when Prince’s health fell to 25%. In Two Thrones, the health drain doesn’t stop until you’re good and dead. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but WW did something better than Two Thrones. To create the sense of urgency sequences now left vacant by the Dahaka’s defeat, the developers thought it would be cool to have sections where the player must negotiate crazy platforming sequences (with added torch swinging via chain-whip that we always forgot about between gaming sessions) against the clock, so to speak, thanks to the health drain. When playing as Dark Prince, sand refills health. So in the beginning of the game, when they were being easy on the player, it wasn’t a big deal. Later on… well, let’s just say I haven’t expected mandatory level memorization since the SNES era, so pardon me for being annoyed at having to suffer through the same area over and over again until I achieve flawless (Megaman) precision. And that’s assuming the prince responds to your commands as you hope and doesn’t jump to his death just for fun. I almost thought Steve-O was gonna throw the controller through my brand new TV screen in a fit of rage when he was doing the final Dark Prince platforming sequence. It was overcome-able, but not before the most painful half hour of the game. The health drain must be percentage-based, because we had all the health upgrades and still managed to run out of health.

Speaking of health upgrades, obtaining them is relatively similar to WW. The prince must go off the beaten path, wall-run and dodge roll around all manners of sharp, pointy objects to gain his prize. Except this time around there’s no fancy water sword waiting for you afterwards.

Sand upgrades are handled a little differently in this game. Instead of solving mini wall-running trial and error puzzles, you approach a sand portal and have to kill its guardians. According to the strategy guide we were referencing, killing the fancy captains or whatever they were was supposed to reduce the amount of enemies appearing from the portal that we had to kill. I didn’t find this to be true at all. Even when killing the captain first, ten more sand abominations would pop out of the portal. Aside from dealing with the sloppy combat, I didn’t really have a problem with this new method. The only let down is when you spend time killing cronies to be rewarded with “Sand Credits”… AKA, no reward at all. Scattering this artwork/concept design currency throughout the game in treasure chests is fine. Putting it in sand portals is not fine. My guess is that the developers realized from WW that gamers didn’t really get a chance to use all the fancy offensive moves they created because we’re too busy using the limited sand we have to rewind time because enemies never drop health unless you’re Dark Prince. 

Enemies never dropping experience or health is my long-running gripe with this series. Why bother suffering through the terrible battle system if you aren’t rewarded for doing so? I’d call this an action game pet peeve, but I can’t think of any other games of this nature that do such a thing. I tried running away from enemies when able, but that was a pain in the rear too because the prince refused to leave enemies be. He’d insist on facing enemies and remaining in battle stance the entire time I tried pulling him away from them. I felt like I couldn’t win either way.

Most of the aesthetic features are better than the previous installment. The graphics are better. They still suck, especially considering God of War was originally released the same year. The music is so, SO much better than WW-Godsmack “I’ve forgotten what kind of game this is supposed to be,” music. Sorry, but in my mind the only action series I’ve played that can pull off the metal vibe is Devil May Cry. Two Thrones has great music that suits the setting. They also brought back the original voice actor for the prince, who I liked better.

The enemy designs are kind of boring, now that I think about it. The bosses looked cool, but everything else you fight feels dull and uninspired. Character designs are fine. And by fine, I mean damn fine because the prince runs around topless the whole game and the femme du jour actually isn’t dressed like a complete hooker.

In retrospect, the first PS2 game, Sands of Time, was the most enjoyable. This is strange to me. In my experience, I find game trilogies start off decent, the middle game veers too far off and sucks balls, then the finale not only fixes everything wrong with the second but it supersedes the first. I don’t feel that way about the PoP trilogy. I also don’t feel that anyone in their right mind would recommend these titles as fun or good games. Especially after playing current gen games that got action platforming right; i.e. the Assassin’s Creed series, Prince of Persia (reboot?) and the Uncharted Series.  This trilogy planted a seed, I’ll give it that, but I really can’t see forgiving everything else wrong because of it… Even if I played these games when they were first released.

Epilogue: After forcing ourselves to play all three Prince of Persia PS2 games, Steve-O and I watched the movie, featuring Jake Gyllenhall as Prince Dastan (they gave him a name… WTF?). We both agreed the movie was enjoyable because it had little in common with the games.

-Shena

The Roast of Prince of Persia: Warrior Within

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Trust me, he’s not as tough as he looks.

Time for another retro-review!  Generally speaking, I have a soft spot for older games.  Most of the games populating my Top Ten are over a decade old.  Over the last few years I’ve found myself getting progressively easier to please when it comes to movies and games, to the point where I’ve started wondering if my claws fell out (Breath of Fire II notwithstanding).  Then we came across the second Prince of Persia game!

I remember the first Prince of Persia being revolutionary and groundbreaking at the time of its release by taking action platforming in a new and exciting direction.  Hell, it spawned a spiritual successor in Ubisofts’ triple-A annual cash cow, Assassin’s Creed.  What I fail to see, however, is how a series can survive at all when it has the audacity to pump out the miscarriage that was Warrior Within, as only the second installment.

Before getting into the awful things I really want to say about this exercise in masochism, I’ll touch up on the things that I actually did enjoy about the game.  At times, the locale was dreary and dark enough to set the mood adequately.  The grey sky overlying the shipwreck and adjacent caverns were pretty spot on in representing what was in store for Prince.  If only I, as the player, were smart enough to pick up on the cues that early.  Crap, wait…this is the GOOD stuff section.

The Prince’s character design is decent, if a little boring.  However, I will give the game a small bit of leniency, as it came out in the era that basically pioneered brooding gritty heroes.  The style of weaponry is pretty exotic, although it didn’t exactly scream Middle Eastern to me.  Enemy designs were actually great, a breath of fresh air from the whopping two or three plain-jane enemies you encountered in the first title.  Sure, they were primarily palette swaps of two different attack-patterned enemies, but it was nice to see them wear a scarf every now and then.  Or a black spiked banana-hammock!    And then there is the Dahaka.  I’m going to come clean right now; teenage memories of running from the Dahaka are the only reason I opted to replay this title.  While I usually frown at the prospect of an unkillable boss in a game, there are two exceptions that stick out in my mind: Nemesis and the Dahaka.  They’re not entirely dissimilar in execution, either; you’re running for your life, making split decisions on the fly while some terrifying thing threatens to instantly kill you at your first error.  If it weren’t for the Dahaka, I’d have stopped playing two hours in. And I never give up on a game.

Annnnd…that’s it.  Honestly.  That’s about all I’m drawing as positives to this game.  Even then, there are caveats to most, if not all, of these pros.  So, without further ado, here is a mountain of reasons you should avoid this game like a back-alley hooker when rent is due.

Let’s start at the very basis of any game; its gameplay.  No, not even its gameplay, its genre.  The original Prince of Persia, while not flawless by any standard, had at least the resemblance of a firm grasp on what it was trying to be.  An acrobatic platformer/puzzler, with middling emphasis on combat, right?  So, naturally, we would expect something in a similar vein from its successor.  And I think that Warrior Within tries, but too many glaring inconsistencies just kill the experience.  For instance, they shifted a good deal of emphasis to combat.  Respawning enemies, explosive enemies, bosses and mini-bosses, constantly-evolving powers; it has all the elements of a Devil May Cry knock-off.  That would be all well and good…except the combat is beyond terrible, due to the fact that Prince has the preternatural ability to do the exact goddamned opposite of what you want him to do in nearly all situations, due in no small part to yet another terrible decision I’ll talk about later (the fact that, with an entire controller at their disposal, Ubisoft insists on making two buttons do about four things each).

Let me wrap up Prince of Persia combat in a nutshell.  Is the enemy a ninja chick?  No?  You can a) Mash square until one of six hits gets through the enemy’s guard, or b) Press triangle to throw them to the ground and stab them (if you’re lucky, you’ll throw them over a ledge instead of yourself).  Or use the secondary weapon for the four hits or so they can survive through.  Sure, you could do some square-triangle combo, except for the fact that melee combat timing is nonexistent.  It queues button presses, which works fine for a game like Mortal Kombat, where the fights are one-on-one and in a contained arena.  However, if Prince of Persia wanted to be a platform fighter, having time-sensitive button presses to chain combos on the fly is kind of part and parcel to the genre.  Can you imagine a game like Devil May Cry queuing button presses?

Or, is the enemy a ninja chick?  Well, if it is, better throw that secondary weapon, unless you have all day.  They can’t be vaulted and whenever you try to evade near an enemy, Prince vaults them.  Ninja chicks also chain together six hit combos, so you’ll be blocking for quite a while.  When there’s two or more of them, you’ll have a hell of a time with them jumping on your back while you’re block-locked from their friends you can’t evade-roll away from.

And the awful controls certainly don’t restrict themselves to combat alone.  I can’t tell you how many times he would vertically run straight up a wall we were trying to run across while being chased by the Dahaka.  Forced perspectives make you make blindly leap in one of two possible directions when pillar-hugging, oftentimes your objective is flat-out outside camera range so your objective is to suicide dive until you find the right pillar.

Speaking of visibility issues, typically, I don’t complain about graphics.  My all-time favorite game’s graphics are awful this day and age. But in a game like Prince of Persia, having your objectives virtually indistinguishable ledges and branches when the colors of the background bleed together and your two-pixel indication is a meager one shade lighter than the rest of the cavern, factored with the resolution on a 55″ television…we had a few head scratchers.

And the glitches.  Oh God, the glitches.  We encountered more than a few, and the walkthroughs we referenced online spoke of considerably more!   We’ve had to quit and reload on multiple occasions; sometimes the Prince would channel his inner Neo and just go into suspended animation after a jump.  We pulled a bookcase out farther than the game had intended, glitched through it, and were incapable of pushing it back into place.  One of the earlier bosses invisible-stabbed me through the chest…after I had knocked her on her ass.  We had an incident with invisible enemies, much earlier than stealth enemies were supposed to show up.  In almost poetic fashion, I managed to kill the final boss, the Dahaka….because he glitched out and just stood, motionless, staring at the wall, for ~60% of his health.  I wasn’t proud of it, but I thought it was perfect ending note for the absolute mess that the game was, and I was glad to be done with the game.

This is getting a bit verbose, so I’ll wrap this up by touching up on those caveats I had mentioned earlier.  Earlier I had said the character designs were pretty great, and they are….unless you happen to be a woman.  Unsurprisingly, Warrior Within ascribes to the “less is more” theory when it comes to women’s attire.  Your first adversary is a no-nonsense, badass woman who, despite how at odds it is with what little characterization she has, feels the need to rock the butt-floss and slut-top.  Think Ivy from Soul Calibur, but with less class. And Kaileena, Jesus, she’s just as bad.  Way to set back women’s rights by about sixty years, guys.

And I’ll wrap this up with what is one of my biggest grievances with the game.  I had said earlier that the scenery and background were pretty good for this type of game, and that’s true…the first one or two times you go through an area.  The game uses the past and present mechanic to justify sending you through the same half-dozen areas two or three times, and while that has the potential to work if they had made the areas drastically different, it falls short and just feels bland.  You basically play through a third of the content that other games of this nature offer, three times.  Oh, but you kick down a ladder and reach a previously-inaccessible area!  And then dance through some saw blades, drop down a tapestry, and into….the room we were in half an hour ago.

Aside from Breath of Fire II, I’m having a hard time thinking of a game I’ve recently played that failed this hard to deliver.  We’re going to rough it out and play the third PoP game, but I can think of no situation where I’d recommend playing this title.  If you’re an action platformer fan, you’ll be sorely disappointed.  If you’re an avid PoP fan, you’ve already played it, but in the off chance that you’ve skipped it…do yourself a huge favor and just read a plot synopsis.

Want a finishing punchline?  PSM gave this game a 10/10.