Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands feels a little bit like a licensed game, made to make a little extra money off of a big summer movie, with the added quirk that it was a video game license already. The soundtrack's generic, the graphics aren't a big step up from the last generation, the new features are very basic cookie-cutter stuff, and the entire thing is basically a retread of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is one of the best games of the last couple of console generations.
So... yeah, it works out okay.
Forgotten Sands is set right after Sands ends, well before the events that lead to the grimmer Prince of Warrior Within, as the Prince returns home. He stops along the way to meet up with his brother, who's dealing with the slight problem of an invading army. Wackiness ensues, and soon the Prince is fighting armies of sand monsters with the backup of Queen Razia, the djinn sworn to protect the castle. Once again, the Prince is given the ability to rewind time in case he has a fatal accident... and he will.
The latter-day Prince of Persia games aren't quite as influential as I always expected them to be, probably because very few developers would be able to do them as well. They're demanding platformers that reward fast reflexes and precise timing with an elegant sense of flow and style, so even half-assing your way through a gauntlet of jumps and traps often feels and looks like you knew exactly what you were doing. There's even one significant improvement in Forgotten Sands over Sands of Time, and that's how comparatively forgiving the triangle jump is in this game. It's much, much easier to climb a vertical shaft by bouncing off the walls, which I always had a hell of a time with.
The problem with the game is, as usual, whatever they bolted on to break up the platforming. Honestly, Forgotten Sands would do just fine if you were just climbing walls and leaping from cliffs for the entirety of the game. Just like the earlier Princes of Persia (Prince of Persias?), the combat's fairly uninspiring. It's not exactly awful, but it's an unwelcome distraction from flying around the landscape like Spider-Man.
The big difference here is that you don't fight small, pitched battles as much as you wade into angry mobs with your sword out, picking off stragglers with cavalry tactics and doing whatever's necessary to thin the herd. Early fights are against seven or eight guys, but by the time you're about halfway through the game, an average fight is you vs. thirty or forty angry sand monsters, and they're respawning. It's like Serious Sam or something.
Killing enemies rewards you with experience points, which can be traded in for upgrades in a simple grid, accessible via the select button. This includes improvements to all of your basic abilities, and unlocks a series of four elemental powers, which add a little bit of variety to the combat. The powers are reasonably straightforward - ice blasts, a crowd-control whirlwind, earthen armor - and one of them, the ability to leave a damaging trail of fire behind the Prince as he runs, is actually kind of fun. Each time you use one of the powers, you use up a bar of the same energy you use to rewind time, which provides a useful balance; you can nuke a group of enemies to death, but it may come at the cost of not being able to undo your next mistake.
The game also doesn't spend enough time in the endgame crisis mode, when you have all your abilities and the challenges thusly get nuts. Forgotten Sands eases you in, giving you the most useful ability first and then filling in the gaps, and you're still getting new powers about six hours into the game. The final couple of levels are truly epic, and after completing them, it feels vaguely like a cheat that I didn't get to spend more time in that kind of open environment. All of the moves you've learned blend together into something out of Bayonetta, and the entire game, quirks and all, is abruptly worth every moment you've spent on it.
Forgotten Sands is hilariously glitchy, with weird camera issues, the occasional collision detection problem in combat, and a wide variety of reported bugs that actually force people to start the game over. Any fight you get into is essentially a waste of time, up to and including the final battle, and the story is a puff of nothing.
If this were a novel or comic, it would be utterly without merit or point, filling in a gap that didn't exist before its creation and serving only to kill time. As a game, it's another run through comfortable and familiar ground, and serves to remind people why the Prince of Persia series is so universally beloved.