My introduction to The Prince of Persia series was the 2003 game released under the Sands of Time subtitle. Any game that gives me an acrobatic character who can climb and scramble all over the environment immediately grabs my interest; a game featuring a parkour prince wall running and jumping through a crumbling castle was love at first sight. The initial Sands of Time game proved successful enough for Ubisoft that it has spawned a popular and well-polished series, with The Forgotten Sands as its latest entry.

But The Forgotten Sands isn't just one game. Both the Wii and PS3 have their own console releases of this title. Usually this just means two versions of the same game or a simple port, but word from Ubisoft was that these games shared a title and nothing more. With that in mind, I played through both console releases of The Forgotten Sands. After my review for the Wii version, I'll compare it to the PS3 release, and we'll know once and for all if these games repeat each other or stand alone.

The Prince of Persia games are 3-D platformers, with a main character who uses his amazing acrobatic athleticism to move through naturalistic puzzle box style environments. Rarely is travel from point A to point B as simple as walking down a hall; it may, in fact, be a hall, but the floor is missing, and somebody installed death traps on the walls. The main mechanic typically involves working out creative ways to jump and climb through environments mostly consisting of ruins suspended dizzyingly over some sort of abyss, punctuated by equally acrobatic combat. This pattern was established in Sands of Time, and The Forgotten Sands does not veer from it. In fact, The Forgotten Sands feels very much like a throwback to Sands of Time.

As the original Sands of Time trilogy proceeded, each sequel added something new to keep the game play fresh: new tricks like sliding down tapestries with the Prince's sword, new types of environments, even time travel and chariot races. The Forgotten Sands, however, goes the basic route, adding nothing new to the core mechanic. The prince does gain a trio of Creation Powers that make good use of the Wii pointer, but these are really just variations on an old theme.

The prince's constant companion in this game is a tiny djinn who grants him three different powers as the game progresses: the ability to create a ring to cling to (aim the pointer at a wall), a whirlwind that acts like a free standing ladder (aim the pointer at the floor), and a bubble which the Prince can use as a floating platform (jump then tap a button to encase the Prince midair). All three powers can be present at once, but only one of each can be used at a time (no creating multiple rings, for example).

Each power is unlocked as the game progresses, but it's really not until the end of the game, when all three are unlocked, that they can be chained together for the most creative and challenging platforming. What's more, the game doesn't really offer much freedom to create alternate paths. I see by the visual cues where it wants me to put my ring and few alternatives are offered to veer from this linear path. I have no problem with linear gameplay, but when the selling point is the ability to make my own way, it's disappointing to find that ability underutilized.

The real star and main adversary of a Prince of Persia game is the environment. The crumbling citadel in The Forgotten Sands is every bit as lovely and atmospheric as I could wish, but it felt all too familiar, too much a bare-bones derivative of the castle in Sands of Time.

If the environment is the star, the actual enemies have always been supporting actors. In this, the Prince of Persia games have struggled to find the perfect balance between the platforming action and the sword play. Forgotten Sands takes a very light combat route, with small groups of enemies popping up sporadically and boss fights very rare. Combat, like everything else, feels pared-down and simple. It works well enough but the occasional odd camera swing makes it a bit clumsy. My biggest complaint is the sheer lack of variety in the enemies—they aren't very interesting to look at or to fight.

In every game (with one unfortunate exception) the Prince has been a personable and irreverent character, ready with snarky remarks about his situation or quips to any companion he may have. This holds true here as well, and I enjoy listening to his commentary. Unfortunately, the plot does not match the cleverness of the character. Spare of details and lacking any kind of character development for the prince or his djinn companion, it left me no more enlightened at the end than when I began. This game supposedly takes place between Sands of Time and Warrior Within, but feels completely divorced from that story; a missed opportunity to fill in the blank of that time period.

The prince controls tightly and it is as easy as ever to get him to perform his death defying (and gravity defying) stunts. However, a bit of the thrill is gone thanks to some perhaps overzealously-used visual cues. Rarely is it a wonder if he'll be able to reach a handhold since his companion fairy points the way, highlighting any reachable ledge. Death is also nothing more than a minor inconvenience, as any fatal leap will see the prince popped back onto the last stable location he'd occupied. Even though it was a staple of the Sands of Time trilogy, there are no time-related powers here.

The only control issue I had, and it was just a matter of getting used to it, was the camera. The camera will automatically (try to, it is mostly successful) find the best viewing angles, but a free look is mapped to the pointer.

Despite my negative tone, I did enjoy The Forgotten Sands on the Wii. It is a competent Prince of Persia game, but is very derivative of the original and does little to keep its gameplay from feeling repetitive. The prince himself remains charming, but the story was vacuous. I do feel it is the weakest game in this series. Not bad, certainly above average as games go, but not reaching the heights of its predecessors. If you are new to the series, this is a very friendly place to start and you'll share none of my complaints. If you are a series veteran but love the game play, it's still a good buy. I give it a thumbs up, but not with quite the enthusiasm I'd been hoping to.

The PS3 version

Let's just get this out of the way first thing: The Forgotten Sands on the PS3 is completely, utterly, and entirely a different game than The Forgotten Sands on the Wii. I really can't fathom why Ubisoft chose to give them the same title. The only thing they have in common is a djinn helper who grants powers to the prince. The story, the granted abilities, the environments, all are quite different—to the point that this really isn't a comparison, but a contrast.

In the PS3 game, the prince gains the ability to rewind time and time freeze water, among various elementally themed combat abilities. You could say the theme difference is manipulating the environment that's there, rather than creating new bits and pieces. In the Wii title, the Creation Powers were used in relatively simple combinations until very late in the game, whereas the PS3 game demanded I gain mastery pretty quickly, and wasn't shy about ramping up ever more challenging chains of stunts from the moment I gained a new Elemental Power. Both sets of Powers saw clever uses, but I felt the Elemental Powers were more varied and used more thoroughly.

In both games, the environment is centered around a grand palace in varying states of collapse. The only comment I feel worth making here is in regards to how well these environments hide their game-yness. The environment is always a stage to offer challenges, but the trick is making it feel like real architecture: a place people lived in rather than just a puzzle box playground designed with the prince in mind. The PS3 version does a better job at this. While the palace was still afflicted with a mad architect who had a real thing for convoluted and unlikely machinery, it still made it easier for me to maintain a suspension of disbelief.

Both versions of The Forgotten Sands feature a cast of generic and not-particularly-bright baddies. The only difference between the versions is how many baddies the game throws out at once. If there is one easy way to see advantage of the PS3's power over the Wii's, it is in how many characters can be processed on the screen at once, and the PS3 version takes advantage of this to improve its combat. There are more enemy encounters on the PS3 than on the Wii, and they make up for dull enemies by sending vast hordes of them after the prince. They do go down pretty easily, and kicking my way through a crowd of them was pretty amusing.

The story of the Wii game feels like an unrelated and inconsequential side-story to the rest of the Sands of Time trilogy. The story of the PS3 game, though, while also existing in its own self contained bubble, is better written, with better characters, and a much more interesting plot.

Playing these two games back to back made me appreciate the ability to rewind time as much more than simply an interesting gimmick of the series. There is no time rewind in the Wii game, and the game is much gentler about killing the Prince off. The PS3 title, on the other hand, has no problem literally dropping the floor out from under him with no warning, and yet I don't mind at all. A game that kills the player without warning but then respawns the character right before the place of death says this to me: "Gotcha! Killed your character." Game smiles a goofy grin and punches me in the shoulder. "Naw, I didn't really mean it. Here, you can have him back." But having the (limited) ability to make right whatever went wrong worked right into the game's play mechanic and under my own control makes it a much more satisfying experience.

Both Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands games are fun romps, showcasing the style of play this series has been famous for and if you own both systems and can buy both games, there is no reason not to. They offer totally different experiences. However, if you are only interested picking up one version of The Forgotten Sands, then I strongly feel the PS3 game is the better one. All the same, Ubisoft should be commended for creating two original Prince of Persia console titles for their respective systems. I'm happy to have both in my possession.