I’m learning that there are whole categories of video games that I enjoy but have never paid much attention to, staying as I have in the shallow end of the gaming pool for most of my life. Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is known as a “Metroidvania,” and since I never played Metroid or Castlevania as a kid, I couldn’t know how much I would love this particular formula.
Here’s how Wikipedia describes Metroidvania games:
These games usually feature a large interconnected world map the player can explore, although parts of the world will be inaccessible to the player until they acquire special items, tools, weapons, abilities, or knowledge within the game. Acquiring such improvements can also aid the player in defeating more difficult enemies and locating shortcuts and secret areas, and often includes retracing one’s steps across the map. Through this, Metroidvania games include tighter integration of story and level design, careful design of levels and character controls to encourage exploration and experimentation, and a means for the player to become more invested in their player character through role-playing game elements.
The best part of The Lost Crown for me has been the story, which is a fantasy set in ancient Persia. The protagonist, Sargon, is part of a band of warriors known as The Immortals. After a victorious battle defending Persia from the barbarian hordes, the Prince is abducted taken to the mysterious Mount Qaf. Here our crew splits up, leaving Sargon to fight and puzzle his way through a massive complex.
This is a brilliantly designed game, and I mean that in every sense of the word “design.” It is visually beautiful, with care taken at every layer of each room and scene, from the far background to foreground elements, enemies, and animations. As you progress through different areas, the sound design changes, sometimes with music reflecting the epic and ancient setting, and at other times letting the ambient sounds — a deluge of sludge, distant echoing cries, guttural rumbles — remind you to be wary. The scenes with dialogue are fully voiced in lovely British accents, as is tradition with anything set in the distant past.
Sidebar: Dialogue that only appears on-screen and is not voiced is one of my video game pet peeves, and Nintendo is especially guilty of charging $60 or $70 for a game that is unplayable for young kids who can’t read yet, people with dyslexia, etc. It’s an accessibility fail, but aside from that, good voice acting takes games like The Lost Crown to another, more cinematic level. Do better, Nintendo!
As of the time of writing, I’ve put 24+ hours into Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown and the game says I’m only about 40% through. That’s just fine with me. The map keeps growing, the story keeps getting deeper, and I am hooked. I’ll be a little sad when I finish, but I’ll also feel pretty accomplished, because parts of this game are really challenging in really different ways: boss battles, solving complex puzzles, and sometimes racing through rooms using all the skills you’ve amassed, knowing death is only a few steps behind.