Video Game: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

"Most people think time is like a river that flows swift and sure in one direction. But I have seen the face of time, and I can tell you: they are wrong. Time is an ocean in a storm."

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is a 2003 video game and the first chapter in the newer Prince of Persia trilogy developed by Ubisoft. It reproduced the series' popular combination of combat and climbing puzzles, and added Le Parkour and what is still the most successful use of time-distortion effects (previously seen in such games as Max Payne and Blinx: The Time Sweeper), as well as creating an entirely new story with a more complex hero, an expanded role for the princess, and one doozy of a plot twist.

The Prince is a young man accompanying his father to an Indian-like kingdom, whose Vizier betrayed them to the Prince's armies. Among the spoils of that kingdom is a large hourglass called "The Sands of Time" and a dagger that the Prince claims. The Vizier then tricks the Prince into opening the hourglass and unleashing the curse of the sands upon the land of Persia. Confused over what happened, he finds himself in the company of Farah, a princess of the kingdom he just ransacked and who has knowledge of what he has done, and has to go fix what he broke.

For the sequels, see Prince of Persia: Warrior Within and Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones, while the 2010 interquels (set between Warrior Within and The Two Thrones) can be found under Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands. For the film adaptation, see Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.

Tropes appearing in this game:

  • Airborne Mook: The Sand Griffins.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: The Rewind ability serves to help ease the game's difficulty during its trickier segments.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Farah surely had known about the dagger's time-twisting power before the adventure began, but after the Reset Button is pressed, she believes that the whole story told by the Prince could be nothing but a fairy-tale.
  • Arc Words: "Honor and glory." It's even the title of the final part of the game.
  • Armor Is Useless: The Prince takes the same amount of damage both before and after he removes his armour.
  • Benevolent Architecture: The palace may be slowly falling into ruin and collapsing, but it'll never do so in a way that renders it impossible to move on. Things will always collapse into a parkour obstacle course for the Prince and a series of cracks and holes in the wall for Farah to slip through.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Prince manages to undo pretty much everything that happened throughout the game - including Farah's love for him. Also, him managing to survive unleashing the Sands creates a Time Paradox that releases the Dahaka, leading to the events of the sequel.
  • Blatant Lies: During an intimate scene between the Prince and Farah, while they're trapped in a tomb.
    Farah: What is it?
    Prince: (breathing heavily) Nothing.
    Farah: You're trembling.
    Prince: I just don't like closed spaces.
  • Block Puzzle: The Prince's go-to method whenever Farah isn't around to stand on a switch.
  • Bodyguard Babes: Averted by most of the mooks, but some of them are scantily-clad women with daggers.
  • Bottomless Pits: Several of them, as part of the palace's Death Course style. Conversely, if the pit does have a bottom, there are probably Spikes of Doom in it.
  • Brick Joke: "Just call me...'Kakolookiyam'."
  • Bullet Time: The Slow ability.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Lampshaded in the opening. "Trust not a man that has betrayed his own master."
  • Claustrophobia: The Prince mentions this once. It doesn't come up at all afterwards.
  • Clothing Damage: The Prince starts with Sleeves Are for Wimps (one at a time) and goes all the way up to Shirtless Scene.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: The Prince narrates his journey from arrogant ass concerned only with gaining glory, to a heroic, remorseful and loving young man. The literal journey, containing much jumping across a palace, is hardly mentioned.
  • Continuity Reboot: The critically-panned 1995 version of Prince of Persia led Jordan Mechner (the creator of the franchise) to create a new, likeable Prince with an interesting storyline, and an Applied Phlebotinum that justifies the players' ability to rewind time rather than repeat a segment over and over again. It worked.
  • Cutscene Power to the Max: The cutscene that precedes the Prince's battle with the Sand Creature that used to be his father feature him completely defying gravity by running down a wall without falling. In gameplay, the Prince can perform this feat horizontally to cross gaps, but never directly downwards.
  • Death Course: The palace is made of them.
  • Death Glare: The Prince gives an absolutely withering one after he wakes up to find that Farah stole his weapons and ran off, though its target is long gone, so no one but the player gets to see it.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: The Prince saves Farah from death by rewinding time to the max (and also unwittingly unleashing the Dahaka on himself), and he still doesn't get Farah in the end. At least, not until Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: The Prince kills the Emperor of the neighboring kingdom relatively early on in the game, but neither the Prince nor Farah acknowledge this kill.
  • Die, Chair! Die!: There are various props that the Prince can smash into dust with his sword, though there's no real purpose for doing so other than occasionally the props are blocking your path.
  • Difficult but Awesome: Mega Freeze is extremely powerful and great for clearing out almost entire waves of enemies, but it burns through your entire power gauge with one use, and you have to have the same amount of power gauge units as sand gauge units. If you collect enough sand clouds to increase your sand gauge, you're locked out of using Mega Freeze until you can harvest more sand from sand creatures.
  • Eleventh Hour Superpower: Zig-zagged. The Prince loses the Dagger of Time, meaning no more rewinding, but does get a sword that One Hit Kills all enemies.
  • Escort Mission: Farah comes and goes and when she does stay for a while, she can fend for herself fairly well, but can only stun enemies at best (the Prince still has to kill them) and can get killed if the Prince doesn't come to her aid now and then. This doesn't really come up as annoying for the most part. At least until the elevator fight sequence.
    • She also has an annoying tendency to stand her ground instead of keeping away from enemies (which, for a character using a ranged weapon, doesn't make a whole lot of sense,) leading to a few scenarios where Farah ends up surrounded by enemies and just stands there while the Prince has to keep them off her.
  • Evil Chancellor: The Vizier.
  • Flash Step: Sand creatures can teleport right next to the Prince if there's too much distance between him and them.
    • The Prince can also do this himself when he uses his Mega Freeze power.
  • Foreshadowing: In his narration, the Prince says of the Vizier: "The man who had tricked me now had his prize but for some unknown purpose coveted the dagger as well, would stop at nothing to possess it. Well, I would give him what he sought. I would plunge it into his foul and treacherous heart!" Near the end of the game, the Prince would exactly do just that.
    • A shorter term case comes near the end of the game: after Farah steals the Dagger of Time, the Prince chases after her and reminds her not to use up all the sand. Sure enough, when Farah later falls to her death, there is no sand in the Dagger, and the Prince is unable to rewind time to save her.
  • From Dress to Dressing: The fate of the Prince's left sleeve.
  • Guys Smash, Girls Shoot: The Prince deals with enemies in close-quarters combat while Farah shoots her arrows from afar.
  • Heal Thyself: By drinking water.
  • Heart Container: The mysterious magic fountains that increase the Prince's life meter.
    • Sand can count as this for your sand and power gauges. Absorbing eight sand clouds increases the sand gauge by one unit, and finishing off 16 sand creatures with the Dagger and absorbing their sand increases the power gauge by one unit (but only if you have less power gauge units than sand gauge units.)
  • Honey Trap: Subverted - Farah isn't a spy or a traitor, but it's implied she and the Prince sleep together. Afterwards, Farah steals the Prince's weapons not to betray him, but to finish sealing the Sands of Time on her own because he failed to do so on the first try - ironically, because he thought she might want to betray him.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Should the Prince fall down any of the ubiquitous pits containing Spikes of Doom at the bottom.
  • Informing the Fourth Wall: The Prince will occasionally gripe about Farah and her attitude, or reminisce about his love for her. This gets lampshaded twice, by the Prince himself, no less. "Why am I talking to myself?"
  • Knockback: Most enemies attack by throwing the Prince to the floor. Fortunately he can still block while knocked down.
  • Large Ham: The guard in charge of activating the defence mechanism stands in contrast to the rest of the nuanced and subtle voice work.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: While trying to solve the Light and Mirrors Puzzle in the library, Farah starts reading from some random book. The Prince complains that if she's got time to be reading, she could look for a book that tells them how to get out of the room, only for Farah to respond that this isn't that kind of game.
  • Leave the Camera Running: During a scene that takes place late in the game, the Prince and Farah are trapped in a dark tomb. The audience sees the two come close to each other, before the camera cuts to dust falling in the darkness, while the couple continue their conversation.
  • Ledge Bats: Bats only show up during the trickier platforming sequences, usually when the Prince is supposed to balance himself on a beam.
    • Birds will also occasionally harass the Prince when he's on a ledge or balancing on something, though they're not exclusive to those sections.
  • Le Parkour: Arguably the game that popularized it.
  • Light and Mirrors Puzzle: Several times in the game, featured most prominently in the palace library.
  • Magical Mystery Doors: The finale features this, in a rather surreal section in which the Prince must cross two rooms each with a set of eight doors. Only one door allows him to move up into the next area; taking any other door will send the Prince back to the entrance, with him commenting on just hat the hell is going on.
  • Malevolent Architecture: The palace may have crumbled a little because of the initial blast, but it's still made of Death Traps!
    • Benevolent Architecture: No matter how much the palace crumbles, though, there'll always be lots of pillars, horizontal poles, ledges, small enclosures with parallel walls and flat vertical surfaces for the Prince to parkour his way through.
  • Mind Screw: The game is peppered with premonitory visions that show you exactly how to traverse the incoming platforming section and what enemies to expect. However, as the game progresses, the visions become increasingly ominous, cutting away to Farah in a suspicious way and occassionaly showing her death. Even the Prince himself is shown to die in a few visions. This of course plays on the gamer's forged trust on said visions.
    • A sequence that takes place towards the end of the game features the Prince and Farah trapped in a tomb. Farah apparently falls through a trapdoor and the Prince follows her down a very long set of stairs to a hidden bathhouse. After passing through a bizarre puzzle involving a series of doors, the Prince finds Farah bathing and joins her. It seems as though the pair have sex, only for the Prince to wake up back in the tomb with Farah, his sword, and the dagger already gone. It's left deliberately vague as to whether or not the entire sequence was just a dream or if it was a genuine ploy on Farah's part to steal the dagger.
    • Any time the Prince visits the magical fountain that increases his maximum health counts as this. They all follow the same pattern: the Prince finds a hidden passageway leading to a massive void filled with rope bridges that all lead to the fountain. Once the Prince drinks from the fountain, he seizes up, eyes glowing brilliant blue, before he comes to back outside the passageway entrance, which has now disappeared. One time, Farah even seems to see him enter one of the passages, but when he reappears outside the passageway, she acts as though he hadn't gone anywhere.
  • Mooks but No Bosses: With the exception of the Prince's own father near the beginning, there's not a single boss fight throughout the game. Fighting the Vizier in the end seems more conciliatory than anything else.
  • Mundane Utility: Throughout the game, the Prince uses the Dagger of Time's rewind feature to evade death and save the day. At the end of the game, he uses it to...smooch a girl, then rewind when she reacts badly.
  • Narrative Backpedaling: If you die during a segment, or otherwise get a Game Over, the Prince will say something to the effect of, "No, wait, that's not what happened", and you'll restart from your last save point.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: The Prince's apparent knowledge that he can use the hourglass to rewind time by weeks is very convenient toward the end when he does just that.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The Prince + The Hourglass.
    • The Prince helps activate the palace defense system to combat the sand creatures. Too bad it's not only completely useless against them, but now he has to go through the entire game maneuvering through Death Traps.
    • Also, by rewinding time to save Farah, the Prince unleashed the Dahaka in the next game, since he used the sands to change the past.
  • No Indoor Voice: The guard in charge of the palace's defence system, as referenced under Large Ham. Possibly Justified in that he spends his only scene shouting orders at the Prince, although the Prince responds with his usual volume and is heard perfectly clearly by the guard.
    Prince: What manner of machine is this?
  • No Name Given: You play The Prince.
  • Nostalgia Level: You can visit a 3D version of the first level from the original game.
  • One of These Doors Is Not Like the Other: A puzzle near the end of the game involves passing through whichever door the sound of water is coming from.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Yuri Lowenthal as the Prince has a pretty inconsistent faux-British accent for the game's entirety.
  • Our Time Machine Is Different: It runs on sand, actually.
  • Pre-Climax Climax: The Prince and Farah have their implied love scene immediately before she steals the Dagger of Time from him and runs away, kicking off the final section of the game.
  • Public Bathhouse Scene: There is one in which the Prince finds Farah bathing in the cave. After a few seconds, he joins her and sexuality ensues. However, this is fated not to last when he wakes up...
  • Rewind Button: The Dagger of Time.
    • The hourglass can serve as an even more powerful button, which the Prince takes full advantage of.
  • Reviving Enemy: Humanoid sand creatures will just keep getting back up over and over until they're either finished off with the Dagger while they're down or dealt a finishing blow after using the Freeze or Mega Freeze powers on them.
  • Ripple Effect-Proof Memory: Only the Prince is able to recall the events of the game because such events were erased by rewinding time all the way back to before the game begins. The whole game is in fact one big flashback the Prince is narrating to Farah.
  • Second Hour Superpower: You shortly gain the power to control time after you retrieve the dagger.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: The visions show the Prince later on that Farah will take the dagger from him, leading him to distrust her at a crucial moment, which costs them the chance to seal the Sands. Hence, Farah waits for him to fall asleep and takes the dagger and his sword, setting off to seal the Sands on her own. The Prince realises what happened when he sees her medallion left behind.
  • Set Piece Puzzle: Arming the palace's security defense system.
    • There's also a rotating catwalk in one area and a collection of large mobiles in the observatory that have to be rotated in the correct way for the Prince to parkour his way across them.
  • Shout-Out: When the Prince ends up at a place with the Life Extension Fountain for the first time:
  • Sigil Spam: A specific symbol can be seen all over the place in the game, usually on and around buttons, switches and levers.
  • Sole Survivor: The game manual says that the Prince, Farah, and the Vizier are the only survivors of the Sand Apocalypse, even though the guard who instructs the Prince to activate the defense system is technically a survivor. ({[Dropped a Bridge on Him Even though he dies moments later.]])
  • Spikes of Doom: Plenty of these, whether it's at the bottom of a pit or part of a malicious booby trap.
    • The booby trap spikes aren't instant death, though, and won't be triggered if the Prince carefully walks across them.
  • Spiritual Successor: Jordan Mechner acknowledged that Ico was a major influence on the game. Both games are chiefly puzzle-platforming games (with weak, repetitive combat against supernatural, decidedly insubstantial enemies) based in ancient castles with Benevolent Architecture, and whose stories centre on the gradually developing relationship between the male player character and a mysterious princess the player character must escort through the various environments. They also share significant similarities in visual style and tone.
  • Stock Video Game Puzzle: See Block Puzzle, Light and Mirrors Puzzle, Magical Mystery Doors and Set Piece Puzzle for a few examples.
  • Sword of Plot Advancement: The Prince upgrades his sword several times throughout the game. The first replacement sword allows him to break through certain walls; the last and most powerful sword kills enemies in a single hit. Interestingly, the final sword you hold in your hand...ends up being exactly what you started the game with. Due to the circumstances of the game's climax, the true final sword ends up just being your basic blade from the very beginning.
  • That Didn't Happen: The Prince finally kisses Farah, but promptly rewinds time when he gets smacked in the face. So the Unresolved Sexual Tension remains.
    • More literally, the Prince says these exact words whenever you get a Game Over.
  • Time Is Dangerous: "Most people think time is like a river that flows swift and sure in one direction. But I have seen the face of time, and I can tell you: they are wrong. Time is an ocean in a storm."
  • Time Stands Still: The Freeze and Mega Freeze abilities aren't quite this example (enemies affected by it still move extremely slowly,) but for all intents and purposes it's the same. Freeze freezes one enemy so they can be two-hit killed, and Mega Freeze freezes all enemies (including enemies that teleport into the fight afterwards) and lets the Prince Flash Step between them.
  • Time Travel Tense Trouble: During the Final Battle, the prince runs into the classic had/will problem when explaining the events of the game to Farah.
  • Trust Password: Farah tells the Prince her mother used to calm her fears with the made-up word "Kakolookiyam", remarking she's never told this to anybody. When the Prince resets the timeline, thereby erasing the events of the game entirely - including meeting and bonding with Farah - he proves his story true by throwing the word "Kakolookiyam" back. Ironically, she tells him this Trust Password shortly before she betrays him.
  • Two-Person Pool Party: Implied to take place between the Prince and Farah towards the end of the game, although it's unclear whether the entire sequence was a All Just a Dream or not.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: The Prince and Farah bond over the course of the game, growing closer and closer. The Prince even starts considering asking her hand in marriage. It's implied they may have even had sex. After she dies, he's forced to rewind time, undoing her death but also their bonding, to the point where the game ends without them really knowing each other in the first place. The Prince even tries kissing her before leaving, but he even rewinds that event when it doesn't go along as planned.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Since the entire game is narrated via flashback, when you die, the Prince backs up and says "that's not how it happened" or something similar.
  • Unwitting Pawn: The Shah and Prince are convinced by the Vizier of India to invade India for no good reason outside of "honor and glory", while the Vizier helps them in exchange for his choice picks from the Maharajah's treasure chamber. Needless to say, the Shah immediately agrees to this offer from a man who is offering to betray his sovereign and his nation to an invader and who in fact solicited his betrayal to a random party and who can be assumed to have a powerful ulterior motive, and invades India. As a result, a Sand Apocalypse happens.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Pretty much the rest of the game, from the moment the Prince takes off his shirt in the dungeon.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: The Prince narrates throughout the game. This is because he's in fact narrating to Farah in the present time. The whole game is one big flashback, with the exception of the Final Boss, which happens right after the Prince finishes his tale.