Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown review — 2024’s first must-play


I love Metroidvanias. It’s the genre of video game that I’m probably thinking about the most. There’s just something about that combination of 2D platforming, action and exploration that speaks to me.

In my head, I often organize my own personal “best Metroidvanias ever” list. It of course includes the standard bearers, Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (along with other games from those series). Then there’s the modern classics, games like the Ori series and Hollow Knight that have taken the formula and made them interesting with new mechanics and art styles.

Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown belongs in that latter group. Ubisoft Montpellier has created one of the best Metroidvanias ever, one that can stand up to the legacy of the genre founders and the modern masterpieces.

The Lost Crown launches on January 18 for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. I played the Switch version.

Triple threat

I alluded to it earlier, but there are three important keys to a good Metroidvania: platforming, action, and exploration. Let’s talk about platforming first. From the start, Prince of Persia feels smooth and precise. Just the normal running and jumping control flawlessly — same goes for the wonderful wall-jumping (and, man, do I love me some good wall-jumping).

And then you get a steady stream of new maneuvers that make you faster, more agile and help you reach new heights. Of course, some of these are predictable, like a double jump. Others are wildly creative, like a chakram that you can throw and, eventually, teleport straight to.

Combat feels just as good. In fact, while other Metroidvanias might match The Lost Crown’s platforming excellence, I can’t think of one that features better fighting. You attack enemies with different sword combos that can get surprisingly complex. You can also juggle many enemies in the air, giving you the ability to extend combos to ridiculous lengths.

Jumping and fighting always feels great.

Prince of Persia also has a parrying system. For some attacks, this will just put an enemy off their guard for a moment and give the chance to counterattack. But parrying some attacks will have you instantly kill an enemy or deal a bunch of damage to a boss.

Oh, and speaking of bosses, dang they are good here. You can’t just spam attacks and tank damage. You have to deftly dodge and parry bosses while using your full kits of abilities.

Now, let’s talk about exploration. There’s a lot to see. This is one of the bigger Metroidvania maps you’ll ever see. It’s not quite Hollow Knight huge, but it is on the bigger side for the genre. It took me about 15 hours to beat the game with about 70% completion.

The game does a good job of pointing you toward every direction of the map, but a little exploration will lead to a bevy of hidden items, upgrades, shortcuts and more. And keeping track of all of this is easy thanks to a brilliant feature where you can take a screenshot of the game and then pin it to the map.

With great platforming, combat and exploration, The Lost Crown is a rare Metroidvania triple threat. But it’s not quite perfect.

Not quite the prince of presentation

Prince of Persia is not a bad-looking game. Sometimes, it looks quite lovely, especially in some of the more creative environments. My favorite is an area that takes place on the open sea, with you traversing a bunch of ships frozen in time in the midst of a battle. And it does run smooth, even on Switch. Gameplay seemed to always run at 60 fps.

But the aesthetics are where The Lost Crown feels the weakest. In particular, I wish that the music was more interesting. A lot of it is quiet or even ambient. Every once in a while I heard a shredding guitar, and that was nice. I could have used more of that. The music during the final boss was so subtle that I’m actually a little concerned my audio might have just bugged out.

The Lost Crown does can look quite nice.

Cutscenes are also a mixed bag. The character models themselves look better in gameplay with the camera zoomed far out. The lack of detail and unexpressive faces become a little distracting when the camera moves in for story sequences. Maybe this is where playing on Switch hurt me, but I’m not sure. That’s the only platform I played on, and even if cutscenes looked a little better on other platforms, I’m happy making that trade for the convenience of the Switch (which, again, still runs the game at a smooth 60 fps).

Now, I don’t consider those gripes about the aesthetics as particularly big deals. And, again, I don’t think that The Lost Crown is ugly. The story sequences and music just don’t rise to the heights of the gameplay.

The right direction

The Prince of Persia series has lived a few lives. It started as a 2D cinematic platformer before evolving into movement-based 3D action games. Now, Ubisoft Montpellier has found a new direction for the franchise that could serve as the blueprint for the series going forward.

If you’re like me and love these kinds of games, then The Lost Crown is likely your first must-play of 2024. Heck, if you really love Metroidvanias as much as I do, then this will likely be your first candidate for 2024’s game of the year.

Modern Warfare 3 gets 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown releases on January 18 for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. Ubisoft sent a Switch code for this review.

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