By Chris Kohler

December 3, Wired

Consider the scene above. Below our hero the Prince is a 100-foot drop onto some jagged rocks. If his bit of wall-running doesn't work out just right, he'll plummet straight down to his ... immediate salvation. Because his constant companion, gal pal Elika (in the background), will automatically save his ass and return him back to solid ground. You could not fail at Prince of Persia even if you tried.

Yes, there's something to be said for attempting to eliminate a player's frustration. And Prince of Persia, released Tuesday for PlayStation 3 (reviewed) and Xbox 360, is a largely pleasant and inoffensive experience. But its designers might have just thrown the baby out with the bathwater: They have eliminated the lows, but also the highs. It is free of frustration, but it is also free of joy.

Prince is the latest reboot of the decades-old franchise that follows the adventures of an acrobatically gifted Persian hero who saves a princess by jumping over dangerous things. In what should now be considered irony, the original 1989 game was one of the most difficult action games of the era.

2003's The Sands of Time was a critically acclaimed rebirth that shifted the gameplay into 3-D, and this new version largely borrows from that game's features: Climbing and jumping on columns, running on walls, and avoiding the moving obstacles that often get in the way of your daring circus act. In updating the game for the next generation of consoles, Ubisoft added some impressive new features, but lost others.

The singular visual style is beyond reproach. The use of cel-shading with realistic features has created something between cartoon and reality, with characters that deftly skirt the boundaries of the uncanny valley without simply becoming caricatures. There is very little plot, but hours of well-performed conversations between the Prince and Elika flesh out their own back stories and those of the evil characters. The environments are occasionally breathtaking.

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image: Prince of Persia is one of the least frustrating games ever, because you can't die (by Wired).