Homage? Inspiration? Or a case of Grand Theft ’Shadow’?
Before I played Ubisoft Montreal’s magnificent new “Prince of Persia,” I saw that comparisons were being drawn between it and Sony’s cult favorite PS2 game “Ico.” Both games are platformers the present a hero who is accompanied and assisted by a lovely woman. In both games, the mechanic of holding hands in fundamental.
But if you thought the “Prince of Persia” team drew a lot of inspiration from “Ico,” then wait until you see how much they drew from the other celebrated game made by Fumito Ueda’s team at Sony, “Shadow of the Colossus.”
Without going into spoilers, let’s look at some striking similarities:
The actions you commit in both games are similar and similarly contrary to the standard high-body-count activities in mode games.
Both “Prince of Persia” and “Shadow of the Colossus” involve a whole lot of climbing and jumping, punctuated only by brief bouts of violence. In “Shadow of the Colossus,” the climbing and killing is primarily set on the backs of giants. In “Prince of Persia” the action is set, more traditionally, on cliffs and towers and other sections of acrobatically-navigated terrain. Only once or twice per area must the Prince fight.
Both the Prince and “Shadow” hero Wander use a large cathedral-like structure as their base of operations. The cathedrals stand before a great plain. The levels of the game (be they wandering giants or climbable towers) lie beyond that plain.
Here’s the Prince standing in front of his cathedral:
Here’s Wander standing in front of his:
In both games, the seeming death (and resurrection?) of a woman kicks off the plot. The woman, Mono, who has died in “Shadow” doesn’t adventure with you. She lies on an altar that sits above the cathedral’s outdoor staircase, overlooking the great plain:
In “Prince of Persia,” the woman, Elika, doesn’t lie there. She works with you. Nevertheless, the altar where she would have rested sits above the cathedral’s outdoor staircase, overlooking the great plain:
When you get down from the altar, walk down the stairs and out into the field, you need to pick which way to go. How do you do this? Press a button and a light source will point the way. Which game am I talking about?
I could go on. But to draw even more dramatic comparisons between the two games would require me to spoil both games’ plots, which I won’t do this close to “Prince of Persia”’s release.
I’ve played through both games. I’ve enjoyed both immensely. And I don’t begrudge game developers from drawing ideas and designs from each other. Nevertheless, I felt these comparisons needed to be shown, because I haven’t seen anything quite like this involving two recent, major games.
This isn’t a case of a “Braid” making an explicit homage to “Donkey Kong,” a game from one decade playing homage and providing a gameplay twist to the classic level of a classic game from a quarter century ago.
This is one top-tier 21st century development team riffing off another — or ripping them off.
Fair or foul?