How long did we have to wait for another Prince of Persia game after the Trilogy had ended? Less than 4 years. In the times when Assassin’s Creed was not existing, Prince of Persia was one of the few mainstream videogames including impossible edge-of-the-seat acrobatics, wall climbing and cool sword-fight mechanics. The production of 2008’s reboot took two years, the game’s structure was made to be way less linear, the 1vs20 fights became 1vs1 duels. The direction changed, including the artistic style (with so-called „chowder effect”), yet the composers remained the same and Ubisoft once more hired Inon Zur and Stuart Chatwood to compose the music. The game was received well and now kind of resides as a cult classic, mainly because of its strong art direction and the characters. The music as well, but not entirely.
2008’s Prince of Persia is kept in a light fantasy-adventure film convention with simple fairytale story set in the Zoroastrian mythos, big budget, quick-paced action that sum up into an eye-candy journey spiced by a quirky, every-man rendition of the „Prince”. Music follows suit and sounds as a good, old-fashioned score with a traditional approach, trying to convey a Middle-East fantasy feel through stylizations (and succeeding) and being led by an exceptionally good main theme that is heard throughout the game numerous times in various orchestrations. No matter when and how many times you hear it, it always sound so powerfully light and full of life. What is however the best, is it’s implementation in the game design.
The music is simply a pleasant reward.
Prince of Persia is a slow and repetitive process of unlocking new parts of the labyrinth that the game’s world is. You walk through dark, corrupted version of a map, sometimes taking a stop to defeat an evil warrior, to heal it with your companion’s powers. Then it is freed and you are made go through the level again to collect points to progress further. This design would be boring as hell was it not for the music.
Whenever you free a level from dark powers, the music is played as well. After 15 minutes of jumping and fighting in gloomy ruins, finally you are rewarded with music that creates a sense of serenity and a peaceful place for you to rest in after a battle. The beauty of the music is all the more enjoyable when for the past 15 minutes you were listening to silence, goopy monster sounds or clashing steel. The music is all the more soothing, then, and is an actual reward in the full meaning of the word.
The music is not as good of a reboot as the game.
Marching, orchestral music mixed with eastern percussion work was heard previously in PoP games. It returns here, but I don’t think it is a centrepiece of the score as this part seems a bit bland to me with only one track being memorable (yet not included on any of the limited and sparsely published editions of this soundtrack). It’s not a thematic achievement, but some pieces stand out thanks to interesting stylizations like Ahryman’s music including male growling (not in a metal way). Background music bases on warm, fairytale-ish flutes, zurna, strings and ethereal, ambient whooshing also outmatches action elements in my opinion. This wouldn’t be a major issue in other games, but in an action packed game like this, the lack of more exciting tracks is a problem, especially when you consider Zur’s and Chatwood’s predisposition to make good action music in earlier games.
Prince of Persia from 2008 is a mixed bag when it comes to music. Despite the undeniable and awe-inspiring beauty of the main theme that you can listen to endlessly in every possible arrangement, the soundtrack does not boast with as many successfully executed ideas, especially in the action department. Some tracks sound like a filler which is a bummer, considering that the lyrical part is outstanding in its composition and implementation. The theme to me is one of the most recognizable in my 20 year gaming career. Those optimistic, light aesthetics of the score make up for other flaws, though. Loop Fight of Life and Darkness if you need some air and light in your headphones, you won’t regret it.