Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown Builds Brilliantly on the Best Metroidvanias
First Published: January 11, 2024

2024's first must-play title.

Janet Garcia

When a quality game lacks that x-factor one of the most common culprits is derivativeness. Whether it’s a franchise that can’t produce anything other than “more of the same” or a title that’s great but so polished its personality feels smoothed out in the process… games where you can almost feel the fear lurking underneath the design. Games where you play them and can tell the team wanted you to like it so badly they cut out anything that could deter you from saying it’s good. Hours in, I worried Prince of Persia: Lost Crown would fall victim to this. It’s so clearly a good to great game, but haven’t I played this before but better? It didn’t take much longer for me to eat my words. 

Prince of Persia: Lost Crown is incredible. It's reminiscent of some of the best games in its genres while evoking a feeling that's distinctly its own. Combat left my heart pounding, platforming had me holding my breath, and after over 20 hours to hit credits at 70% game completion all I want to do is go back and see every last bit of Sargon’s adventure.

Metroidvania Minus the Mess

This might be the ultimate Metroidvania for people who are burned out or turned off by Metroidvanias. Prince of Persia: Lost Crown is proof that Metroidvanias don’t need to be frustrating when it comes to navigation and backtracking. And it’s, in large part, thanks to their Memory Shard system. This is a mechanic where you press down on the d-pad at any time and it takes a screenshot that gets pinned on that part of the map. So if there’s an area you can’t get to because you don’t have the right ability yet you can easily take note of it via this in-game system. It's even better when you combine it with choosing a pin to place on the map from a set of icons. With these tools, when I got a new ability I was able to glance at the map and immediately know which areas were now accessible to me. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to play a Metroidvania again without wishing it had this feature. 

In-Game Guidance

My only navigational gripe is that Guided Mode (vs. Exploration Mode) didn’t add as much information as I expected. It did mark where the next objective was but usually, you were already told its general location. If you haven’t explored an area and/or purchased a map of it guided mode will just give you an icon floating in an abyss which isn’t as useful as the name implies. It’s better than nothing but I expected guided to highlight the pathway you need to get there since that’s the bigger unknown. 

Similarly, Fariba is a little girl you encounter throughout the game who (on top of selling maps) will give you a hint in exchange for a small amount of crystals, the in-game currency. Her hints give you the area you need to explore to get to the next region but, depending on what issue you’ve encountered, these hints might not help you. 

That said, to my earlier points, this is the least I’ve ever gotten lost in a Metroidvania. I only got lost one time and it was because I forgot to unblock a pathway and since the map area had already been explored I assumed it wasn’t possible to unblock it when I’d referred back to my map to try and get back on track. 

Combat: A Gift that Keeps Giving

Combat tutorials are optional and available via Artaban, a NPC swordmaster who provides combat challenges and offers crystals as an award. I initially did these just for the money. Learning combos was cool but ultimately I knew most of them by the time I reached this tutorial giver since many base moves are intuitive: such as jumping above an enemy and swiping downward to attack from above. But once more abilities started to unlock I was floored at how these weren’t just exploration tools or ways to zip around a battle arena and move quickly, these allowed for some real creativity when it came to combat.

The Shadow of the Simurgh gives Sargon the ability to create a mark, which is essentially a copy of himself that’s frozen in time; he can continue moving and teleport back to it at any time or destroy it at will to get the freedom to place a new one in a different spot. This has some fantastic uses for puzzle platforming I wasn’t expecting but even more shocking is its combat use. It allows you to do things like charging up your heavy attack, using the Shadow of the Simurgh to make a copy of yourself, releasing the attack, and then returning to that shadow to release the attack again. 

Likewise, you have a Chakram: a throwing weapon that functions like a boomerang. On top of all the traversal methods and more basic attacks you can do with it you can also parry it as it returns to you. Not only does this immediately send it back out to your opponent, it also builds Athra: which is essentially a meter to do your special attacks. Once I found this out my excitement continued to build thanks to the amulet system. 

"Every mechanic is working in harmony to create one impressive experience."

Amulets can be equipped to your necklace and are either buffs or abilities. Almost all of them can also be individually upgraded. One of my favorites provided extra Athra when parrying. So in boss battles, I’d start parrying constantly and use the Chakram to get some extra parries in all to fill my Athra meter enough to pull off my special (called an Athra Surge) for heavy damage. And suddenly that was my flow. This is just one example of the ways Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown’s systems work in such harmony I’m taken aback by it all. 

Parrying isn’t usually my thing in games but Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown makes it easy with a clear, bright yellow flash for larger enemy attacks that gives you a powerful counter if you land the parry. But even if you’re not looking to square up often the dodge is an option but my go-to parry alternative is just sliding under enemies. It’s easy, stylish, and super effective for getting out of the way to land a quick sneak attack.

Side Quest Cohesion

I love how natural the side quests flow with general exploration. I'll check out a side room and stumble across an especially tough enemy who turns out to be one of the lost soldiers from an ongoing quest I've taken on. I'll check a corridor and see the Moon Gatherer I met hours ago in need of my help once more.

"Side quests aren't chores that derail you; they're natural consequences of exploring further."

Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown exercised the perfect amount of restraint with only 9 side quests across the entire campaign that feel authentic to my journey on Mount Qaf instead of shoehorned chores or activities that distract from the main quests. Side quests aren't something you knock out, they're a natural consequence of exploring further.

Intrigue at Every Encounter

Despite the fairly meaty campaign, I was kept on my toes at every turn. There are over 65 unique enemies and the different ones that get introduced feel perfectly in line with the abilities you’ve gotten whether it's your actual abilities or recent Athra Surges. Every aspect of this game feels like it's in direct conversation with all its other mechanics and ideas. 

There’s an enemy I encountered that made me audibly gasp when they attacked me and that was the moment I knew Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown was something special. To be wowed during what, in lesser games, would’ve been a run-of-the-mill moment of Metroidvania monotony is rare.

Platformers Paradise

At the end of the day, I'm a platformer stan and holy cow does this game have some of the best platforming I've ever experienced: particularly when it comes to the optional challenges. Going for the Xerxes coins, which are used to buy certain upgrades, was so thrillingly difficult that I started screen-recording sections just to show people how incredible these areas get.

"Some of the best platforming I've ever experienced."

Outside of those grueling moments, Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown also embodies the most important part of a good platformer: it's fun to move around. Floating and zipping only get more magical as you unlock more tools to take your platforming to the next level. But even before all that there are simple, smart choices I appreciate: like being able to swing around a pole but specifically aim toward my desired direction.

Boss Battle Balancing Issues

My biggest beef with Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is some of the boss battles feel unreasonable in terms of attack patterns combined with boss range. Most feel like a fight worth getting good at, but others feel cheap with moves I could never seem to fully dodge so I just tanked my way through them or knocked them down. Of the ten boss battles, I only felt this way about two of them but it did put a damper on the fun.

That said, the difficulty options are everything you'd want including the ability to create a custom difficulty with sliders on everything from parry windows and Athra depletion to enemy health and environmental damage.

Key Ingredients

While it can be critical low-hanging fruit to compare games to other games I want to take a second to acknowledge the incredible flavors I get from Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown. It's Celeste in its side challenges, its Ori in its smart design and epic heights, its Metroid Dread in its grueling combat moments (albeit still more forgiving than that), and its Jak 3 in some of its aesthetics.

In Short

Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown feels like a crochet project where working on the individual pieces pull you in but putting it all together is where the full satisfaction lies. Whether its a combat arena, a boss battle, a platforming puzzle, or just clearing up some map fog, each screen of Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown has and fully earns my full attention and awe.

Final Score


Reviewed On: PlayStation 5

A platformer fan's paradise that turns parry haters into experts and proves Metroidvanias don't have to be about getting lost.