Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is a third-person action-adventure puzzle-platform video game developed and published by Ubisoft. First revealed in March 2003, it was released across PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube, Game Boy Advance and Microsoft Windows in November 2003. The Sands of Time is a reboot of the Prince of Persia series, created by Jordan Mechner. Mechner served as creative consultant, designer, and scenario writer for The Sands of Time.
The game follows an unnamed Prince whose father sacks a Maharaja’s city at the instigation of its treacherous Vizier. During the attack, the Prince obtains an artifact called the Dagger of Time, while his army captures an hourglass containing the Sands of Time. Visiting Azad to present the Sands as a gift to the city’s ruler, the Vizier tricks the Prince into releasing the Sands, transforming the city’s population into savage monsters. Together with the Maharaja’s daughter Farah, the Prince works to correct his mistake and return the Sands to the hourglass. The gameplay revolves around the Prince’s platforming abilities, broken up by fights with the creatures created by the Sands. A key mechanic in the game is using the Dagger to rewind time if the Prince makes a mistake platforming, and using it to kill and freeze enemies.
Concept work began in spring of 2001, after Ubisoft acquired the Prince of Persia catalog. After Mechner was brought on board, production began in June of that year. After the initial story draft was scrapped as it was too complex, the team began with four guiding concepts, including the ability to rewind time: this idea grew into the Dagger, the Sands, and the various powers related to them. Mechner’s script drew inspiration from the Shahnameh, with the main focus on creating a simple narrative that worked with the pace of gameplay. The game used Ubisoft’s Jade engine, originally designed for Beyond Good & Evil, another game published by the company. Production was troubled, with the team facing problems with the engine structure and delays with environment assets, while also managing to create an effective tester network to seek out the game’s bugs. In 2004, a version for mobile phones was developed and published in North America by Gameloft.
Upon release, it received critical acclaim, won and was nominated for numerous awards, and has been recognized by many as one of the greatest games of all time. Sales of the title were initially slow, but it eventually became a commercial success. Its success prompted the development of a sequel, Prince of Persia: Warrior Within, which released in November 2004. Further games set in the Sands of Time continuity have been developed, and it is generally cited as the reason for the Prince of Persia series’ return to fame.