Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones
Two thrones? Well, la-de-da; how very posh. We've only got one toilet at Kikizo - and that's outside. The Prince returns with a nicely conclusive final outing in the Sands of Time trilogy.
PS2, Xbox, GCN, PC
"One, two, princes kneel before you; that's what I said, now; Princes, princes who adore you; just go ahead, now." One has a huge chip on his shoulder and a need to put everything right, the other one has a ruddy great big chain-whip and the urge to kick small puppies, and laugh maniacally whilst doing so (he's that evil). And these two Princes both share the same physical body too, talk about your split personalities...
This split personality isn't just your everyday storytelling conceit as already featured in countless other games, books and movies, but rather as an embodiment of the schizophrenic design of the previous two Prince of Persia (PoP) games being fused together in Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones. Everything from the aesthetic, the combat system and the level design feels as if it runs right down the middle of the (now) extremes featured in Sands of Time (Sands) and Warrior Within (Warrior).
There were many, myself included, that felt the teenage rebellion of Warrior's goth/rock makeover brought an unnecessary crassness and disingenuous vibe to the beauty and authenticity that made Sands such a joy to play. Regardless, the actual gameplay in both titles was still, thankfully, excellent (albeit with subtle but noticeable differences). It would appear that UbiSoft themselves also believe that Warrior Within was a step too far away from their ideal, as the aesthetic of Two Thrones tries its best to recapture the first game's look and feel.
This is most noticeable in the music, which is a major improvement on Warrior's Godsmack soundtrack. We have nothing against that genre of music, in fact some of us here like it, but it just felt out of place with everything else, and the return to a more authentic Eastern theme in this game is most welcome. The return of the Prince's monologues is also welcome, and rather than simply just talking to himself as it Sands, thanks to his new sands-infected Dark Prince personality he now talks back too.
The environment is also much brighter and more colourful, though unfortunately the actual architecture of T2T's Babylon doesn't quite manage to recapture some of the grandeur of Sands' Azad, but it is again a major improvement on the dark and moody gothic structure of Warrior's Temple of Time. However, even though it looks better, the actual mechanics of navigating it have become a lot more straightforward and linear, and lack the more puzzle-led basis from both the previous games. There are couple of new moves added to the PoP cannon, including boards to make diagonal jumps from wall runs, and wall gratings to jam your dagger into and hang from. There are a few particularly devious sections, but overall it feels a bit undemanding, but it is thankfully still compelling.
The combat engine has also been given further refinement, building upon one of the better additions from the last game. Most of the change is saved for when you play as the Dark Prince, who always wields the Dagger of Time, and has a Dagger Tail infused to his arm which acts like a whip. This makes fighting a much easier proposition, as although the normal Prince has the same moves as last year he isn't as powerful, which makes the Dark Prince much stronger in contrast. Combat is also more fully integrated with the platforming, in particular the addition of Speed Kills, which work much like the finishing moves from God of War (or Shenmue's QTEs).
Now, by far the biggest problems with Warrior Within, easily trumping the divisive aesthetic, were the unforgivable game-breaking bugs (at least, in the Xbox version) and the sound glitches (likely due to a rushed development time). We're glad to say that we have witnessed no instances in T2T of event triggers not occurring, and the linearity of the level design removes the possibility of getting stuck in an inescapable area, but there are still some (admittedly only occasional) glitches in the sound, with some clips repeating. There are also a few areas in which the framerate drops, but this particular issue had little impact on the previous games, and the same is true here.
The story of Two Thrones does bring a nice closure to the events that began in Sands (the circle is complete, if you will). Whether planned or not, the trilogy as a whole (in every thematic and aesthetic respect) is the perfect representation of one man's journey from the na´ve folly of youth, through the angst of adolescence, all the way to the acceptance of the responsibilities of adulthood. It's a longer quest than previous too, though one with much less incentive for replay.
It is a shame that over the course of three games there has been little, if any, improvement in the actual game mechanic, and in fact a step back in terms of design, yet despite all the minor additions and subtractions, the sum total is still an excellent and enjoyable game, and one which is always instantly recognisable as belonging to the PoP series. However, if there are to be any more Prince of Persia games to follow in this one's sandy footsteps, perhaps UbiSoft should consider taking their 'time' over it...
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Prince of Persia 3
|1.43m||15MB||DF, SD, 30