The third time is definitely the charm in the case of The Two Thrones. Let’s hope this game actually sells! by StewXX
December 6, 2005 – For fans of the Sands of Time series this third version wraps everything up in a grand finale worthy of a royal celebration. It’s only fitting that the prince-that-would-be-king rewards his loyal subjects with more action and adventure that has made The Prince of Persia series a resounding success throughout the gaming kingdom.
All of the game’s elements mesh, from the music to the storyline, from the puzzles to the control system. I can’t find anything nasty to say about this game. Ubisoft have certainly done their homework. They’ve managed to retain the essence of the series without being redundant. Some new features have been added that really help to hasten the pace. Environmental puzzles are back and trickier than ever. The prince is in prime form with some new abilities – and a whole new side to him that we’ve never seen before.
The storyline has always been an integral part of the series. The story in this version requires that you have some knowledge of the last two games. I won’t go into too much detail here but if you want to go back and verify the endings for yourself, skip the next paragraph.
Returning home to Babylon from his last adventure, the prince is bringing his new love, Kaileena, with him to reclaim his kingdom. Yes, she is alive. Remember those sands of time? Upon his return he finds the kingdom in the grips of civil unrest. He and Kaileena are taken prisoner and Kaileena is murdered, releasing the sands of time throughout the empire. Collecting the sands, the prince will avenge his lover’s death and regain control of the kingdom. It goes without saying that there is going to be a lot of revenge – and that means bloodshed.
The prince is endowed with the moves of an acrobat. He can scale to great heights, run up walls, jump and swing from platform to platform, employ stealth, dodge traps and perform vicious kills. All of the move commands are responsive and satisfying with an arcade-style of forgiveness that never so much as hinders the challenge. These moves will serve him well for platforming and puzzles solving. The rooftops in this Middle-Eastern-flavored city are the prince’s playground. He uses the height to spy on his enemies and runs and jumps from one roof to the other like an Arabic Spider-Man.
The puzzles are similar to those found in Tomb Raider. They are environmentally based and require skillful manipulation of the character to jump over pitfalls, throw switches and react to the sometime changing design layouts. There are plenty of annoying trial and error situations but as long as you have some sand, you can rewind a little and perform the action correctly. It’s a great gimmick but I feel some time that it’s a bit overused, as if the developers feel compelled to include more such situations which are virtually impossible to complete the first time through just so we have an excuse to acquire more sand.
If you’ve noticed that the prince doesn’t appear to be himself in the last couple of adventures, it’s because he’s actually two selves. Through the use of sands of time, he’s become infected and has developed a split personality. The new personality is the Dark Prince. He’s more aggressive and arrogant than the likeable version of the prince. He’s also more powerful. He wields a large, chain-like whip called the Daggertail which can kill several enemies with one blow. It can also be used as grapple to pull himself up walls or across chasms. It doesn’t require precise aiming, it’s got a large target radius. As long as you swing it around it will manage to do some damage.
Using the Dark Prince will cost you in energy. His health is continually and rapidly depleting. You will regain health by killing enemies and absconding their sand but when performing puzzles you will find yourself under a time limit since there is no way to replenish your health until you solve the puzzle. It puts the pressure on you but it’s like using “turbo” on any other game. It’s more like a power-up in that the effects are only temporary. The good prince is still a good source of action-oriented moves.
A new move called the “speed kill” really brings the combat up a few notches – and paces. It really speeds things up when confronted by several enemies. Armed with your sword you will press the speed kill button when the screen goes a little blurry, allowing your character to execute a violent finishing move. An icon will appear on the screen cueing you to press the button again. You may have to press it four or five times depending on the strength of the enemy. The finishing moves are graphic. Enemies are beheaded, disemboweled or split in half in no time at all, allowing you to clear out an area quickly and get on with your adventure. Speed kills can also be used for boss battles, though you will be required to employ a lot of your other skills to get in good positions and out of bad ones. Prince of Persia is not renowned for its combat but with the new speed kill moves we are gifted a new dimension to the gameplay.
As if there isn’t enough gameplay variety, chariot races are also included. Taking control of a team of horses should be child’s play but these beasts are about as difficult to control as a car with a broken steering pump. In all actually, it’s the course that is hard to navigate. Some of the walls really squeeze you in making the course very narrow where any mistake could be costly. You would think that the horses would have enough sense not to smash into a wall even if they are accidentally nudged in that direction. Fortunately you can rewind the game if you make a mistake, as long as you have some sand left – which this chariot racing can deplete quite rapidly.
Environments include an artist’s rendering of a large Arabian city including a palace and the mythical tower of Babylon. Outside the perimeter are caves, waterways and an expansive desert. All of the architecture fits in perfectly with the Middle-Eastern theme. The whole look of the game straddles the fence between fantasy and reality. The animation of the prince is astounding. His movements are fluid and incredibly realistic. Even his beard flows in the breeze.
The music reflects the Arabian theme. Instead of guitar riffs we get tones and scales from instruments more appropriate to the theme. The voiceacting is great and occasionally displays the game’s sense of humor. As seriously fun as this game is, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. There are moments when the characters are self-aware that they are characters in a game.
The prince is one of the best action heroes in videogames today. He’s capable of performing an entire circus routine with just a few button pushes. It can take a player anywhere from 10 to 20 hours to compete the game, and replay value is rather low so you will want to heavily consider whether you want to rent or purchase it. Either way you’re in for a great gaming experience.
- Play and master two distinct characters
- Wield the powers and weapons of two master warriors with different combat styles, attitudes, and histories.
- Choose your way to kill
- Master the expanded Free-Form Fighting system to destroy enemies in your own style; strangle enemies from afar with the deadly Daggertail; or use a new stealth art to inflict surprise decapitations – the choice is yours.
- Battle freely through Babylon
- Dominate enemies on the perilous rooftops, dodge through chaotic streets, and ambush pursuers in dark, underground passageways.
- Immerse yourself in a dramatic story
- Experience unparalleled depth in storytelling as you fight your way through a twisting tale filled with adrenaline, tension and discovery.
- Manipulate time to surprise enemies
- Execute powerful attacks against entire armies by slowing down or rewinding time, or surprise them by using some all-new Sands of Time powers.
- Experience a masterful blend of gameplay
- True to the Prince of Persia franchise, the game provides a variety of action combat, agility and story-driven puzzles – all masterfully blended together into a rich gaming experience.
CCC Staff Writer