Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones

6_1It’s not easy being the Prince of Persia. Sure, you have great hair and some stylish tribal tattoos, a cool sword and awesome armor, and are perhaps the most nimble hero in gaming history. But you ruined your father’s kingdom by releasing the Sands of Time in the first Prince of Persia remake, then you went full Emo in Warrior Within, started listening to a lot of heavy metal, and was constantly chased by an evil time guardian. Now, at the start of The Two Thrones, you’re going home to Babylon. Unfortunately, the city is burning and your hot girlfriend is captured.

The best way to view The Two Thrones is as the final part of a trilogy that started with the exceptional Sands of Time. The self-consciously “dark†Warrior Within was the problem middle child, with too much emphasis on combat. It was a good game – even great at times – but it didn’t quite have the magic of the first game. Prince of Persia 3 attempts to remedy this mishap, bringing back color that was lost and optimism that had been crushed in Warrior Within.

Babylon, the Prince’s hometown which is now under siege by the evil Vizier and his army of sand monsters, has some of the most glorious and beautiful button mashing out there. It has even more satisfying three-dimensional, environment-based platform-style running, jumping, hanging, leaping from wall to wall puzzle solving the series is known for. And the metal music is gone.

19_1The Two Thrones addresses the balance between fighting and jumping around in brilliant fashion (it also has a more appropriate score). While you can run into most rooms and fight to your heart’s content, there’s a new “Speed Kill†option that lets you get much simpler, stealthier kills. In order to maneuver into position, however, you need to “solve†the environment. As in “I can jump to that ledge, hang, stick my dagger in that drape and slide to the ground, leap to the right before falling to my death, and swing from bar to bar to get behind that dude.â€

Though it’s a whole lot of more-of-the-same, with somewhat frustrating bosses and occasionally clunky mouse/keyboard controls, The Two Thrones delivers some terrific gameplay. The context-sensitive combat still works well —if you’re near a wall or pole, you automatically execute some cool moves— even if it does make you feel like you’re not in direct control of the Prince at all times. The more advanced combat system from Warrior Within has crossed over and refined somewhat. Interspersed the combat are some very cool distractions like arcadey chariot chases that are an absolute blast.

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The game also switches you to the persona of the Dark Prince, the Prince’s slightly more evil alter-ego, when it’s convenient. With his chain weapon and surly attitude, he’s more like Kratos from God of War. As the Dark Prince, your health constantly drains. This leads to some challenging time-based puzzles reminiscent of the old-school Prince of Persia.

But it’s really all about the acrobatics, and no game gives you the same sense of recklessly throwing your body around a room and magically grabbing onto any ledge or column. Wall running, wall climbing, running and ducking under closing gates, dodging spike traps, it’s all good, dramatic, and appropriately cinematic. It’s also gorgeous.

System Requirements: Pentium IV 2 GHz, 512 MB RAM, WinXP

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