8.5

The Sands of Time trilogy ends well with a great game which brings back most of the good features from the past games.

Jordan Mechner, the maker of the original 1989's Prince of Persia, rebooted the franchise in 2003 with a rock-solid game known as Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. The game was an innovation in the game-mechanics department, for its progress was fluid, housed solid puzzles (which the series is known for) and added a very impressive and interesting combat system. The game allowed the Prince to control time, which means you could rewind time if you made a mistake (reducing the need to reload), slow down time to perform better in combat and many other amazing tricks. All of it was backed up by a superb story and amazing voice acting and soundtracks. The Prince was likable in every way.

Then came Prince of Persia: Warrior Within in 2004. It changed the tone of the game to a much darker setting, dropped the charm of Sands of Time(probably because Mechner was not involved), turned the Prince 'hardcore' and less likable and completely revamped the combat system. The game then allowed your to butcher your enemies any way you are pleased, which made up for all other deficiencies. The story was also longer and offered more adrenaline rush moments like a ferocious chase sequence.

Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones is the 2005 sequel to Warrior Within. It feels like Ubisoft wanted this game to address its predecessor's flaws. While it attempted to revive the Sands of Time's charms, it resembles Warrior Within in many ways, only less darker. The decapitations and slaughtering moves of the prince returns (but without the body dismemberment effect on the European and DVD releases). The puzzle element is mostly retained and environment navigation is somewhat improved as it adds ability to rest atop a pole, slide down narrow chimneys and leap wall-to-walls using projected inclinations on the vertical surface.

The combat element has a new addition called 'Speed Kill' which is a fancier version of Quick Time Events. At the appropriate position, the screen will give visual clues to the player that it's time to press a button to activate speed kills. While a speed kill happens everything will be scripted and the prince will begin a cinematic set of moves at his enemies. And all you have to do is press a button when the cinematic progress pauses for a while. Fail to do so and the speed kill is intercepted by the foe and it's back to regular Prince of Persia battle skills. Succeed and killing foes is like taking candy from a baby.

The environment is designed in a way where you can easily get to the speed-kill points which becomes obvious (usually the above or behind the enemy) soon. And there will always certainly be a way to get there without being seen by the guards, even if you happen to be jumping wall to wall in plain sight and in daylight. This prevents the game from being truly emergent style.

The greatest new addition to the game is Prince's dark persona, simply called 'The Dark Prince' who had a minor cameo at the end of Warrior Within. Often while progressing through the campaign, the Prince will change into the Dark Prince without warning or your will. This changes game play suddenly, making you more powerful, dangerous (reminiscent of the Prince's harsh personality from Warrior Within) and at the same time ebbs your life away slowly. For the Dark Prince, his life is practically his sands so killing enemies will get his life back and landing on water will transform him back to his normal self. For those who remember the Sand Wraith the Prince transformed himself in Warrior Within, may find the game play with Dark Prince similar. Except, there is no unlimited sands as your life BECOMES the sand.

The game's drawback lies in the game mechanics itself. The game's sand power is much more limited and less useful than Warrior Within (which was reduced from Sands of Time, where the powers were at its prime) . You can no speed up yourself or perform other cool stuffs with your sands as previous entries in the series. And both your sand -tanks and health meter seems rather reduced to previous games as well. Also you get your sand power rather late in this game compared to the last two games. And during those time, any accidental death means no rewind power, and a treatment to a screen animating an unreadable text (probably saying 'Game Over' in some alien language) that cannot even be skipped. This is deliberate (a trait from Warrior Within, but at least it clearly read 'Game Over') and highly annoying the first few stages or when you run out of sands, because the reloading game feels tedious.

There are boss battles in this game but it's all in favor of showing off the game's speed-kill style than to actually allow free-style-kill boss fights from the previous series. There is almost always one way to kill the big guys- run over there, jump up, wall-run left, swing from the pole and press Speed Kill button to 'damage' boss. Repeat this till boss is dead. That's all there's to it.

Amongst other flaws are the game's sequence of hit-and-trial sequences like chariot runs. It demands heavily on your rewind powers because it happens so fast and leaves zero room for correction the split second you realize you just took the wrong lane. Also the hint camera view (Defaults to 'Q' on your keyboard and shows you the surroundings and gives a hint on how to proceed) no longer happens at your discretion. Only at specific points when the game decides you should press the button for the hint cam, shall you do so.

Overall, all these reasons are why the game impress a feeling of imposing restrictions on player with too many scripted events, deliberately reducing player's freedom-of-choice on play-style.

Despite these minor disappointments The Two Thrones is still a great game, and the nice graphics (although that could have been better), great visuals, interesting storyline and return of the same likable 'witty' Prince we met back in The Sands of Time are all a definitive plus. Recurrence of some old characters of the series will definitely amuse veterans and the ending will definitely leave a Prince of Persia fan satisfied.

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