The swashbuckling Arabian prince returns in the mobile version of Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones, an exciting but brief side-scrolling action game. Much like its console and PC counterparts, this game features a good balance of acrobatic platform-jumping and swordplay; it also lets you control both the noble prince himself, as well as his sinister counterpart, who's got his own set of moves and abilities. Thankfully, the two difficulty settings and a survival mode help make up for the brevity of The Two Thrones' seven levels.
Though this is the third game in the series, The Two Thrones is light enough on storyline that you don't need to be familiar with its predecessors to get what's going on. Apparently, the anonymous prince is trying to save his kingdom from the clutches of an evil vizier. He's trying to save his populace while he's at it, but when he literally encounters his dark side, his mean-spirited counterpart suggests that the only meaningful victory is the vizier's defeat--populace be damned. The occasional bits of story help move the action along, but it's mostly just a setup to have the prince run, jump, swing, and slash around Persian cityscapes.
The Two Thrones is designed and structured much like some of Gameloft's other side-scrolling action games, so you'll see a lot of nifty moves and context-sensitive animations happen automatically as you make your way around each level. Run into a wall and the Prince will automatically try to run up over it. He'll grab ledges, chains, and ropes if you jump toward them; he'll automatically slash enemies he's about to land on; and he'll triangle-jump off of some walls without your input. He'll also pull off lots of fancy sword combos and finishing moves as you hammer on the 5 key. While a lot of the animations are actually rather choppy, it's still cool to see the Prince in action, and the controls are generally responsive and easy to use, at least on our Sony Ericsson S710a handset. At times the game feels like it's playing itself, but in general, the side-scrolling action in the mobile version of The Two Thrones succeeds at giving you the sense that you're controlling a powerful, extremely athletic warrior.
It isn't long before you're introduced to the prince's dark side. From that point, whenever you touch the flaming braziers found in each of the levels, you'll transform either from the regular flesh-and-blood prince to his dark counterpart, or back. The two characters look different but control mostly the same, though they've got a few unique qualities to distinguish them. In his human form, the prince is armed with twin scimitars and can run along walls to reach greater heights. Meanwhile, the dark prince fights with a chainlike weapon whose reach is much greater than the sword; and though he can't run on walls, his chain works like a grappling hook. These slightly different mechanics help give the levels a good amount of variety, especially after you factor in some deadly boulders, a few giant serpents, some dramatic slow-motion getaways and near-misses, and a good number of nasty axe-wielding minotaurs.
With this many dangers to contend with, the game can get fairly challenging at times. However, a liberal checkpoint system prevents you from ever getting set back more by more than 30 seconds or so, should you die. At the hard difficulty setting, you're limited by the number of times you can continue in each level, which makes some of the later stages relatively tough. Even so, you should be able to whip through the game in a couple of hours. While mobile action games aren't known for their epic length, this shortness of The Two Thrones is probably the main reason this isn't a much better game on the whole. Besides, the game's story just feels disjointed. You hear about this evil vizier but you never even face him--you just learn that he was apparently defeated. But hey, at least you get some sexy pictures of sultry ladies who seem to be highly appreciative of the prince's help in between levels. There's a bit of replay value as well. The game ranks you based on your performance in each level, and the survival mode keeps throwing zombies and minotaurs at you, making for a decent but simple diversion.
The game's choppy animation is made up for by well-drawn, dynamic character graphics, so even though there aren't a lot of frames, the frames you get look good. The audio is less noteworthy; the game's sound effects are largely just bleeps and bloops that don't fit very well, and the mood-setting title theme goes away when you start a level. Nevertheless, the action itself is what really matters in The Two Thrones, and it's quite fun while it lasts.