"Everyone wants to take something back. They want to rewind that one crucial moment of their life where the school bully threw them in a dumpster, sentencing them to a lifetime of torment from their peers, or undoing that time where they were pantsed in front of the cheerleading squad. Or maybe they had initially hoped that their brief stroll across the rooftops of a dusty desert city hadn't ended in a miscalculated jump into the gnashing teeth of some kind of rooftop-mounted wheat-harvesting dev..."
Everyone wants to take something back. They want to rewind that one crucial moment of their life where the school bully threw them in a dumpster, sentencing them to a lifetime of torment from their peers, or undoing that time where they were pantsed in front of the cheerleading squad. Or maybe they had initially hoped that their brief stroll across the rooftops of a dusty desert city hadn't ended in a miscalculated jump into the gnashing teeth of some kind of rooftop-mounted wheat-harvesting device.
Luckily, the Prince has a move for every occasion, and a sand for every failure. His third and final return to Babylon is met with the unfortunate realization that he broke time again, and his kingdom burns because of it. His kingdom, however, is a treacherous place where city councilmen see fit to install massive bladed traps in the walls of every café and apartment in the city -- just in case someone attempted to attack the city from anywhere other than the ground. The peasants would probably not be happy about this wanton disposal of their tax money.
Players, on the other hand, have much to rejoice about. The Prince moves with the refined grace of an Olympic gymnast, but without any of the spandex. The terrain is, literally, your plaything. Large gaps are but a crack in the ground, and every pole, curtain, crevice, and ledge a springboard from which to launch yourself closer to your goal. The palace.
The palace always looms in the distance, surrounded by a sprawling city of traps and swirling sand. While the environments do run together after a while, each area is a swarm of obstacles that are strung together in a way that invites you to fly through the air in inventive ways. Perhaps you'll notice that an unorthodox strain of internal decorating might allow you to leap across an inconvenient chasm, spring off a handy board protruding from the wall, swing over some hanging bars, and then slide down a fluttering banner to a once-unreachable ledge. And then you do it. The controls are tight and responsive and leave little doubt that when you die, it's your fault.
And die you will, for the new inhabitants of Babylon would like little more than to mount your head on a pike. Mercifully, combat is improved over the second entry, with little of the clunky repetitiveness of the previous games. Even better is the stealth kill option. Nearly every enemy in the game can be killed without a fight should you choose to go that route. By using the terrain properly, you can sneak up on your foes and enter a short God of War styled timed button pressing game, dispatching them in a few painless (for you, anyway) hits. Failed timing is usually punished fairly heavily by a now angry man with a sword, however that's nothing some sand can't fix...
Of course, now the Sand has a price. Yet another unleashing of the Sands has awakened the token 'evil' sub persona of the main character. The Dark Prince. While a cliché manifestation of the Prince's inner darkness, the Dark Prince is quite a treat to play, made so by the long serrated chain in his arm. It can be used Indiana Jones style for swinging from platform to platform, or to provide a considerable boost to combat prowess, either way, you will find the Dark Prince's periodic segments refreshing.
And if that's not refreshing enough, there's also a couple of chariot segments where The Prince can get his race on Ben Hur style through the streets of Babylon. Many games shoehorn in such diversions as a ruse to break up otherwise repetitive gameplay, but Prince of Persia uses the segments to add onto an already excellent formula. The segments themselves are engagingly straightforward; you tear through Arabian streets at speeds that would make Captain Falcon proud, while making sure that the guards don't pull you from your chariot. Simplistic, yes, but this makes it a minigame that you can easily jump into without suffering through tutorials. The end result is a satisfyingly chaotic interlude between sublime platforming segments.
Whether you're darting across rooftops or tearing down cobbled streets, Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones does precisely what a great sequel should. It removes the blemishes of its predecessors while adding on several new layers of depth, and all without losing its individuality as a series. Fans of the franchise and newcomers alike will find the Prince's Arabian romp a gaming experience to be truly savored. To date, no game has done platforming with as much grace and personality as the Prince of Persia series, and this is far and away the best entry yet.
Community review by dragoon_of_infinity (December 18, 2005)
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