As the third Prince of Persia in as many years pulls you inexorably into its seductive sand trap, you might, excuse the pun, experience a sinking feeling. But that feeling's hard to place, and not quite what you imagined it might be.
Is it frustration at the indignity of another rush to release, bugged and imbalanced, for this quintessentially graceful series? Hardly.
The Two Thrones is the most polished Persia yet, a surefooted and confident performer, with the last few tics of its striking camera soothed away, and its uneven, see-sawing tempo settled to a reassuringly smooth hum.
Its different flavours (acrobatic combat, acrobatic puzzling, acrobatic acrobatics) never clash or threaten to overwhelm each other as they once did. Only the inconsistent placement of savepoints and checkpoints hints at the rickety Princes of old.
It's true that the stunning platforming never scales the cerebral heights it did in the first game - it's too piecemeal and doesn't have the breathing room.
So are we disappointed at the erosion of Prince of Persia's strength of character? More than likely: The Two Thrones is somewhat bland.
Its faultlessly pretty looks never steal breath like its predecessors' could, and the powerful unity of place that they both had has evaporated somewhere in Babylon's back alleys.
Farah's return as the love interest feels forced and charmless, while the prince himself has been focus tested into oblivion, ending up just another tortured haircut with a demon alter ego.
But that's all pretty superficial, and none of it changes the fact that this is easily the better sequel, a firm improvement on Warrior Within. So why the long face? For the simplest and saddest reason of all: boredom.
It's not angst over the games' differences, but weariness with their similarities that's worn down our love for Prince of Persia.
Year on year, what was once a daredevil iconoclast, and is still a truly great game, is turning into a date-stamped factory product through the simple process of repetition. Please, Ubisoft, give it, and us, a rest.