While playing Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones, you’ll likely keep asking yourself the same question: Just who the hell would build all this stuff, and why?
But never mind that all the game’s structures are wildly impractical or that half the buildings in Babylon are filled with giant saw blades and retracting ledges. What matters is that it's fun. And after the dark, brooding Warrior Within, "fun" is something this series sorely needed.
Picking up where the last game left off, Two Thrones opens with the Prince returning home to Babylon to find it in flames. It seems that by mucking around with the past in the last game, he's unwittingly resurrected one of his greatest enemies. Said enemy sacks Babylon and unleashes the deadly Sands of Time, turning his soldiers into monsters. N ow Babylon is infested with sand zombies, the Prince is hunted through the streets and, worst of all, he’s lost his shirt again.
Despite the downer of an opening, Two Thrones marks a return to the lighter, more adventurous tone of The Sands of Time , as well as to the puzzles that made that game great. There are still plenty of enemies to fight, but now there’s a much greater focus on leaping, running and climbing your way through baroque deathtraps. These bits are challenging, but the solutions are usually obvious enough that you won’t need a strategy guide. It doesn't help, though, thatthe controls are touchy enough to accidentally send you leaping off a cliff or dashing up the wrong wall. Thankfully, the Prince can still slow down or reverse time, letting you undo any boneheaded mistakes.
Compared to the puzzles and deadly environments, the combat is actually kinda boring. It's been fine-tuned since the last game (and is a great deal less bloody), but it still gets tedious, with the Prince repetitively slashing away at small mobs of enemies. There are more interesting ways to get rid of bad guys, though, and those who prefer stealth will like the new "speed kills," which let you sneak up on enemies and hack them to death through a series of timed button hits. (These are also instrumental to winning the four or so boss battles.)
Fighting gets a hell of a lot more interesting when the Dark Prince shows up. A by-product of the internal struggle between the original charming, arrogant Prince and the "battle-hardened outcast" he became in Warrior Within, the Dark Prince is a shock-haired, charcoal-skinned wraith with a razor-sharp whip imbedded in his forearm. Most of the time, he's just a sneering voice in the Prince's head, but he takes over when the story calls for it. And while the regular ol' Prince is plenty graceful, his acrobatic slice-and-dice looks clumsy next to the Dark Prince's savage chain-whip ballet. The Dark Prince also has an easier time navigating obstacles, as his whip lets him swing to places the Prince can't reach. His only real weakness is that he constantly loses health, which can only be replenished with magical sand (stored conveniently in enemy torsos).
While the game exists on four different platforms, the only noticeable differences between each version are the usual cosmetic ones, with the PS2 version looking slightly worse than the others. Whichever version you choose, though, the action is top-notch awesome. With the series' clever design and sense of humor fully restored, The Two Thrones is a stellar return to form for Prince of Persia.