Review by GheddonLN
A game that will entertain you from beginning to end
Most of us first met the Prince years ago. I came across his pit-leaping, swordfighting persona at my schools computer lab, where his was the only fun, complete game we had access to (my classmates may argue Sky was just as fun, but it was a trial version. Besides, theyre not here). There was something great about that game: it was intuitive and henceforth, easy to pick upand lots of fun. Fighting sucked, but that was not the games focus, anyway
Fast forward to today, to our current generation of game consoles. Guess whos back? Mr. pit-leaping Prince of Persia! His comeback party was, I gather, rather excellent. The Sands of Time, his first game in the current crop of consoles, garnered much praised and was a labeled as a great game. Its strengths? No idea, I never played it. I suppose they were the old games same assets: intuitive, fun gameplay; lots of platforming and pit-leaping; lame swordfighting (is that a strong suit? Well, it reminds us of the good ole days, so its your call). Warrior Within came forth after the critically acclaimed Sands of Time, alienating fans by shedding its old, fantastic skin (comprised mainly of elegant and tasteful clothing) in favor of steel thongs, blood, guts, and second-rate death metal.
And afterwards came this, the game well be discussing. The Two Thrones. How does it compare to previous game? Not really a problem, you know. Even if its ancestors are far stronger, TtT still manages to be a supremely fun gameplay experience, with an engrossing tale, likeable characters, easy-to-get-the-hang-of platforming goodness and a stealth gimmick thats surprisingly well-executed and very satisfying. We may be looking at a game that, albeit not revolutionary (or evolutionary), its incredibly tight and well-designed. Very rarely does a game manage to stay consistently fun all through; the Prince does just that.
The main story picks up after last games events, and kicks into full gear when the Prince recovers his sand powers. From then on, its basically a steady climb towards the rather simple end: defeat the bad guy. But the main archs simplicity doesnt mean the storytelling is simplistic. On our way to the predictable end, were treated to a series of internal monologues between the Prince and his dark-side persona, and the Princes relationship with the games other characters. These conversations, I might say, are the most important part of the tale, as they develop the main characters and make us develop a liking towards them. Youll be engrossed by the Princes internal plight. In the end, one might say that this is the storylines focus, and that the race towards the evil dude is pure window dressing. The endgame reinforces this notion.
Whatever the case, youll still be heading towards a well-defined goal, leaping through beautiful levels. The games character models belie the games graphical polish and artistic merit; its not that the Prince looks ugly, but theres something a bit off about him. Nevertheless, hes well animated and thus, pleasant to look at when hes leaping and wall-running. More importantly, he and his entourage (really just two people, one of them inside him ) are made a lot more likeable thanks to the excellent voice acting and the well-written dialogue.
The actual levels are the place where the creativity is at. From a graphical stand point, they come across as really, really good. Were not talking Resident Evil 4-quality graphics, but the levels are very appealing. They create the atmosphere and are convincingly designed. There are lots to see, and most of it is just there to breathe life into the world. The graphical department is much like the rest of the game: not revolutionary, but extremely well-done and polished. Its hard to fault the game for anything. When you boot the game and being playing, Ill guarantee youll feel very pleased by what you see, and more importantly, itll stimulate your imagination. I dont want to sound incredibly stupid but I must: youll be transported. Now, dont take that the wrong way, its just that it all seems so believable, so absorbing
The sound department is functional. There is rousing music, but most of it subdued. You wont remember a piece, perhaps only a few sound bites that are used when you open an important door or clear something crucial. Play the game without music, though, and youll notice the difference. Id say that the tunes are tightly integrated into the rest of the game experience, and contribute to cohesiveness. One may say that the goal was not to make a stand-out soundtrack that accompanies the game, but rather music that integrates itself into it.
Game playability is where the game truly shines. Firstly, I must say that gameplay, in this case, goes hand in hand with the brilliant level design. And whys that? Because the core mechanic, platforming, can only be fun if youre running-and-jumping across levels that are designed so theyre fun/require skill to solve. And that happens to be the case here. You have a series of basic skills: jumping and wall-running, both mapped into your control in such a way that theyre very easy to use. Youll combine both abilities and use them in creative ways. For instance, you could wall run up to a certain point, jump into a diagonal-jumpad, hit the jump-button to be propelled diagonally towards a ledge, to which youll hang to. Youll then climb, run up a wall and drill your dagger into a steel casing, just so you can hang there and wall-run some more. With the princes alter ego, you get the ability to use a chain-like weapon to grab onto things, swing and further your wall-running time. Genius!
All of this will be done across levels with carefully positioned ledges to shimmy across, poles to hang on to, and cloth to slide down seemingly bottomless pits. Theres always platforming to do, and routines to figure out. One drawback is that sometimes you have to go through too much trial-and-error (one mistake, you die) to find the correct timing of a jump, or the wall to run across; which is rather annoying, considering that the games checkpoint placement is sometimes laughable. That said, an unwanted death will most of the time mean nothing to you, as theres always the possibility to quickly restart and retry the offending routine. Therell be times when you will be forced to repeat entire stretches, just because the developers forgot to add a seemingly obvious checkpoint.
Another interesting part of the game is using the Dark Prince, the evil side of your controlled character. Fighting with him is marginally fun (see below), but platforming is very intense. As said before, you can use his unique chainlike weapon, the Daggertail to further your acrobatic options; plus you have the regular assortment of wall-running and pit-leaping tricks. But whats important is that your health depletes at a constant rate. It can be easily restored by killing fools or breaking vases, but sometimes, there are no fools to beat, no vases to break; just platforming routines to clear, and thats where the fun is at. Your knuckles wont get white, but desperately running across a level while your health fades away is fun. It sometimes is frustrating, because often you have just enough health to clear a routine, meaning that the slightest mistake will hinder you -- often lethally.
Fighting is mildly interesting, but requires little to no skill. You just move around performing your characters many combos till your weak enemies die. When you use the Dark Prince, fighting gets more brutal and more pointless. Why? Because each time the Prince kills an enemy, he regains all of his health; so, you just can wail away at enemies nonchalantly since youll get your health back right away. It is nonetheless very satisfying, because of the control, animations and the feedback (club an enemy and tell it doesnt feel great.)
But its not like you have to battle, you know. You can simply stealth kill. Now, following the custom of functional level design, most areas have carefully positioned ledges above, alongside or next to enemies. That way, you can carefully approach to them and perform a silent takedown. You basically hit a button to activate it and time subsequent button presses with what happens on-screen. These takedowns are not automatic, as you can see, which makes them satisfying when correctly performed. Its very possible to silently dispatch most enemies, and very encouraged (also lots of fun). This clever little trick ensures that youll never get tired of combat.
But what if you mess up your button presses? Then you can just re-wind time. Following the pattern set by the two previous games, this game gives you a series of sandy time-altering skills that you can use in interesting fashion. Sadly, the only useful skill is re-wind, which is a self-explanatory magical trick. The other bunnies you can take out of the hat are far less useful. Only slow-mo comes in handy during boss fights .
The game also boasts a chariot-racing mode thats surprisingly well-done. The horses and the chariot control nicely and feel very natural. Theyre not floaty, thanks god, and when you trade paint (is that how you say it?) with an enemy chariot it all feels substantially weighty.
The Two Thrones come across as excellent because it integrates the aforementioned segments into a really tight, fun unit. I must commend the designers and managers for doing such a well-done job. As an EGM writer once said: games like this show what separates amateurs from professionals. People who dont have clue from people who have nailed a games core playing engine. I wasnt blown away by the game, but I was entertained all through. There are very few things to complain about; youd have to be really nitpicky. When somebody reaches this kind of excellence, its only suitable to award them a 10 out 10.
Now, I shall try to play the two previous games
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
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