December 12, 2005 -
[Ed's note: Hey there, Prince fans! If you're an avid reader of IGN you'll notice that this quaint little review of Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones is a copy of the same one that ran on our GameCube, PlayStation 2 and Xbox channels. This is because the games are virtually identical across all platforms, save for a few bits here and there.
That being said, you will also notice some slight variations in the scores at the end of this article. Of course, we must consider a game's native environment when assigning our ratings and while consoles are inundated with action platformers, the PC is starving for a good one. Our scores must then reflect Prince's more significant presence on this platform -- plus this game is just a wee bit better. But then all that will be explained in brief at the end of this article.
If you are, however, simply wondering if this particular version of Two Thrones is identical to the others in terms of content and also functional, wonder no longer: The games are clones of one another and this one works just fine.
Now please enjoy the rest of our regularly scheduled review.]
Once upon a time...
To appease the lowbrow demands of 100 million casual gamers unwilling to spend cash for Ubisoft's brilliant Sands of Time game, the company took Warrior Within into the more digestible realm of "action" and away from the realm of "thinking-man's platformer."
Swords and shadows! Dirt and "bitches!" Warrior was to be Ubi's sinister, consumer friendly modification of the fundamental Sands mechanics that were ever so thrilling and critically acclaimed. But despite best efforts and a healthy dose of hard rocking, Warrior Within cheesily fell short of the amazingly high bar its predecessor set. In trying to appeal to more folks by lining the game with more stuff, much of the original magic was lost. Indeed, an excess of scantily clad women, shadowy beasts and heavy riffs made Warrior Within ordinary, for when all is dark and grimy, even the dark and grimy become bright. A good rule of thumb is to understand when one more stroke is too many and when an excess of magic is drab.
Sadly, it seemed back then that a title of Sands of Time's caliber would just not come, given the new path laid down by Warrior Within for the Prince series. Boy does it ever feel good to be wrong! I'm dazzled. Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones is Sands of Time reborn.
Music, art, acting, acrobatics...story! Each universally applauded part of Ubisoft's first marvelous foray into the Sands of Time trilogy has been recreated here with care and cunning, save for the scarred and craggy, battle-hardened face of our champion. And yet, while this third game offers so much indisputable greatness, it still grips tight to the failing philosophies of Warrior Within in just enough key areas. Two Thrones also suffers slightly from an imposing holiday deadline and the preposterously lofty expectations fans of Sands carry with them at all times.
Narrated now by the somber and knowing Empress of Time in a way that neatly ties the end of Two Thrones to the beginning of Sands, this Prince's journey begins much like Warrior Within or Shadow and Flame, in sea and turmoil. Approaching his home port of Babylon with Empress Kaileena under arm and the Dahaka defeated, the Prince looks forward to rest and comfort, though the smoking ruin of his city will give him none. With his land besieged, his vessel burned, his woman bound, and his house in ruin, the Prince sets out to free his love, reveal his enemy, punish his rivals, and put his home to rights. But even champions are subject to the whims of fate. Along the way the Prince will encounter old friends, older relations and new foes. His story will unwind backward and at once spring forward into a climatic choice between light and dark -- the Two Thrones, one of self-serving indulgence and personal achievement, and the other of unbridled heroism despite consequence.
Reforming the Prince into his original shape was a bloody good idea! Genteel as he is, Yuri Lowenthal's Prince of Persia in The Sands of Time is far preferable to Warrior Within's Wolverine Clone #818. The gruff, self-serving madman who sought to stop the Empress's Sands at any cost was not the young royal plagued by distrust and delusions of glory we all loved. #818 was simply out of place in such a fairytale. So being back in Yuri's shoes just feels right.
Ubisoft also expertly balances Yuri's third Prince between two lines of starkly contrasting motivation, or the two thrones. Throughout the course of this adventure, the Prince must decide what's truly important. He must confront his Dark self as it struggles to gain a foothold on his conscious and he must also fess up to past crimes and move past them regardless of hardship (while listening to awesome music).
By linearly forcing the game on a railroad ride to an inevitable conclusion, and not focusing on the paradoxical "Superman can now fly around the Earth backward real fast" time traveling mechanic to undo old problems and create new ones, Ubi has done away with backtracking and also recaptured the sense of urgency and achievement that were so prevalent in Sands.