Let’s get one thing clear straight away: if you’re a committed hardcore gamer, a fan of Prince of Persia, and the kind of person who thinks Devil May Cry 3 or Ninja Gaiden were not nearly hard enough, then feel free to disregard the rest of this review. Go out and buy this game ¬– you won’t regret it. For me, however, the third in the Sands of Time trilogy isn’t so much a tale of two thrones, but of three sighs.
The first is one of relief: the Two Thrones is clearly and unequivocally a huge improvement on its predecessor, The Warrior Within. It’s not a complete repudiation – there are still hints of that game’s gothic stylings and macho posturing – but here, at last, is a sequel that fans of The Sands of Time can embrace. The ghastly metal soundtrack has disappeared, the combat has been toned down, and there is a renewed emphasis on what made the Prince’s first 3D outing great: the sheer joy of his wall-running, pole swinging, chasm leaping acrobatics.
This last point can’t be made enough. Apart from Mario 64, I can’t think of another game that made movement through 3D space so enthralling, and in The Two Thrones the magic is definitely back. The new setting – the Prince’s home city of Babylon (under occupation from a fiendish unknown force) – is like an enormous playground for the prince’s athletic escapades. Grand palaces full of high balconies and fiendish traps? Check. Dank sewers populated with monsters? Check. Narrow streets packed with poles to swing from and walkways to traverse? Yep, them too. What’s more, the Prince has added to his roster of moves. He can now leap into spaces between two walls and slide down, jab a dagger into a plate to gain a purchase for a second, or use special spring plates to make enormous, diagonal jumps. The result is a game where smart, context-sensitive controls and stunning animation combine to form a beautiful, flowing sequence of runs, leaps and swings that make you feel like Douglas Fairbanks Jnr. or Errol Flynn (or whoever the modern day equivalent might be).