Admittedly, there are signs that the prince is showing his age; on the Xbox the prince still looks like a PS2-friendly compromise, and some of the environments lack detailed décor or variety. Yet The Two Thrones produces real moments of wonder and vertiginous majesty. At times the views across Babylon’s rooftops are breathtaking, while the fierce warriors who oppose you, warped and bestialized by the sands of time, are a huge improvement on the more generic foes of the original. Best of all, you have to love the way The Two Thrones takes the disparate strands of Sands of Time and Warrior Within and tries to weave them into one coherent whole, bringing back old flames like The Empress and Farah, while trying to recapture some of the original’s exotic grace.
Sadly, though, there’s still one sigh to come, and it’s a long, bewildered sigh of sheer exhaustion. While the new speed kills help, The Two Thrones still suffers from the same problem that has always blighted the prince: frustration. At several points I’ve had to drop the controller, switch off my console, and walk straight out of the room before something got damaged. I’ve used swearwords that would have made Eddie Murphy in his eighties heyday blush.
It’s not that The Two Thrones is a constantly obstructive game. For the most part, the difficulty level is well judged; with evenly placed save points and sensible check points in-between. When you mistime that jump or throw yourself off a pole in the wrong direction you usually have only a few minutes of gameplay to repeat, and the ‘rewind’ button can pull you out of most minor scrapes. However, when The Two Thrones gets it wrong it gets it really, badly wrong. The game starts throwing regenerating guards and monstrous, sand-stealing hell-hounds at you, and you find yourself repeating the same ten minutes of gameplay over and over again until, by some incredible fluke, you get things right. I don’t call this an enjoyable challenge – I call it a waste of my time. After a while, one option on the Quit/Retry menu gets a whole lot more tempting, and it’s not the one that takes you back for more.
And that’s a shame, because the further you get on, the more enjoyable and involved The Two Thrones gets. Existing fans will want to reach the end of the Prince’s twisting tale, and even newcomers will appreciate how enjoyable the basic game dynamics can be. Those of a temperamental disposition, however, should think again. A racing pulse might be a good thing, but boiling blood’s another matter.
The Prince returns to form, but patches of frustration spoil the adventure. Maybe persistence is a great Persian virtue, but you’ll need plenty of it to reach the story’s end.