PlayStation 2
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Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones (hereafter T2T) is the latest installment in the long-running Prince of Persia franchise and is the third, allegedly final part of the storyline that began in 2003’s Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and continued in 2004’s Prince of Persia: Warrior Within. Anybody who hasn’t played both of those games will likely find this new one’s loopy, paradox-filled, time-travel story more than a little confusing, but series veterans are definitely going to dig the clever ways the developers at Ubisoft tie the previous games’ threads together and deliver a conclusion that truly makes the series feel complete. The story kicks off right where Warrior Within’s secret “good” ending left off, with the Prince and the Empress of Time sailing back to Babylon after their fate-defying misadventure on the Island of Time only to find the city under siege by a mysterious and brutal army. After the basic set-up, things start to get weird and the Prince begins to learn the unexpected consequences of his messing with the timeline. He must swing, jump, climb and fight through the city in order to set things right.

Thematically, T2T is much closer to the majestic Sands of Time than the blood-splattered, hard-rockin’ Warrior Within. It is still M-rated, but the foreboding, hopeless mood has been lightened up, the blood has been toned down significantly, and the thong-clad women and heavy metal music have been done away with entirely. This trend has been consistently applied to the Prince himself, who is now closer to the conceited-yet-endearing aristocrat from the Sands of Time than the generic anti-hero that the Prince became in Warrior Within, though now he is less naïve and more jaded from experience. To achieve this balance, Ubisoft opted to take us down an interesting and rewarding road by bringing the internal conflict between the Prince’s heroic nature and his darker side to the surface. His more savage and self serving tendencies have manifested themselves as a mocking but persuasive voice in our hero’s head and the player is treated to all the mental banter between the Prince and his darker self as the action plays out. The mark of this internal corruption slowly spreads across the Prince’s body as well, and occasionally the Dark Prince fully erupts and transforms our hero into a hideous, deadly force of violence. Ultimately, the Prince must conquer the darkness within before it consumes him by accepting responsibility for his actions and remembering that his flight is not for glory and vengeance, but rather for the selfless service of his people.

Game play:

The core game mechanics are basically left untouched from Warrior Within; the combo-heavy combat system is still playable but spotty and the platforming is still one of gaming’s most sublime experiences. What is different is the way the game play is organized. T2T is a much more linear game now that the tedious backtracking from the previous game has been replaced with level design that makes the game feel like a methodically paced roller coaster ride through the streets, rooftops, and palaces of Babylon. A much greater emphasis has been put on platforming (the best part of any Prince of Persia game) and this time it is better than ever. New abilities like hanging from stabable wall plates and springing off open shutters take advantage of the always natural-feeling level designs and spot-on controls to open up the possibilities for the Prince’s acrobatic style of exploration. There are even a few puzzles, chariot races, and boss fights to break up what might have been monotony.

The platforming and combat are more closely integrated now too thanks to the welcome addition of “speed kills”. If the Prince is able to catch an oblivious enemy unawares, usually by performing tricky platforming to get above or behind him, a sequence is initiated in which the player times button presses with visual cues to quickly and brutally destroy the foe. This is a great way to avoid drawn-out fights. Often large groups of bad guys can be dispatched in this way by a clever and skilled player. I found this much more satisfying than the direct approach because the button-mashing combat is mediocre at best and a chore at worst. Platforming also plays a key role in a few of the boss fights, especially the first and last confrontations. These require the Prince to scale the environment to get close enough to a large enemies weak point to start a speed kill.

The other bosses will push the player’s combat prowess to the limit. The bosses this time around are much more fun than in the other games in the series. Also new are the Dark Prince sequences. When the Prince transforms into his more sinister alter ego he becomes several times more powerful in combat through the use of his chain weapon (God of War, anyone?), but as a tradeoff his life constantly depletes. The player is continuously forced to keep moving and collect life-replenishing sand tanks. The chain whip also gives the Prince a few more platforming abilities like swinging from lamps and grappling distant objects, so these sequences can be a lot of fun. Unfortunately, I never got a feel for fighting with the Dark Prince’s novel but unintuitive weapon so I was usually glad to go back to playing as a regular human. Besides the combat, T2T’s biggest flaw is the uneven placement of checkpoints and places to save. Sometimes save points will be very far apart with several extremely challenging battles and platforming sequences in between and at other points it felt like I was saving every two minutes. At least the load times are fairly quick and since the environments are almost always streaming you probably won’t see a load screen at all unless you die.

Graphics:

T2T’s graphics are noticeably better than Warrior Within’s, especially in the artistic department. The color palette has been significantly broadened and as a result the game manages to recapture the feel of the beautiful, fantastic ancient world of the Sands of Time. More than any other Prince of Persia game, T2T manages to fit a staggeringly diverse collection of environments into one naturally flowing world. Just getting the chance to marvel at the meticulous architecture and to gaze across the city of Babylon from a high-up vista is worth a good chunk of the admission price. For all the things which the prince can climb, jump, or swing on packed into every square inch, every room and alleyway looks completely organic. This is design at its best. Technically, the visuals are nothing to squawk at either. I played this game on the PS2 (it is also available for Xbox, Gamecube and PC) and it pushes that system almost as far as I’ve seen it pushed. The lighting bloom and particle effects are especially impressive. I’ve seen prettier PS2 games, but not many. Sadly, all this beauty means that the game doesn’t run at the fastest frame rate and sometimes there are minor clips and slowdowns. Also, some of the character models have blocky hands and other quirks.

Sound:

Warrior Within was panned by the majority of critics for its hard-rock soundtrack and those complaints have been addressed in this sequel. The music in T2T is a return to the orchestral, Persian-themed style of the Sands of Time; however, there has been an attempt to make the score feel more “epic” this time. It is hit or miss in that respect and for the most part I didn’t even notice the music. The second boss theme and the final stage’s background music did stand out to me though. The sound effects mostly do what they are supposed to, but I wish the death-screeches of some of the monsters weren’t as annoying. What really shines through is the voice acting. The mental dialog between the Prince and his dark conscience, which is arguably the best part of the T2T experience, is deftly performed by talented actors. The man who played the Prince in The Sands of Time returns to replace the gruff voiceovers from Warrior Withing, and I feel the aristocratic quality he brings to the Prince makes him a much more unique and interesting character.

Appropriateness:

The ESRB rated Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones M for Mature for blood and gore, intense violence, and nudity. I personally feel that this description makes the game’s moral content sound worse than it actually is. Here is the rundown, so you can decide for yourself. Violence: 4.5/10 People killing people in self-defense (Ex. Medal of Honor) (-4 pts) Small Red Blotches or Drops (-1 pts) If the game allows gore to be disabled (+1) Body parts can be visually unattached (-1.5 pts) T2T is significantly less bloody than its immediate predecessor, and only slightly more graphic than the Sands of Time. For the first hour or two the Prince fights human warriors who bleed a small to medium amount of blood which can be turned off from the options menu. After a certain point all of the enemies become sand creatures, which look more or less human but release yellow light and sand instead of blood when slashed. Sand creatures can be beheaded or cut in half bloodlessly. If it weren’t for the speed kills, the most gruesome of which is strangling an enemy with a chain until his head pops off, I’d say that T2T is about as violent as the Sands of Time. If you have played that game without problem, then you probably will be okay with this one too.

Language: 10/10 I didn’t catch anything, and neither did the ESRB, so your ears are probably safe. Sexual Content/nudity: 8.5/10 Characters clothing is sexy or accentuates their sexuality (Ex. tight clothing or low cleavage) (-1.5 pts) The ESRB label claims there is nudity in T2T, but I don’t know what they are talking about. In fact, the female characters in this game are much more modestly dressed than in Warrior Within. The Time Empress Kaileena changed into a much more modest dress since the last adventure and there aren’t any leather thongs in sight this time. Some female enemies still dress like pole dancers and the Prince himself spends most of the game sans shirt. Occult/Supernatural: 8.5 Fairy tale type magic is used in game by player. (-1.5 pts) There are supernatural events and enemies throughout the game and the Prince has several magical powers, most of which involve manipulating time. There are no satanic symbols or references. The Cultural/Moral/Ethical: 10/10 There isn’t really anything to report in this category that hasn’t been discussed elsewhere.

The story in this game delivers a good moral lesson. (+3 pts) The principal theme in this game is how motivation affects the moral nature the Prince’s quest. Though physical goal hardly ever changes- the Prince needs to reach and kill his arch enemy- his understanding of why he is fighting does develop. At the start of this new adventure, our hero’s mind is focused on getting revenge and finding glory in the eyes of his people. As the quest continues the Prince discovers that a true warrior is someone who fights for something other than himself. It is someone who is willing to lay down his life in selfless service. His one-track mind turns to helping people in need, even while the Dark Prince’s voice urges him to pursue his own selfish passions. This story of inner turmoil is the strongest part of The Two Thrones because it bluntly echoes the war against evil we all fight in our hearts. Because of this, The Prince of Persia has become one of gaming’s most complicated and compelling characters. Some might notice that mention of God is absent from this spiritual lesson; the strength the Prince uses to master his inner demons comes from within himself and from his few friends, so while the moral message is certainly good, the Christian may find it incomplete.

Conclusion:

Anybody who has played The Sands of Time and Warrior Within is defiantly going to want to see how it all wraps up in The Two Thrones. Anybody who is interested in The Two Thrones is probably going to want to play those other games first. This is truly an all-or-nothing trilogy, but the commitment is worth it. Because of the violence I do not recommend this game for children but teens and adults should know that this is just barely into M-rated territory. All in all, it’s a great addition to a great franchise.

Final Ratings

Game Play: 18/20 Graphics: 9/10 Sound: 8/10 Control: 4/5 Stability: 4/5 Appropriateness: 44.5/50

Total: 87.5

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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