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The Two Thrones’ Holds Royal Court

Tae Andrews | Friday, January 27, 2006

Using the proven philosophy of, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” “Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones” retains all of the time-travel antics that made the first two installments of the series so enjoyable, while at the same time throwing in a few new wrinkles in time that even Madeleine L’Engle would never see coming.

One of the game aspects that makes the “Prince of Persia” series so much fun to play is its concept of time. Using the Dagger of Time, (easily the most useful time-travel device this side of Hermione Granger’s Time-Turner, or perhaps even that most exalted of time-travel devices, the flux capacitor) the Prince is able to rewind time, slow it down or even speed it up. All of this is done with the same ease one might handle an iPod clickwheel. By far, the best part of the dagger is its Recall feature, allowing you to rewind time when you lead the Prince into certain doom.

The game introduces the new Speed Kill system, which allows you to sneak up on enemies and bushwhack them with a series of creative finishes. In fact, the Prince’s Speed Kills are so stealthy and lethal, you may find yourself wondering if you are playing as the “Prince of Persia” or the “Ninja of Persia.” The Prince’s new skills as an assassin easily trump those of inferior video-game rivals, such as the weakling hero from “Ninja Gaiden.”

All the fun of the first two games returns here as well; the Prince still maintains a healthy disdain for the conventional laws of physics. Run along walls, make death-defying leaps across yawning chasms, and generally exhibit a penchant for the impossible rivaled only by Reggie Bush and Spider-Man.

The storyline of The Two Thrones again manages to wrap itself around the classic time paradox in new and creative ways. This time around, the Prince returns to Babylon, only to find it in flames. A plot twist reveals that, by undoing time itself in a previous adventure, the Prince unknowingly resurrected his nemesis, the Vizier (think Jaffar from “Aladdin”), who is back at his evil antics.

Even worse, the Prince now suffers from a split-personality disorder, a result of some dark magic by that nefarious Vizier. A separate consciousness, the evil Dark Prince, has taken up residence inside the Prince’s mind. Periodically, the heroic Prince will go Anakin Skywalker and turn towards the Dark Side, transforming into the Dark Prince. This will require traversing through key passages as the shadier alter-ego. While vacillating between the Prince and the Dark Prince may be a captivating bipolar experience rivaled only by the Smeagol/Gollum relationship, the Dark Prince is a mixed bag in terms of his gameplay appeal.

Using his vicious whip-like Daggertail weapon, the Dark Prince is much more proficient at combat than his better half. In fact, gamers will find themselves cutting down swaths of monsters and flagellating enemies into easy submission. However, the evil which burns within the Dark Prince is so corrosive that it perpetually eats away at his life force, effectively making him into the equivalent of a video-game SUV. The passages where it is required to play as the gas-guzzling Dark Prince are rather stressful, as they require a vigilant eye on the ever-dwindling health bar.

One of the best aspects of “Prince of Persia” is its sense of romantic adventure. The player explores the game’s magnificent levels at a leisurely pace. Playing as the Dark Prince doesn’t afford the gamer any time to enjoy the beautifully-designed levels. All in all, the darker half turns out to be a major headache in more than a few ways.

Once again, the game’s levels are beautifully crafted. Traipsing across and over the various rooftops and alleyways of Babylon brings to mind the adventures of Aladdin, to the point where you may find yourself periodically wondering, “Where’s Abu?” In fact, there are many parallels to the world of Aladdin: an evil vizier, a beautiful female companion, and the whole sand-scimitars-scarabs motif.

However, whereas “Aladdin” inspires a sense of picaresque adventure, of stealing cantaloupes and outrunning inept, potbellied guards with pet monkey in tow, the mood is definitely much darker in “Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones” and the stakes much higher. Thankfully, there isn’t a blue jinni voiced by Robin Williams who periodically breaks out into song and dance. In fact, the game’s adult themes are hardcore enough to warrant a decidedly un-Disneylike M-for-Mature rating for the title.

“Prince of Persia” is also a thinking man’s game; far from being a simpleton’s hack ’em up exercise in mere swordplay, the latest installment requires you to come up with innovative solutions and solve puzzles in order to make your way around town.

“Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones” is back and better than ever. The only question remaining is but a slight variation on the query once posed by hip-hop group Naughty by Nature: “You down with POP?” Yeah, you know me.