Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones
Have you ever had the feeling - like a shiver scurrying up to the back of your neck - that you've walked into the middle of a story? If you've never entertained the idea of having a split personality, this game may change your mind. Literally. For, simply by walking into the fire, you can sample the delights and elicit pleasures of walking on the dark side of the tracks. That said, this game really is only for a certain type of person. If you revel in the latest Sudoku craze and always beat Inspector Morse in the cryptic crossword final, this game is for you. You will need the skill, tenacity and mental agility to run along walls, work out how to jump from one dangling lifeline to another and sneak up on your prey in a manner the creators of the "Thief" series of games would be proud. If, however, you'd rather just fight the bad guys and actually enjoy the story element of a computer game, it's time for a trip back to the videogame store because you've bought the wrong title.
Welcome to Babylon. If there's time, take in the splendour of the hanging gardens. But first: business. Evil-doers have taken a friend of yours hostage. They found her unconscious on the beach. You were lucky they didn't find you. The city which should have welcomed you home with open arms caresses you with images of torment, tragedy and terror. Something has turned your home into a wasteland of carnage and despair. To discover the truth, you must glide as softly as a cloud past enemies with huge swords and even larger egos. If you cannot make a kill in stealth mode, your life may be in danger and these enemies of yours are not simpletons. The forces of your foe react to every subtle movement, every whisper, every flinch. It's just possible that they will see you before you see them.
But help is at hand. You're not feeling quite yourself at the moment. There's a good reason. One warrior. Two souls. Seek and you shall find the truth in the fire. But beware. Your very own Mr Hyde isn't exactly friendly and he's in possession of a rather nasty weapon. Learning when to remain composed and when to let your dark alter ego have free reign is just another element of the overall strategy of skill and perseverance needed to explore and enjoy this game fully. Picking up the strategy guide for this game is a must as playing with a general "just for fun" attitude leads only to frustration.
"Prince of Persia: Two Thrones" tries its best to draw you into the action. Big brutes of guards and soldiers attack you without so much as a by-your-leave. Huge areas of the city are locked in a darkness only ever punctuated by the flames within the ruins. The scent of danger is everywhere and, around each and every corner, there is a new horror to face. For decades, psychologists have told us that the pastime of playing videogames revolves around escapism. We are, apparently, desperate to shake off reality and become something we could never dream of. New players in the videogame world have proved the old adage of "we play to escape" is fundamentally flawed. In "Prince of Persia", you can run along walls, make ridiculous jumps across to crumbling platforms and bridges. You have two selves ready to battle the enemy and your skill is just one of the weapons in your arsenal. Yet, the player remains under whelmed. In contrast, all you have in "Resident Evil 4" is a gun and a strong nerve. In games such as "Prince of Persia", the player should be given a fighting chance to survive and little else. A fighting chance is what spurs on the nightmares, makes the shivers travel along your spine on tip-toes and generally makes you fall asleep thinking about the game you played till after midnight even though you promised your girlfriend you'd actually get some sleep for once. Adrenalin comes from knowing you could die at any moment. Not from the knowledge that you, unlike your enemy in the game, have super powers.
With the unfair advantage in " Prince of Persia" on your side, the excitement dwindles and you don't feel compelled to turn the Playstation 2 on in the dead of night just to discover what happens next to your character. Sometimes, we play videogames not to escape but to live; to do things in the here and now which would have us arrested or killed if they were played out for real. Perfect realism is boring. But it is time that games companies stopped making their characters into super heroes. True, nobody expected you to identify and empathise with the Mario Brothers all those years ago. But if you can't at least imagine what your character is meant to be feeling as a result of his situation, then the impulse to play the game dwindles no matter how graphically impressive the game decor is.
A game lives or dies on how much you want to keep playing - how much you want to keep playing when you know you shouldn't. "Prince of Persia" is a very good game indeed, but that doesn't mean anything unless you want to play again after you've made a terrible mistake, gone the wrong way, threatened the wrong foe and died in the game. Indeed, in "Prince of Persia", the save points mark the spot where the story pauses and the narrator informs you that, one day, she will pick the story up from the moment you let go of the narrative - the moment your interest waned. The graphics of this game have to be seen to be believed. The game play can be tedious to the point of frustration at times, but it is novel and interesting. The game fails to create a convincing, "hook-the-player" atmosphere and only those seasoned puzzle solvers out there will come back for more time and time again. Take the plunge into Babylon but don't expect to surface for quite some time.
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