Replay Value: 5
Indeed, altering the past gets our Prince in trouble once again. His shenanigans in Warrior Within might've seemed righteous at the time, but Two Thrones opens up with our shaggy, young noble returning home to an empire under siege. The Vizier is alive again and essentially everything that was accomplished in Sands of Time has been reversed. Familiar characters don't even recognize our poor Prince, but that doesn't mean he's alone. All of the stress from his recent adventures has built up and instead of running to MySpace to post about it, his angst manifests itself in the form of the Dark Prince. He's dark blue and his hair sticks up! He's also mean and has a big old chain wrapped around his arm to signify just how rebellious and anti-authoritarian he is! Ultimately, he's kind of a gimmick, though.
The Dark Prince will take over from time to time and usually right when you need to beat up a room full of enemies. He constantly loses life, but just about any baddie you defeat will yield an energy-restoring glowing ball of sand. You can pretty much just hit triangle over and over again in any battle situation with Dark Prince, because he's just that powerful. It's a little cheap and a lot less fun than the various techniques that normal Prince needs to take advantage of to get the upper hand. It's not that he doesn't have them, it's just silly to use them. Granted, there are a few areas where the Dark Prince form serves as a sort of “timer” for you to get through a series of traps/puzzles before his life runs out, but otherwise, he just feels like a novelty.
There are some better additions to the gameplay to be found in Two Thrones, though. Plenty of new conventions are integrated fairly well into the levels, such as special wall grips that you hang onto by stabbing them with your dagger, or springboards that propel you diagonally. One of the cooler ones is the ability to do a Sam Fisher-like leg split between walls and shimmy up or slide down to get the drop on enemies. The only problem with the level design is that the game essentially forces you to do according to its rules. It's very linear in this respect, and multiple ways to accomplish things in certain areas would've been nice. It gets a little silly when falling just a few feet will kill you because the developers couldn't come up with any better route to get through a scenario. Either way, you'll have to scrutinize your environments a lot closer this time around.
Of course, even that can be tough when the graphics are a little muddy. Honestly, it's not all that bad, but some weird camera angles, canned animation, and an iffy framerate make for a visually awkward game. It just feels disjointed in some parts and you can quickly become frustrated because a canned animation will make you mis-step or fall to your death doing something you didn't mean to do. The controls don't help much, either. All this combined with the occasional hit detection glitch lead to some truly deadening experiences (the two chariot sections of the game come to mind – they feel somewhat out of place and carriage controls mimic a bullet train trying to drift like an RX7). The game does have beauty in some spots and it's overall pretty good but a lot of tweaking would go a long way in this respect
The audio's a little better. It's the same stuff you've come to expect from the series, but I wouldn't be rushing out to find a soundtrack anytime soon. The voice acting is pretty good, even if the dialogue is downright silly at times. The Prince will act like an angry, sarcastic bastard bent on vengeance one moment and then wax nostalgic the next (one line about “galavanting around the marketplace like all manner of animals” was awkwardly humorous, for example). I'm just not really sure how I'm supposed to feel about the character as he comes off as a jerk most of the time. A friend of mine mentioned how strangely Orientalist the Prince's colonized British accent is, but I can accept that as a result of appealing to a Western audience. When there isn't much worth appealing to, though, the effort seems a little wasted.
Going back and revising the series might seem like a good idea, but I think it's best to move forward . The basic mechanics and ideas are still fairly cool and I'm always a sucker for a good environmental puzzler with acrobatics aplenty. In that sense Two Thrones is good stuff, but the rest could use some brushing up. Besides, revisiting the past would mean having to go through Prince of Persia 3D again, and I wouldn't wish that on anybody.