|Publisher: Ubisoft Genre: Action|
|Min OS X: 10.4 CPU: Intel RAM: 999 MB Hard Disk: 1500 MB Graphics: 32-bit|
Two decades ago, the original Prince of Persia game burst onto the Apple ][ software scene, and soon migrated to other platforms, as a particularly impressive platform game that used high-quality, rotoscoping animation. The game's central character, the eponymous Prince, used super-human athleticism to evade dangerous situations, and the game's creator, Jordan Mechner, acknowledged the film Raiders of the Lost Ark as being the inspiration for his character's energetic behaviour.
Steven Spielberg could have had little idea just how seminal his film would prove to be. Not only did it spawn three sequels of its own and inspire other similar films, but it also (eventually, when technology evolved sufficiently) inspired multiple series of computer entertainment titles. It is no secret that the Tomb Raider series was heavily inspired by the Indiana Jones films, in terms of style and content rather than hero. Prince of Persia, to some degree, took the opposite approach and inherited a similar hero but not so much the style and content.
Despite the very dissimilar natures of the original games, it's intriguing to note how their different elements have converged to produce what is, in effect, a heavily combat-laden version of Tomb Raider in Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones. Last year I reviewed Tomb Raider Anniversary for IMG, and the thing that struck me while playing through Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones was how really surprisingly similar it is, in lots of ways. It struck me as an interesting example of how two well-established, independent series have evolved to essentially a very similar point. With that in mind, I will make a few comparisons throughout this review.
As a brief recap, though, the Prince of Persia series started off life as a platformer on the Apple ][ in 1989, and was followed by two sequels at five-year intervals; only the first two games appeared for the Mac. Later, in the 2000s, Ubisoft revived the series on its own terms, as a fully 3D reinvention, with The Sands of Time, followed by a sequel, Warrior Within, which continued the story. The Two Thrones is the final instalment in the trilogy, and the first of the set to appear for the Mac; the PC original actually dates from 2005 (so bear in mind that this is actually an older game than Tomb Raider Anniversary). A further game in the series, entitled simply Prince of Persia and not part of the Sands of Time trilogy, appeared last year and has also just recently been released for the Mac. There have been various other spin-offs, and a Prince of Persia film is also on the cards.
Continuity gapAll three games in Ubisoft's Sands of Time trilogy were extremely well received on other platforms, and so it's a shame that only the final instalment has made it to the Mac. If, like me, you have no experience of the first two episodes, you will be left rather non-plussed by the game's storyline at first, and by some of the decidedly odd elements that are central to it, such as sand-monsters and a magical dagger with the power to reverse time. (It's no accident that the words 'Sands' and 'Time' head this trilogy!)
On the positive side, you do get the hang of things as the game progresses and find that, actually, there's a far better story behind it than is commonly the case in games. Certainly, this is the Persia of a parallel universe in which magic is real and all sorts of outlandish and impossible things can happen, such as humans being transformed into flying god-like creatures or five-storey behemoths, and there are various magical adversaries that can make themselves invisible and perform other enviable feats. Nevertheless, within its own context, this game does have a story not only to tell, but to finish off. It's just a shame that Mac players will have missed the first two thirds of it.
For anyone who wants to find out what went before, throughout the series or just in the trilogy, Wikipedia is your friend. As far as The Two Thrones is concerned, what you need to know is that the Prince returns to Babylon to find it in flames and ravaged by war; thus, his overall mission becomes, predictably, the salvation of his people and restoration of his city and empire to its former glory. Along the way, however, he is injured and affected by the magical Sands of Time, which effectively turn him into two entities: himself, and an evil version, the Dark Prince, who is essentially a sand-creature that occupies his own body, and can talk to him even when it is not in control. As the game progresses, the Prince turns into the Dark Prince from time to time, which requires the player to control that character until the normal Prince is restored. The Dark Prince masquerades as a helpful friend to start with, but is later revealed as a malevolent entity and eventually must be defeated.
The story, while far-fetched, is more intricate and engaging that is the case in many games, and keeps the interest up as the game progresses.