Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones joins Devil May Cry 3 as 2005's official third game apology for the shitty second game.
This game is actually fun to play. Any dread over the new stealth system is unfounded. You frequently run into patrolling enemies, but the environments are set up so that there's almost always some approach where you can take them by surprise. Flip across some poles to slide down a narrow crack then hang above them, Splinter Cell style. Drop down and you grab the enemy, at which point the game slows down at certain parts and you have about a second to hit the attack button and dispatch them. Fail and you're punished by having to fight them with the boring combat system.
The stealth kill system keeps the game moving, and is just fun to play as a desert sand ninja. Instead of the typical slow moving stealth shit, you get fun fun Prince of Persia acrobatics for the approach. It also renders stupid boring Splinter Cell completely obsolete.
Across the wall, off the ramp, past the lamp post. Nothing but carotid. NINJA!
Now, considering they admitted the combat sucks and set it up so that skipping it is considered a reward, it's a mystery why they included the dark prince mode. Periodically you'll transform into the dark prince, at which point you'll take on gangs of enemies with wannabe God of War chain blades; it's God of War without the polish or gore. As the dark prince your health is constantly draining and the only way to refill it is by killing an enemy or busting open a sand filled barrel. Sometimes you have to do platforming sections on a time limit as the dark prince, which gets annoying.
Some boss fights are pretty fun: fight a huge giant. Try to get on top of his head through acrobatics across the arena then jump on him for some timed button pressed dagger attacks. Just like God of War. Unlike God of War, I've fought two bosses and the game isn't over yet!
Bladed chain whips and timed fatality sequences, the new bullet time?
There's a certain charm missing though. Sands of Time was gorgeous and had some breathtaking Ico level views. In TTT, it looks like they skipped the last two steps of graphical polish for everything. Also joins Devil May Cry 3 in the annoying trend of replacing all the attractive glowing blue stat displays with ugly bars and dull yellow icons. The sand animations for finishing off enemies also seem uglier. There's some extremely annoying buzzing sound whenever you make a menu choice, and the menus just seem clunkier. All these rough edges and lack of polish really add up after a while.
On another atmospheric note, most of the voice acting is horrible. Your dark half takes the form of a disembodied voice that I think is supposed to provide comedic relief, poorly. The Prince retains his flapping Warrior Within independently modeled greasy hair (I call it the "Aragorn-do"). Indian princess Fara from Sands of Time returns, and now she's sporting spiked metal bodice armor :( . Gone are the great actors of Sands of Time (the same guy does the prince, but just sounds....worse), or the amusing quips between Prince and Indian Princess. In their place is dialog straight out of a Sci Fi channel original movie.
Story? Some army just showed up in the Prince's kingdom. No real explanation how it happened, it just did. Start killing sand creatures.
In terms of pure gameplay, The Two Thrones is the best Prince of Persia game yet. Now if only they could do something about the polish, story, and dialog.