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Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones

The best possible send-off for the series, and easily the best Prince of Persia to date. A classy little number

That pesky butterfly effect keeps rippling outwards for the poor Prince. Having unleashed the Sands of Time, laying his kingdom to waste, and then journeying to the Island of Time to put things right, the Prince expects that finally, he can return back home to the Babylon he knew before the Sands reached out and corrupted the world. Only we know that's just not going to happen, don't we?

At the end of Warrior Within, when the Prince returned his kingdom to the way it was before he unwittingly unleashed the Sands, he thought he had altered everything. Well, he had, except for the small question of his fate. He returned the world to how it once was, which meant that all the dark powers in the world who had sought to wield the Sands of Time were now very much alive, and still hungering for them.

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The wheel had come full circle, and as the final part of the Prince of Persia trilogy sets off, we find ourselves not so much back to the beginning, but at an alternate beginning, where the Vizier still walks the Earth, and where, in the Prince's absence, he's been able to make the Sands of Time his own. Now, in this final struggle, the Prince must put an end to the Vizier once and for all, and bring peace back to his native Babylon. But it's not going to be easy, especially because he's been infected with the Sands himself, but more on that in a bit...

By returning to the beginning of the Prince's story, and having him retain all the strength and power he developed during the second game, the third and final chapter is a perfect blend of the best of both games. The combat is there from Warrior Within and runs like a dark vein throughout, while the Sands of Time are back too, offering more timemeddling puzzling and head-scratching. This is the best of both worlds, and then some. New to The Two Thrones are the Prince's vastly improved killer moves. If the keywords for the previous games were 'puzzles' and 'combat' respectively, this time it's most definitely 'stealth'.

Because Babylon is occupied by a mysterious army, the Prince is effectively hunted at every turn and must use caution just as much as a sharp blade. Before getting into a ferocious swordfight with half a dozen or more enemies, there is always an option for stealth that presents itself. By looking around the environment there are always ropes or ledges you can hang from in order to spring a surprise attack. By doing so, and by keeping quiet, you can, if you time it correctly, wipe out entire legions of enemy warriors without alerting their comrades in arms to your presence.

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A stealth kill can only be carried out successfully if you strike when your dagger flashes blue. Time it right and you make the kill, but get it wrong and you'll have to fight your way out with nothing but a few tanks of time-reversing sand and acrobatics to save your skin. Neither option, be it stealth or full-frontal attack, is easy, but the choice to do either adds real depth to much of the game. Naturally, the harder the enemy the more times you have to perfectly time your strikes with the flashing of the blade, but pull off a stealth kill on a 30-stone, scimitar-wielding, fire-breathing cow-man and it's deeply satisfying. However, despite the new combat options, nothing quite makes The Two Thrones rock quite as much as The Dark Prince, a flame-haired lunatic with a penchant for choking people with his barbed-wire whip.

The Dark Prince is the badass alter-ego of the regular Prince, a character born of the Sands of Time, and one who is slowly eating up the Prince's personality by randomly turning up throughout the game and inhabiting his body. His arm, infused with a spiked chain known as the daggertail, is a stunning weapon, part whip, part portable guillotine. He can swing from distances too far for the Prince to reach, and lower the daggertail silently down over an enemy's head like a noose before yanking it upwards with a wet wrenching noise. You can imagine the mess that makes. The new Prince's abilities and the daggertail, have enabled the developers to construct bigger, more tricky environments that push this final instalment to the very limit. Gone is the claustrophobic feel of Warrior Within, replaced by a grander, more deadly Sands of Time-style environment, one that unfurls every step of the way with increasingly spectacular gameplay.

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