After having defeated the evil Grand Vizier Jaffar, the brave Prince claimed just one reward: the hand of the beautiful daughter of the Persian Sultan. However, as the Prince approached the palace, his appearance suddenly turned into that of a beggar. Someone who looked just like the Prince ordered to throw him out. It turns out that Jaffar is alive and back for vengeance. Banished from the palace, the unfortunately Prince must travel to faraway lands and find a way to defeat the villain.
Prince of Persia 2 is, like its predecessor, a cinematic platformer. Much of the gameplay is reminiscent of the first game, focusing on precise jumping puzzles, swordfighting, and overcoming many hazards in order to stay alive. Swordfighting is more prominent and features situations where several enemies attack the Prince at once. Reinforcements may arrive after the Prince has eliminated all visible enemies. Like its predecessor, the game must be completed within a time limit.
Thought the story ended with Jaffar's death? Not so fast! After the prince defeated the evil Vizier, the Sultan, who has returned from the foreign wars, offered him great riches. But the stranger had only one wish - to marry his daughter. And so, the young couple lived happily...well, for eleven days. One day, when the prince returned to the castle he noticed, confused, that noone recognised him, not even the princess. Great was his astonishment when he saw near the throne his perfect twin, as if ripped from his own flesh, acting in his place. Yes, Jaffar and his magic have returned! At the Vizier's command, the guards rushed to dispose of our hero. The streets were his only escape...
Prince of Persia 2: The Shadow & The Flame is a collection of 15 levels of pain and frustration, that is, comparing it with the first title in the series. The developers have really improved what was lacking consistence in Prince of Persia, but also ruined the element that made it popular in the first place: character control. The movement is not smooth anymore and the actions are made with an annoying lag after pressing the respective key, which often kills your attempts at jumping over a pit, for example.
The keyboard control configuration has also suffered some modifications, if we don't consider the "free running" mode which has remained the same: Down Arrow to crouch, Up Arrow to jump and scale ledges, Right Arrow and Left Arrow to run in one of the directions and Shift to move cautiosly and hang from ledges when falling. Changes were made to the "combat" mode. Now you can activate it whenever you want, not necessarily having an enemy in front of you. This is done by pressing Ctrl. When in combat, Ctrl serves also for attacking, Up Arrow to block, Right/Left to move and Down Arrow to sheathe your sword and exit "combat mode". Another addition is the multiple saving slots. Comparing it with the first PoP, where you could have only one save file, you now have 10 slots. To bring up the saving menu you press Alt+G, and to load a previous game - Alt+L. They have introduced also a rudimentary checkpoint system (usually one checkpoint per level). The checkpoints help you a lot, because the levels are bigger and like I said, harder. When loading a game you will start either at the beginning of the level, or at the checkpoint after which you saved.
Of course, 3 years of technological progress have brought better graphics. The levels are now diverse and detailed, starting from the harbor, continuing on the beaches and in The Abandoned City, and finally ending with the cultists' temple and the Grand Palace. It's clear that the artists were inspired from different titles of that age. For example The Abandoned City copies perfectly Castlevania's levels, there are even medusa heads and snakes. Speaking of enemies, there's an entire selection of them: guards, skeletons, medusa heads, snakes, cultists (birdmen) and special characters. With each level their life and difficulty increases, so it's essential to learn their attack patterns. The most frustrating are the medusa heads, but once you learn when to strike and after you get the new sword, they'll be piece of cake. There are three swords which you'll use during the game. The second one is the weakest, taking only half of life bullet from the enemy and having a short reach. The first sword and the last "special" sword are basically the same, taking a full life bullet (the difference is in their reach). Obviously, you can't swap the weapons, because you acquire them in special storyline events.
Your main objective remains the same - to open and to enter the final level door...in case there is one. If there isn't, you should use your creative mind and find other means of escaping the place. And let me assure you most of the puzzles here are not logical. What did you expect from a game with magical carpets, flying horses and evil wizards? Slabs are still the most important gameplay element and those come in different types: slab that opens gate, closes gate, opens level door, loose down (falls under your feet), loose above (falls on you when hitting it with the head mario-style), flip-flop (rotates horizontally sending you down in the pit). Perhaps you also want to hear about the wide range of traps present in the game: lava pits, dart guns in the form of small artificial frogs, horizontal spikes and cutters, crushers... Everything you need to avoid boredom. You can try creative ways of killing yourself, or better - to kill your enemies. You can send them in the burning lava or you can push them right into the cutters...
If you read up until now and thought you're lucky there's no time limit in the sequel, you were gravely wrong. You can take your time only when passing the first three levels. The evil Vizier Jaffar curses the princess with an illness and you'll have only 75 minutes to reach the Grand Palace and save her from the clutches of death. Sometimes when you die or clear a level, an image of a tree with fading leaves appears. It shows the princess' remaining life, but it's not really important. If you do everything right and load again each time you die (not restart), you'll have 20-30 minutes to spare when you'll reach the ending.
The story is told by a nice narrator voice in the background, which is an improvement over the almost silent prequel. There is no voice acting, but who needs it in a simple oriental tale. The only sound-related complain I have is they didn't make any for the footsteps, as if the prince were a ghost.
The biggest difference between the first two games in the series is the emphasis on combat. If the first was puzzle-centered, the Shadow & the Flame keeps you active with fighting sequences. You'll be surprised when 2, or even 3 enemies will fight you at the same time. In this kind of situations you should kill them fast one by one, because they'll attack you from both sides, and last time I checked Germany lost the Second World War when battling on two fronts.
If you have the patience of a monk, and the spirit of a warrior you'll simply love the game. Otherwise, the frustration that comes with learning every level corner and suffering death countless times before you understand how to avoid it will certainly take you closer to insanity. And don't worry - nobody will laugh at you if you cheat in this game!
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