2004 has been the year for sequels, for there have been many. In fact, most of this year's best games have been sequels. GTA3.2: San Andreas, Halo 2, Burnout 3, Pikmin 2, Metroid Prime 2, Half-Life 2, Outrun 2 and such, the list goes on. And generally speaking, these have all been a step-up from their prequels. They've all done the same thing, but better. So if you'd never tried the originals, you'd generally be well advised to opt for the freshest iteration. Of course, there have been exceptions, but we were looking forward to evidence of the same phenomenon when we tested out Prince of Persia 2: Warrior Within.
The first game won critical praise partly because it had created a stunning contemporary translation of an old school favourite. Plenty of jumping, plenty of puzzles, and a quiet, calm pace pleasantly distinct from its peers. So we expected the same vibe from this. Alas, the new, much-heralded, emphasis on combat has changed the character of the game. Gone is the hapless young Prince as we knew him, and in his place is a bit of a bastard with a sword in each hand. This time round he's even got an American accent; although in the circumstances, that's quite acceptable because one normally expects increased evil to warrant an increasingly English accent, with the Prince bellowing Alan Rickman/Jeremy Irons style laughter as he decapitates another foe.
The general setting has changed too. Instead of the delicate Arabian backdrops seen before, which took the player to places they would genuinely like to visit, Warrior Within’s setting has been heavily moodified. It’s all become quite macabre, with a much darker tone and lashings of blood at every available opportunity. Although there’s nothing wrong with this shift per se
, it does make this sequel feel distinctly less charismatic: there are plenty of other titles that operate in a not dissimilar world. When you find WW’s first outdoor garden environment, for instance, you’ll be wondering why there couldn’t be more like that. In short, the first PoP game lived in a world straight out of the pages of Conde Naste Traveller magazine, whilst the Warrior Within destination would fit nicely into an episode of Holidays From Hell. We know where we’d rather be.