In an homage to all that is Princely, I wish like mad that I could get away with buttless leather pants, or the high-pitched melodic squeal that comes from The-Artist-Formerly-Known-As-That-Stupid-Symbol-Thing. I feel it would be the perfect way to salute one of my favorite games of last year, and certainly one of the most anticipated sequels after seeing it in action at E3.

Prince of Persia 2 was showcased in a hooded kiosk within the Ubisoft camp, shrouded by gauzy, haphazard drapes and billowing fog. On an LCD screen too small to do the Prince and his new, fresh moves justice, I watched rapt as a darker era unfolded with the Prince at the center of it all. The theme was much more pervasively mature, which is a definite change in tone from the previous game. Where the hero used to be uncertain, surprised, and suitably wary, the new Prince handled his dire situation with a grim steadfastness. Along with his attitude came a greater competence in his skills to run for his life and, once again, save the world.

His repertoire of moves has expanded a bit from the previous game. Not only has the number of acrobatic exercises expanded, but the organics of each with respect to the other has been added as well. Running along a wall is no longer simply that. There are smooth animations that carry through from one action to the next, making the Prince a flurried cloud of ass-kicking. A protracted wall-run can be combo-ed with an attack on an enemy at the other end, or a jump can turn into a rebound off of one enemy and into the next for a fluid takedown. There are also beautiful executions of enemy creatures (for lack of a better word) like a dual-sword evisceration that severs the upper body from the lower body. Because of the presence of the sand dagger in the first game, wielding two weapons just wasn’t possible, and here it’s given due diligence with extra large fries. On top of all that heady slashing action, a projectile weapon element is all new for the series. Looks like he’ll need all the help he can get, too, with enemy numbers, types, and sizes stretching past the self-imposed limitations of the first PoP.

Environmental maneuvering has been upped as well. Grab onto a rope hanging from a wall, and run back and forth until you are able to perform the wall run that the Prince seems to do so much better than any other game character. In response to a gamer email regarding a deficiency in the first PoP, there is also a move included which allows the player to pierce curtains hanging on walls with a sword and ride the slowed descent to safety.

Having been so enthralled with the mythos and action of the first PoP, I will naturally stand in line to acquire this latest iteration. Everything from the darker environments to the astonishing move set to tried-and-tested control schema (even a new love interest character, possibly playable!) has it pinned has Nominate for Best Game of 2004 written all over it. I can’t wait for the Q4 ’04 release date – time just can’t go by fast enough.

- Tim Eller