- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Here’s a look at some software and gadgets on store shelves:

Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones (from Ubisoft for PlayStation 2, Rated M: not for players younger than 17, $49.99) A warrior Sinbad would admire has returned to the medieval lands of Persia to control the fabric of time and save his people in this completion of the epic Prince of Persia gaming trilogy.

A classic story of revenge, redemption and schizophrenia unfolds for the player in this rich third-person adventure. The hero finds his home has been ravaged by war; the love of his life has been sacrificed; and a dark spirit occasionally possesses him after he is exposed to magical, time-shifting sands.

Deadly mazes are back in the latest game, as well as the execution of “Matrix”-style attacks. Most important to this latest Persia offering, however, is the addition of chariot combat and an evil side to the hero, who can take on the personality of the Dark Prince, a “Hellraiser”-type character who is delighted to eliminate all who oppose him.

The Prince’s normal proficiency with knives and swords is matched only by his gravity-defying acrobatics, which will find him climbing and jumping between poles, using his fingertips to move along ledges, shimmying between pillars, running along walls and sliding down curtains while dangling high above the ground to continue the assault on his enemies.

Environmental puzzles are an enormous part of the Prince of Persia’s charm, and they do not disappoint. Paths are laced with spiked walls, pressure-sensitive spiked floors and large circular blades waiting to skewer during any misstep.

However, as serial killer Jigsaw from the recent “Saw” movies might remark, “there will be blood,” which is present especially when the Prince confronts an enemy. He can attack stealthily, leading to cut throats, decapitations or long-range takedowns with a carefully thrown blade.

Battles are especially brutal when the Dark Prince takes control of the hero and uses a daggertail — a nasty serrated weapon that looks like a giraffe’s spinal column and works as a tool to traverse environments and to execute lethal damage.

The Prince can control time once he collects enough of the magic sand, normally by walking into clouds of it. A simple button click can recall time (to undo an unfortunate death), slow an opponent’s actions and ripple time enough to crush a group of foes.

Digital scenes enhance the cinematic quality of the action along with majestic graphics, emotional narration, the ability to view sweeping landscapes and a rousing musical score to make the game a fitting finale to the Prince of Persia legend.

Beast Wars: Waspinator (from Hasbro, stand-alone product with disc for DVD-enabled computer or home entertainment center, $15.99).

A species comprising organic material and cybertronic technology returns to celebrate its 10th anniversary in a package containing a convertible mechanical monster and a DVD to enjoy its animated exploits.

This extension of the original Transformers toy line will be remembered not only for its cool, 6-inch-tall figures, but also for its Emmy Award-winning cartoon series from Canada’s Mainframe Entertainment in the mid-1990s.

Boys 7 years old and older will most appreciate the Beast Wars figures, in particular Waspinator, an evil, dunderheaded character that sides with the Predacons in its war with the Maximals. In an eight-step process, it transforms from a stinging insect into a missile-packing robot. (The explosive projectiles are embedded cleverly in the translucent wings.)

The included bare-bones DVD features an entire Beast Wars episode, “Possession,” and nothing else. Within the 22 minutes of intense animation, Starscream, an original Transformer warrior, makes an appearance and takes control of the Waspinator.

Owners also get a bonus piece: the head of the tragic figure Transmutate, seen in the second season of the show. The entire 10th-anniversary line of Beast War characters must be collected to bring that creepy cyborg to life.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; or send e-mail ([email protected]).


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