Prince Of Persia 2
July 8, 2018 at 6:24 pm #1601
I’ve just finished playing my way through Prince Of Persia 2 and thought I’d post my initial thoughts I liked a lot about it so to start with the good, the graphics, sound, music and story were all greatly enhanced. There was loads of variety in the background graphics, far more of a storyline than unfolded through cutscenes and the music played throughout adapting to what was happening. The gameplay is very true to the original but adds elements like guards running in from off screen, and multiple simultaneous enemies. It all combines to make the game more cinematic and POP2 starts out really well in the early stages. It gets gradually harder as you play though which is where the bad comes in.
By about halfway through the game, the difficulty is brutal and this just keeps increasing to the end. This starts with the flying goblin head enemies which pause before attacking and you really need to strike them during this pause. They don’t always stop within reach however. I eventually learned that this is based upon the player position on the screen so to beat these things you effectively have to learn which exact spot to stand on by trial and error. There is way more combat in POP2 so this leads to endless repetitions of levels while learning how to win each fight. It’s like you have to learn the exact way the developer tackled the screen when testing it.
The controls in POP2 are nowhere near as precise as in the first game. It is in fact entirely possible for the player to start a running jump from locations where it is impossible to jump from an edge and you will instead run straight off the end plummeting to your death. There are running sequences in the game where you have to know this will happen, briefly stop and start running again in order to compensate. Cue more repetition.
Many of the puzzles are designed so you can only have one attempt at them without having to reload. These puzzles are set up such that you when you do get slightly further, you will immediately trigger another no-win situation purely due to lack of foreknowledge. When you get past this, it inevitably leads to another of these situations. When you have to go through several minutes of gameplay beforehand each time, it is outright infuriating. Level 9 when you are trying to run onto a horse statue is a prime example here. Some of these puzzles took dozens of attempts.
I can’t help feeling that POP2 must have been responsible for a good few smashed up keyboards back in the day. To be fair, it’s still beatable with practice and you do (slowly) learn the techniques to cope. I reckon it stops being fun by the halfway mark in all honesty so I could only recommend it to the extremely patient.
TijnKeymasterPodcasterJuly 8, 2018 at 9:23 pm #1603
I have so much nostalgic love for POP2. I thought it was absolutely fantastic back in the day. All those different settings! It felt much more epic than the dungeons of the first game to me when I was a kid.
But playing it now, I can see how flawed it really is (and how well-made the first one is!). It’s a shame, because I think some of the scenes of POP2 are really cool and memorable (like the jumping onto the ship as it sails away, or jumping onto the horse statue like you mentioned).July 9, 2018 at 9:27 am #1605
I kind-of agree with everything you guys say, but disagree with the bottom line. 😉
PoP2 is not flawed. It’s just HARD. It’s harder than the first, and I think it was completely intentional. For example: PoP1 also has puzzles where you only have one chance and can end up in an unwinnable situation – they are just far, far simpler (both in figuring them out and in execution), so you don’t get infuriated as much.
The levels are also much shorter in PoP1, so there are fewer puzzles –> fewer traps –> fewer restarts and shorter duration of average restart –> less frustrated players. 🙂
Combat is also harder in PoP2 – PoP1 had only a couple of guards were you really needed to combine block and strike – PoP2 has many more of these (pretty much all the bird-headed temple guards, and a few of the skeletons in the caves). The goblin heads require very precise timing and rhythm, although I did not notice that initial position mattered as much (and you can always inch a bit forward/backward if needed).
All in all, I think the developers just wanted to make a harder game, that will be challenging to players who already mastered PoP1, and they succeeded. If it had been toned down to the same level of difficulty, newbies would be happier, but oldtimers may have been disappointed that the game did not provide enough hours of play time.
The only aspect where I’m not sure that the change was intentional, is the timing on running jumps. The game really requires it to be much more precise – jump too early or too late and you plummet to your death either at the near or at the far edge. It may be that they took out the position adjustment code to make things harder, or it may be an actual bug. It is also the thing that annoyed me the most in the game, and I wish it was back in.
As Pix noticed – pausing and starting the jump from the correct location usually allows you to make the jump safely, but there are a few sequences where you don’t have the time to pause, because some door is closing, and this is very annoying, especially since often you have to restart way-way-back if you miss.
FWIW, PoP2 does allow you to save in the beginning of every level, like PoP1, so at least you after all the exploration and learning is done, and you pass the level on the first try, you can save your progress. This will guarantee you will not run out of time before the end of the game.July 9, 2018 at 11:19 am #1606
I also got the impression that it was intentionally harder, presumably after some criticism about the first game being too easy. I’ve never actually saved my game in Prince Of Persia 1 as I didn’t even realise it was an option when playing a pirated version back in the day. Assuming it works the same as in POP2, you would be able to complete the game pretty quickly using saves I would imagine. In POP2, I made constant use of saving/loading.
Other than the heads/snakes, I don’t reckon the combat is necessarily much harder but there is way, way more of it. There are sections where you must have to get through a dozen guards at a time. The snakes seem to have the same problem as the heads where you need to be in the right position to be able to strike them. Combined with the jumping it smacks of a minor bug to me where the player can get out of alignment with the tile positions. The game is hard enough without having to deal with this sort of stuff. So much of beating POP2 seemed to come down to learning by rote exactly where to stand for each fight or start each jump and I was having to use trial and error to figure it all out. It’s akin to playing the likes of Dragon’s Lair.
I was also getting a good number of crashes on my PII which rubbed it in when they happened after one of the mid-level checkpoints that I’d struggled to get to for ages. Maybe I should have tried slowing my PC down a bit in hindsight.
For all of this it’s still a good game with some memorable moments but I’d question whether it was actually an enjoyable experience. The main emotion I had on beating it was relief. The difficulty did work for it on a few occasions. There was a lot of satisfaction to cleaving through a load of goblin heads after getting a full length sword again.July 9, 2018 at 11:34 am #1607
>> The snakes seem to have the same problem as the heads
>> where you need to be in the right position to be able
>> to strike them.
There is not a single snake in the game that must be actually struck. 🙂 You can always avoid them or jump over them.
>> Combined with the jumping it smacks of a minor bug to
>> me where the player can get out of alignment with the
>> tile positions.
This is an interesting observation and it’s quite possibly a true explanation.
>> So much of beating POP2 seemed to come down to
>> learning by rote exactly where to stand for each figt
>> or start each jump and I was having to use trial and
>> error to figure it all out.
I didn’t notice it being a problem with fights, to be honest. With jumps – yes, a little bit.
>> I was also getting a good number of crashes on my PII
>> which rubbed it in when they happened after one of
>> the mid-level checkpoints that I’d struggled to get
>> to for ages. Maybe I should have tried slowing my PC
>> down a bit in hindsight.
You may have been playing an early, buggy and crash-prone version of the game. Crashes are much less frequent with the later 1.01/1.1 versions, but they still happen (often because of sound bugs).
>> There was a lot of satisfaction to cleaving through a
>> load of goblin heads after getting a full length
>> sword again.
I almost think they put all those goblin heads there intentionally, for that satisfaction. 🙂
rnlfKeymasterPodcasterJuly 9, 2018 at 12:18 pm #1608
I kinda feel like they forgot what made PoP1 great and changed everything in PoP2.
I only played the first level, but I really cannot endure more of this.
The constant hectic music, the higher detail but ugly graphics, the way you don’t get to think about what you are doing and guards are coming for you from left and right… It’s just a completely different game (and it took me 10 minutes to figure out how to even survive the first guard because the game doesn’t give you two seconds to figure out how to draw and use your sword).
All in all I feel PoP2 is awful compared to PoP1.July 9, 2018 at 12:37 pm #1610
Well, you can get rid of the music with Alt+M (although it’s there for the atmosphere and, therefore, only hectic during fights; the first level is basically a non-stop fight).
I think that for games of that era it was expected that you would have had the manual and would have read it. It would also explain that Ctrl (as opposed to Shift) is used to draw the sword…
Oh, and don’t judge PoP2 by the first level. Most of the game is completely different (although in the late levels you get fighting sections that are just as long, and are much harder).July 13, 2018 at 5:06 am #1615
So, I finished my own playthrough of PoP2, to refresh my memory, and can say the following things:
* The running jump timing was not as terrible as I remembered. Sure it is still easier to miss than in PoP1, but I found that it rarely happened to me if I concentrated on the jump.
* I noticed what Pix mentioned about the goblin heads not always stopping at the same distance from you, making them impossible to hit. However, I observed that the first time they hit you and push you back, this is reset, and now they will be at the correct distance (you are still responsible for the timing, though). So you may sometimes be forced to lose some health (up to 4 bottles for some of the heads!), but generally you can still defeat them, without bothering with stopping at the correct tile.
* Versions 1.0 and 1.1 (but not the initial release) have a bug that if you save in the second caves level, then load the game, cutscenes will not be playing for the rest of the game. This has the side-effect that the countdown will not start (it is triggered by the tree cutscene after the second cave level, or if you die in it), so you have infinite time! Unfortunately, also the horse sequence will not show, so you will have a wrong palette at the beginning of the first temple level (saving and reloading fixes this).
* As far as the levels themselves go, I managed to get through most of them without saving/reloading, or at most with one mistake. Exceptions are the first and third temple levels, where I had to refresh my memory a lot to do everything right. The third temple level is particularly terrible. It has at least 5-6 different spots where a single mistake (which requires foreknowledge) will make the level unwinnable.July 13, 2018 at 12:55 pm #1616
This definitely doesn’t match my experience. When fighting heads, if I was in the correct spot and got pushed back. I wouldn’t be able to strike them as a rule. I could get pushed back several times in a row and they would still stop outside my range.
The same goes for the jumps. It wasn’t just about timing with some jumps as they were literally impossible without changing my starting point. It was as though the game was trying to hold back my jump until the tile edge but screwing it up so I would run off the end first.
Maybe POP2 is susceptible to what hardware you are using? There’s plenty of DOS games with timing bugs on faster machines. I’m glad to say I’m not running into this sort of thing on Prince Of Persia 3D.
DavidNParticipantPodcasterJuly 13, 2018 at 2:22 pm #1617
Agh, those biting heads. I never found a reliable way to swipe at them with the half-butterknife that you’re given throughout most of the ruins either – timing gets you so far, but then they’ll hover just out of your range and then swoop in to kill you. They’d be far more enjoyable if they didn’t stay out of range, didn’t have a chance of biting off about four health bottles at a time, and ideally didn’t exist at all.
Prince of Persia 2 really had an avalanche of new ideas – it’s interesting that none of the obstacles from the first game are repeated, not even the basic shrubs of spikes on the floor – but not all of them really worked. And the controls are definitely more sluggish, I feel it in both the jumping and the swordfighting… it’s odd that they didn’t seem to base the game on the perfect groundwork of the original.July 13, 2018 at 8:32 pm #1618
To be honest, I did not have much more problems with the average flying head compared to the average bird-headed guard. In both fights, I often take damage, but deal more than I take. Timing is usually enough… The only really hard ones (that deal 3-4 points of damage in a single bite) are those that guard the life-extending potions in the second and third ruins levels, but they are optional.
I have never known any version of PoP1 or PoP2 to be speed-sensitive, but to be sure I played it as extensively as I could today through DOSBox as well as on my K6-II “real hardware” system, and found no differences.
However, I have a possible explanation – have you by chance been playing the “initial release”? This is the one where cheats are activated using “prince makinit” and if you press Alt+V it just says “Prince of Persia 2” without a version number?
If so, then this might be the problem – I’ve played this version a bit today, and found that I am much more likely to miss running jumps in this one compared to the newer “1.0”/”1.1″, and also the goblin heads may have been out-of-alignment more frequently (although I’m not 100% sure on that one).
So it looks like they really did fix some subtle bugs (in addition to the obvious ones) in the final releases.
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