Prince of Persia 2: The Shadow and The Flame is one of my all-time favorite games. As a child, it was one of the first games that I beat beginning to end. I had a short text document with some tips, but a lot of the puzzles (and all the intricacies of the execution) I had to figure out myself. The sense of satisfaction was great, and I kept replaying sections periodically, improving my skills. Even years later, thanks to the great collection of Prince of Persia information on the Prince of Persia Unofficial Website I learned of new tricks and secrets.
Recently, on the occasion “Prince of Persia” month on DOS Game Club, I participated in a few discussions, where I learned that not every fan of Prince of Persia shares my appreciation for the sequel; there were a lot of complaints about bugs and excessive difficulty. I replayted all the publicly available DOS versions of Prince of Persia 2, and realized the following things:
- The difficulty is indeed higher than in the first Prince of Persia, leading to a steeper learning curve and greater frustration for beginners (even if they are experienced players of the first game). The difficulty is higher both in figuring out the puzzles and executing the moves.
- At least part of the “unfair” difficulty attributed to the game is, in fact, due to bugs in the initial release, which were cleaned up in the later versions. Specifically, this includes the infamous bug where running jumps are very sensitive to timing and initial positioning, contributing to many deaths falling off ledges.
- Bugs aside, there are more differences between the different versions than is obvious at first, to the point of significantly altering the preferred gameplay in some levels.
Revisiting the game, I was impressed by it all over again, with its multiple paths, hidden areas, tricks and shortcuts (intentional and unintentional). I decided to record a video walkthrough (fortunately, DOSBox makes it very easy these days), and accompany each segment with commentary and insights of some of the techniques. I hope that it is useful to newcomers playing this classic for the first time, and that perhaps even experienced players can find a curious thing or two.
About the walkthrough
There are three known versions of Prince of Persia for DOS (not counting the demos), which can be identified by pressing Alt+V during game. These are the initial release (“IR“), which displays no version number, and 1.0 and 1.1, respectively (note that the setup program for “IR” shows “1.0” which may be confusing – so always rely on the in-game output of Alt+V). For various reasons outlined in the POPUW tips page, as well as in the commentary for the videos, I prefer version 1.0, and so most of the recordings are from that version. In levels where the differences affect gameplay in a significant manner, I’ve included recordings of the other versions, as noted.
- In the videos I attempt to showcase every useful room in the game, and a few that are not necessary for completion, but nonetheless interesting. I did not try to get to every single corner of every level, as that would take too long and disrupt the flow of gameplay.
- Alternate paths through levels are shown, where applicable, in separate videos, with discussing of the tradeoffs.
- In the commentary , I emphasize some tricky points that may be crucial for successfully navigating certain areas (e.g., order of operations, positioning, timing).
- The walkthrough is not a speedrun; With a couple of exceptions, I did not try to optimize the gameplay down to the micro-level (e.g., making pixel-perfect jumps), but I believe it is mostly optimal on the macro-level (i.e., there are no obvious time-wasters or major mistakes). For example, I may try to avoid fights with enemies when it is possible and easy, but do not go out of my way to skip them via super-precise timing or glitches.
- With that said, some notable glitches in the game are shown, but only if they are meaningful (either saving time or providing an alternate route), and 100% reproducible without demanding perfect execution accuracy. In all such cases, the expected “normal” path, not exploiting any bugs/glitches, is also shown.
- Cutscenes are omitted in most cases.
Like the original game, Prince of Persia 2 uses the concept of major, life-extending potions to increase the Prince’s maximum hitpoints (health bottles) as you advance through the game. Unlike the first game, though, these are not optional: you start with 3, but a minimum of 11 hitpoints are required to beat the final level. This means you need to find at least 8 major potions scattered through the levels. Fortunately, there is a total of 13 (12 in IR) such potions obtainable throughout the game, so if you miss one or two, you can still get enough. Furthermore, if you somehow made it through the game without enough hitpoints, the last level offers an infinite supply of life potions attainable through combat, although you would probably spend more time fighting to get them than you would have saved skipping collecting them during the levels, so it is not necessarily a good strategy – merely a backup plan to prevent you from getting stuck in an unwinnable situation at the end.
The walkthrough shows the location and the method to obtain every major potion in the game. Getting them all would theoretically allow 16 hitpoints, but the game has a maximum of 12 (and you really only need 11), so 4-5 of them can be skipped. Some are much harder to reach (or require more time, and after a certain point in the game you do have a time limit). In the commentary I will discuss when it makes more sense to skip a major potion than to go for it.