Cradle Of Rome (PC)

By Steven Marsh

Published on Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Graphics: 7.00
Sound: 8.50
Gameplay: 10.00
Replays: 9.00
Gamelength: 10.00

Put on your thinking cap and tool belt because Awem Studio’s “Cradle Of Rome” is a crazy genre mashup that you don’t want to miss!

Awem Studio’s genre mashup “Cradle Of Rome” is yet another puzzle game infused with cross-genre elements, but this time around it’s not much of an RPG or adventure game. In this particular game, you’re tasked with gathering the resources to build Rome. In essence, it’s a strategy/puzzle mix and it’s actually slightly unique.

Everything looks wonderful in the graphics department, but honestly there’s nothing unique in this area of the game. The puzzle pieces are all various resource symbols, such as coins, logs and hammers. It’s very easy to tell the pieces apart from one another at a quick glance, which helps the fast-paced puzzle mechanics greatly. The towns and cities look okay as you build them, but generally don’t look very fresh. However, the variation of the environments makes up for that and helps to keep the game less repetitious on the building side of things.

Not one of the music tracks are bad, but the sound effects are generic. The sound track consists of high quality soft rock and there’s a fair bit of variation. That said, the game is very relaxing, even during the most intense and difficult stages strictly because of these soft tunes. It’s a wonderful feeling. The same cannot be said about the sound effects, although they’re still somewhat relaxing. What would you expect from a puzzle game, though? There are only so many sound effects you can use for something of the puzzle genre.

Every aspect of the game reminds me of watered down, yet still enhanced “Puzzle Quest”. Anyone who’s played “Puzzle Quest” will most certainly find plenty of fun in “Cradle Of Rome”. The actual puzzle stages of the game are a very fast-paced and classic design based on the old “piece flip” style. The player must simply swap 2 pieces in either the vertical or horizontal directions to match a series of 3 or more identical pieces. There’s no way to swap pieces diagonally and more pieces fall down into place when a few are destroyed. Each type of piece represents a resource, each of which is required for different things. Some of them fill up “powers” that you can activate at any given time once they’ve been filled up, but the others grant resources which are used to build your current portion of Rome. As an example of the powers, the first one you get is the hammer ability. When you’ve destroyed enough hammer pieces, you can use the hammer ability to destroy any one blue tile. These blue tiles are the object of the stages and eventually cover most, if not all of the playing field. The goal is to destroy all of the blue tiles, which is a simple concept. Simply destroy a piece that’s on a blue tile and the tile will be destroyed, which turns the blue tile into a normal tile. That’s not all, though, as there’s also a timer that slowly counts down in the form of water at the top of the screen. If this water runs out, you must restart the stage and try again. There’s a total of 8 different powers to unlock, a whole lot of different resources and a few other obstacles that get in your way, such as the “chained” pieces, which must be destroyed to unlock that portion of the board. Aside from the actual puzzle side of the game play, there’s also a minor strategy game appeal thrown in for good measure in the form of building things. The order in which you build things is only strategical in that some earlier levels may be easier by saving up for a building that adds a new special ability to the board, but it still adds a new element to the game that feels very fresh, even if not that deep. Even still, it’s an immensely addictive and lengthy game that makes for an amazingly good time. The player is even allowed to keep swapping pieces immediately after another chain has been started, which is almost unheard of throughout the entire puzzle genre and keeps the puzzle action ongoing at a nonstop fast pace. For such an unheard of title, this game is really incredible and is yet another game that deserves at least a chance at Xbox Live Arcade and/or the PlayStation Network, if not a home console or handheld adaptation.

Overall, this is one of the best puzzle games that’s been released for a really long time. That says a lot because they’re a dime a dozen right now, but I mean it. The only flaw I can think of is that multiplayer wasn’t included in any form, but it’s not a big deal because this game is extremely long and doesn’t get old until you’ve finished the game, but then it’ll only make you want more. I’ll definitely go back and play this game again eventually. Awen Studio’s “Cradle Of Rome” isn’t just a game I’ve reviewed. It was a temporary addiction.

Pros:
-Relaxing soft rock sound track.
-Smooth graphics, even if a bit generic.
-Building component works surprisingly well.
-Extremely fun and redefines the word “addictive”.
-Easy at first, but gets harder as you go; perfect difficulty.
-Very long.
-Easy to get back into after it’s over.

Cons:
-No multiplayer.

Bottom Line:
With a little improvement, this game could be the start of an entirely new puzzle genre. The building mechanic needs a little more depth and player control to take it to the next level, so let’s hope the studio is listening! That said, I recommend this game to absolutely anyone who’s able to use a computer mouse and read small boxes of text. It’s just that fun, especially if you’re a fan of the puzzle game genre. The only people who might want to overlook this game are those who seriously can’t stand puzzle games. Buy it. Now.

Overall Rating: 9.00

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