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Cradle of Rome

Score: 78%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: D3
Developer: cerasus.media
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1
Genre: Puzzle

Graphics & Sound:

Cradle of Rome is a very iconic puzzle game that adds just enough differences to the overall gameplay to keep it from being completely overshadowed by every other puzzle game on the market.

For the most part, Cradle of Rome looks like a Bejeweled or Jewel Quest clone. You will have a wide variety of pieces that you will flip around the board and, for the most part, they look unique enough to keep you from getting confused. There are a few pieces that look close enough alike to waste the occasional second by switching the wrong tiles. Between levels, you have the opportunity to buy various structures for your growing civilization, and the artwork for those purchases also works pretty well.

While sound isn't always a vital part of puzzle games, Cradle of Rome does an adequate job with its own mix of swooshing sounds when swapping tiles and low-key background music. But the sound does just that, it stays in the background and doesn't get in the way. Cradle of Rome can be played just as well with the volume turned off or it blaring in your ear phones.


Cradle of Rome's core gameplay fits the standard mold of tile-swapping puzzle games. You clear levels by switching two adjacent tiles to form a three-or-more combination of similar tiles. Unlike Bejeweled and more like Jewel Quest, instead of trying to earn a certain number of points, you are trying to uncover each position on the grid (well, each one covered by stone), which is done by having that position be a part of a combination. Once the level is uncovered, your score is tallied and you return to the between-level screen where you use your points to try and buy technologies for your civilization.

This is the aspect that's a little different from other similar puzzle games. Each tile you clear represents some kind of resource (money, food, lumber, etc). The various aspects of your civilization (like a windmill, the Aqueducts, the Parthenon) cost some amount of each resource. By building these different locations, you gain either tiles that give you more resources, or special powers to help you clear the board. But, of course, it would be silly to let you just save up enough to buy the biggest items right away. Instead, the game is divided into different epochs, and each era has several things you can buy. Once you've gotten all of the landmark technologies of that epoch, you move on to a bigger and better (and more expensive) one.


Cradle of Rome has a nasty habit of starting off pretty easy and slowly turning up the heat on you until you suddenly realize you've been trying to get past the same level for hours, and when you do finally get past it, the next one isn't any easier. But don't worry, it seems to take quite a while before that happens. It wasn't until level 55 or so that I started having a real hard time progressing.

For the most part, the game doesn't change all that much as you progress. The game slowly introduces concepts like tiles that can't be swapped until you've made a combination with them once or twice, or the fact that those same tiles are blocking pieces from filling in underneath them. This last tidbit of course makes it hard to match three-of-a-kind for those locked tiles. The level shapes also increase in complexity that really makes it hard to clear every single tile in the alloted time.

A trick that seemed to work really well when I got stuck on a level involved playing the level to fill up certain powers (this is done by clearing that power's tiles), but not using the actual power. Once I had several powers filled, I would restart the level and use them strategically to clear as much of the board as quickly as possible. This is especially effective once you get the bomb (clears nine adjacent tiles) and the lightning bolt (clears many random tiles). Of course, it doesn't make these later levels easy, just more manageable.

Game Mechanics:

A slight, but very effective difference in Cradle of Rome's game mechanics when compared to other similar puzzle games is how the new tiles filter onto the grid. Unlike other games where clearing a block from a column causes the tiles above that piece to fall straight down and a new one to appear at the top, Cradle of Rome's collapsing system has a more fluid feel. It's hard to explain, but when you make a void, the tile that will replace it might actually come from the upper left or right depending on the shape of the board. This effect is most noticeable when you have a row of locked pieces keeping the lower half of the screen from having any tiles. Once you finally poke a hole through that barrier, the pieces fall through and stack up much like sand in an hourglass. Like I said, this is a subtle shift, but it definitely causes a change in how you play.

As a side note, I never ran into a situation where there were no more moves to perform. If I lost, it was because I ran out of time. I don't know if that is an impossible end-condition in Cradle of Rome, or if I was just really lucky, but I feel a lot of that was due to this change in how the new blocks come onto the level.

Cradle of Rome is a really solid puzzle game that fans of the genre, and this particular style of puzzle game, will definitely enjoy. It has enough differences to be seen as something more than a Bejeweled clone, but most of those differences are outside of the actual gameplay, so it's not too different. Of course, this isn't necessarily a bad thing since that style of puzzle game is really solid and fun.

-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

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