Review: Lost Cities
If Uno wasn’t rubbish and played exclusively by cocks…
This week’s review for Microsoft’s Xbox LIVE service is something that I would refer to as a bit of a ‘wasp’s cake’ if you can forgive the Daily Mail style reference. When I bought this game, I knew reviewing it would be hard. Please don’t view that as a indication of the quality of the game in question but view it as a potential warning about the forthcoming review. This is because reviewing board-to-computer game adaptations is a tricky business indeed and are generally considered hard to write a thousand words about (less bitching, more writing – Ed).
Now despite it being a relatively unheard of board game (I’ve never heard anyone talk about it an I hang around with board game geeks!), I was looking forward to playing this game when I heard of its imminent release and thus as soon as I got home from work I paid the 800 Microsoft Points straight up. All I remember thinking at that time was â€œhow bad could it be?â€ which I started to regret as soon as the first time I booted up the game.
Let’s make no bones about this, Lost Cities struck me when I first played it as a weird ass Rummy style card game with all the skill of Uno. Now many of your veteran XBLA players would know Uno is literally â€œjust keep on hitting that ‘A’ button’ and maybe the ‘X’ button once in awhileâ€ so there is hardly any skill involved. Essentially Uno is used as a good place to have a chat and show of your fancy DVD’s via web cam but the main thing between Uno and Lost Cities is that Uno is obtainable for free to most people and at worst you would have to pay half the price of Lost Cities, so far, not so good.
As I started to play the game though I became more and more aware of what I was doing. After the third game I was fully aware of what I was doing, but more importantly what my opponent was doing. At that point all of a Sudden Lost Cities turned from a fairly â€œmehâ€ board gaming experience to a pretty excellent one.
Although the player can not interfere with the other player’s game directly you can use the cards that they discard. Each turn the player can either play or discard a card from their hand. After that they can either pick up the top card from the various discard piles which are face up or from the top of the main deck which are all face down.
Another thing I noticed was that the computer was using â€œexpeditionâ€ cards (which multiply everything including the cost of starting a expedition!) to great effect and not just plonking them down as soon as they got them. You see every time you start a new â€œexpeditionâ€ the player loses twenty points. They must gain points by placing the same coloured numbered cards in a row in order from lowest to highest. Once a numbered card is played they player can not use expedition cards nor can they play any same coloured card with a lower number.
It’s very simple to pick up the rules for this game, but difficult to master. A phrase that’s been said many times, yet its so apt when describing Lost Cities. It’s this pick up and play mentality that draws you into the game.
Uno, Catan and Carcassonne are three great examples of this being put into action. Lost Cities is very much in the same vein as Uno, it being a card game. Yet it has much more in the way of tactics than the aforementioned game
It’s also playable over Live, in two forms the first being 1v1 which is simple enough. The second is 2v2 where you work as a team to complete an â€œexpeditionâ€. Add camera compatibility into the mix and you have a great chill out game.
The graphics are rather perfunctory at best and the sound isn’t any great shakes either. Luckily a game like this doesn’t need anything flashy to make it enjoyable. I honestly hope that there are more conversions of popular card and board games. They’re simple, easy to pick up and fun.
My only gripe is that I’m not quite certain if this game is worth the 800 points, you don’t really get a lot for your money and single player is a little dull. Otherwise this game is a perfect little game for short pick up and play session or used to wind down after a big session of a more hectic game.
Secondary Score: 9/10
After learning the ropes and playing a couple of hours of Rainbow Six Vegas 2 with the boys from the forum me and Richie (quick capsule review: this game is ace – Richie/Ed) decided to boot this game up and see what it was like multiplayer. Now don’t get me wrong while the computer does a good job in what is essentially training the player up for online battles, multiplayer is where this game really shines though as a human player is always more interesting to play than a computer counterpart. Especially as Lost Cities comes with cam support which is always a nice touch.
Since the games in Lost Cities are so fast paces it does make it ideal for short, quick games which is an advantage over other board game games out on the XBLA which can literally take up to an hour (worst case scenario) to play sometimes. (I am looking at you Catan!) You can easily fit a game of Lost Cities between online gaming sessions with no problems at all which is quite handy as me and Richie found out.
Now what’s left to discuss? Oh yeah the presentation and the cost. The presentation is nice and non-offensive. The music is relaxing and generally it’s easy enough to tell what is going on, on screen although the game could of done with making the numbers on the cards just a little bigger for standard definition play but that’s just me.
The cost of Lost Cities is actually a bargain. Now before you all start spamming me with e-mail’s or PM’s saying that Carcassonne was given away for free do me a favour and slap yourself No seriously and for two reasons. The first being that Carcassonne is no longer free and is the same price as Lost Cities and the second being that this game is actually half the price of the actual board game version. I even checked this up on Ebay and I am not kidding so you are actually getting good value for money and it takes a lot less time to set up to, bonus!
Overall I would say that I was pleasantly surprised with this title. I mean the tutorial is a little slow to get to the point and you might not think much of it for the first couple of games but stick with it because this is possibly one of the most pleasant surprises of Microsoft’s digital download service this year. This easy to learn card game is very strategic, to the point were it might make your head hurt but overall at least it’s another great board game conversion for Microsoft’s console.