A couple of months ago at the L.A. Games Conference, Jack Buser, Senior Director for PlayStation Digital Platforms introduced the new PlayStation Mobile suite. Basically it's a development group to develop and port android apps over to Sony’s PlayStation Vita. While this helps get games on Sony’s new handheld console, it really doesn’t do much for mobile gamers. Actually, it’s another path to what’s wrong with handheld gaming and another nail in the coffin of Sony and Nintendo’s portable consoles. Cradle of Rome 2 on the Nintendo DS and 3DS is a great example of what is likely the net result of PlayStation Mobile.
Cradle of Rome 2 is a match three puzzle game, like many of the other Bejeweled-type games out there. Many of them you can get for free on your phone. Rising Star Games’ latest offering in the Jewel Master series does offer some new wrinkles, but the core gameplay is the same as many cheaper, or even free, offerings for a smart phone. Games like this do little to make commuters or other mobile gamers want to carry around yet another piece of hardware. If Nintendo and Sony continue to license this type of casual fare on their consoles, they are accelerating their own obsolescence.
All of that being said and despite some technical issues, Cradle of Rome 2 isn’t a terrible game. The icon matching game does boast 100 levels, but does not include any sort of multiplayer mode. The main story mode lets you rebuild Rome through seven historical periods in a quest to become Caesar. Your performance in the puzzles awards you resources that can be used to purchase buildings. These are then assembled by executing a sliding puzzle within a time limit to construct and place the building itself. This portion of the game is where players will likely notice the 3DS enhancements.
If Jewel Masters: Cradle of Rome 2 sounds easy, it’s really not. Cradle of Rome 2 adds a lot of obstacles to your matching. Firstly, it’s timed, and besides having to do the puzzle over again if you don’t complete it, your resource rewards also decrease as time passes. There is no penalty however for failing and having to redo the puzzle, except for your time. The shape of the puzzles and physic of the tiles will also force players to rethink moves. The most frustrating part of choosing your move is how small the squares are, which on a standard DS, isn’t much larger than the tip of the stylus. Working your way to the bottom by switching tiles can be especially frustrating when the stylus grabs and flips an incorrect adjacent tile.