There are as many sayings about ancient Rome as there are people to say them. Rome wasn't built in a day. All roads lead to Rome. Rome where you want to (oh, wait... not that one). It just goes to show you that the Roman civilization left its mark on the world in ways we cannot even begin to understand. This fascination with Rome has seeped out into modern media, appearing in everything from books to movies, graphic novels, and, naturally, casual games. Cradle of Rome 2 takes us back to the origins of the ancient city, telling the (abbreviated) tale of Romulus and Remus and allowing you to build Rome in as many or few days as you please, one match at a time.
Cradle of Rome 2 is a match-3 game at heart, but there's a purpose to all of that tile swapping. Every match you make adds something to your resource meters, whether it's coins for gold, lumber for wood, water for supplies, or even hammers and bombs to build up special moves. You've got a timer on the right hand side of each level reminding you that you can't take all day with your matching. Clear the board as efficiently as you can, earning as many resources as you can get your grubby little paws on in the process.
After your matching session ends, you'll return to your village where you can spend those resources to unlock new buildings (and thus, new things for your puzzle game). All you have to do is click on the structure, solve a short mini-game, drop the cash and you're in business! Rome grows as each level passes, adding more and more to the thriving city thanks to your l33t matching skillz.
Trophies and unlockable game modes round out the experience, giving Cradle of Rome 2 the ability to draw you back again and again. Some of the trophies are actually a challenge to earn, and you must check your achievements page to see the requirements for each one. After reaching certain milestones, you'll also unlock Tournament and Blitz modes, the former is a challenge to solve puzzles for the best time, while the latter is all about completing the game in double speed. Plenty of challenge, plenty of matching, and who hasn't dreamed of building a city with the splendor of Rome?!
Analysis: Cradle of Rome 2 was designed smartly from the ground up. Everything about the game is responsive, from making matches to menu options, and you never have to wait for the game to play an animation before continuing your thing. It may seem like a small matter, but in an age when so many games ignore the player experience in favor of quirky gimmicks or just making a sale, it's wonderful to see a development studio actually put some effort into the interface.
When simulation meets match-3, getting the balance of the two genres perfect is challenge #1. Awem Studio chose to lean more heavily on the puzzle aspects of the game and leave the simulation to a minimum, meaning you'll spend much more time swapping tiles than you will managing your village. Nudging up the simulation aspect wouldn't be a bad idea in this game, as the gameplay is already very well-tuned and interesting. Adding some thicker sim elements would make Cradle of Rome 2 a heavy-hitting cross-genre experience indeed!
If you played the original Cradle of Rome, you'll find nothing much has changed in this sequel. Everything looks about the same (which, honestly, isn't a bad thing!), the gameplay is the same, and the challenges are on-par with the first in the series. Tournament and Blitz modes are new additions, and they add an extra level of challenge any match-3 fan will enjoy.
While Cradle of Rome 2 doesn't try to break any convention, its mix of genres is an entertaining and well-thought-out element that gives purpose to tile swapping. Don't hesitate to give it a try if puzzle games or a light simulation element are your thing!