Welcome to the fabulous land of Rome, home of a variety of interesting Gods, some of the greatest advances in history and all the orgies you can shake a… Wait, none of that? Oh. I guess we can still look into this one but that disappointment is coming right out of the score. Apparently this is a game about building up Rome from the ground up into the great city it became. It seems that Rome was built by matching up icons on a grid, destroying them and gathering up the resources. Who knew?
Have you gotten tired of playing Puzzle Quest? Do you need to get your Bejeweled-clone fix for the month? Then is this the game for you! Without being facetious on the issue this is really just another puzzle game that uses Bejeweled as a template while expanding upon it just a bit. In some ways playing this game is very familiar to anyone who has played Puzzle Quest. Basically you will be trying to match up three or more of the same icon up on the playing grid to destroy them.
As you destroy these icons you will gather resources that are used to build the buildings that will comprise your great city. The more buildings you make, the more varieties of resources that you can gather. This makes later levels simpler but further complicates the levels by steadily adding more and more icons to manage. The light RPG element that this adds on is just enough to provide you with a coherent experience that drives you to play through the stages. Rather than just destroying whatever blocks are convenient you will try to destroy wood when you need resources, gold when you need money and so forth. It adds an element of purpose to the grid.
There are two ways to enjoy Cradle of Rome; Epoch or Relax modes. Epoch is where you will spend your time trying to build Rome as if you were one of the Gods themselves and is the more enjoyable of the two modes. However Relax mode is exactly what it sounds like - start the mode up, pick a level you've cleared previously and complete it as you like. Since it's completely outside of the frame of the Epoch mode there's no strain to gather particular resources, making it much easier to play through at a relaxed pace.
One thing of note is that the soundtrack is very much an oddity. It's both very good and very drab at the same time. When it's actually playing an interesting music track it's really enjoyable and it can help you focus on what you're doing. However a lot of the music is very quiet, far too soft to really even be heard with the music up fairly loud with even a small amount of background noise.
It's hard to do much wrong when you're using a series of well established gameplay mechanics but Cradle of Rome does just enough right to let it act as a nice tide over until the next Puzzle Quest game. There are a lot of bland puzzle titles that fail on one level or another but Cradle of Rome manages to avoid that status just narrowly. The RPG-ish element adds focus that these other games lack and provides a light experience that can be enjoyed on the go or at home.