|System: X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Sierra Online Shanghai||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Sierra Online||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: April 24, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
Lost Cities for the XBLA is the electronic version of the strategy card game developed by Reiner Knizia of Kosmos Publishing. The game is authentically recreated for the arcade and full of the strategy and tactics that made the tabletop game an instant classic. Furthermore, playing against gaming peers from around the world via Xbox LIVE is an awesome addition. Sadly, the single-player mode doesn't offer much in the way of adventure like I thought it would. Consequently, matches against the CPU are pretty dull though quite challenging on hard difficulty.
If you're looking for an electronic port of a great card game, then Lost Cities should suffice. However, more creativity and the addition of a story would have gone a long way to making Lost Cities a true arcade adventure. Lost Cities is a card game that's easy to learn but difficult to master. It is a turn-based game that has players form expeditions to five ancient, lost cities. The lost cities are represented by five city cards, which are placed in the center of the screen. The object of the game is to start expeditions to any or all of the cities and realize greater profits than your competition can. Games consist of one to five rounds. Each round continues until all 60 Expedition and Investment cards have been drawn. At the end of the round the points are tallied and the highest accrued total of all rounds determines the winner.
The best way to accrue your fortune from each expedition is to fund the exploration well. The only way you can do so is to utilize the Investment cards (multipliers) and Expedition cards (points) to your advantage. By placing a run of Expedition cards beneath a city, you will be credited with the total points on the face of the cards. However, starting a new expedition isn't free. Every time you place the initial card beneath a city you will have 20 points subtracted from your total. After all, it costs money to explore these lost lands. Additionally, the initial cost can be magnified to a negative 40, 60 or 80 points by placing one, two or a maximum of three corresponding Investment cards. Placing Investment cards before starting a run is risky business, but it can also give you windfall profits by multiplying your reward by two, three or four times!
The game employs a ton of strategy! In fact, there are several different kinds of strategies that can win. You can play conservatively and allay risk by take small profits; you can leverage risk in order to maximize profits; or you can even concentrate on sabotaging your opponent's strategy by holding key cards. Many strategy options are possible and players on XBLA tend to find one they're comfortable with and run with it. As a result, there is a lot of varied competition to be found out there, and every game feels different. Furthermore, you can play 2-v-2 co-op battles that allow for card sharing and throw additional low point Expedition cards into the mix. The only problem with the online showdowns, either 1-v-1 or 2-v-2, is that there are long spells when no one is playing. Therefore, you'll be forced to wait for a while before new blood enters the fray.