• Weirdly there’s one thing that works really well on the Xbox Live Arcade, the turn-based game.

    We’ve already seen Settlers of Catan, and Carcasonne take XBLA by storm, now it’s the turn of Lost Cities, a card-based strategy game harking back to 1999.

    Sierra Online has given Reiner Knizia’s award-winning card game the XBLA treatment, and though the game may seem complicated at first it’s actually deceptively simple with a strategic bite like a sabre-toothed tiger.

    The basic gameplay mechanics of Lost Cities are based around two types of cards, the Expedition cards, numbered from 2 to 10 and comprising 5 suits (colours), and the bonus multiplier cards, three for each colour suit, which can be laid down on the playboard first in order to increase your score.

    The basic idea is to lay down an entire suit of cards starting with the lowest numbers and working up to the highest ones, taking turns with your opponent with the aim of getting the highest score at the end of the round. Win 2 or more rounds and you’re the victor.

    Lost Cities

    That might sound very complicated but basically you start with 8 cards, and lay cards down in sequence, trying to make sure that you don’t try to lay too many cards of different colours down, and trying to concentrate on what your opponent is doing in the meantime too.

    Lost Cities plays out like a faster-paced Solitaire with the added element of the other player trying to out-do you. Ideally you want to lay your bonus multiplier cards down first before risking laying down a numbered Expedition card. The risk element comes from knowing when to play a card, when to hold back, and when to pinch cards from the discarded stack (this sits in the middle of the board and you have the option each turn to either discard a card or take one from the new stack).

    Once you’ve played the requisite number of turns, the game is over and each stack’s score is counted towards your total.

    Playing through the tutorial may make things sound even more complex but eventually when Lost Cities “clicks” and you realise the core strategy is actually quite simple but immensely challenging to perfect, the game starts to come into its own.

    Lost Cities nicely includes Live Cam support so if you fancy playing multiplayer, you can at least watch your opponent’s reaction when you out-score them at the end of a round. This is a nice feature that’s becoming more commonplace in XBLA games and at least ensures that you don’t sit there playing in your underpants, munching nonchalantly on a family sized bag of Skips.

    The game’s presentation is nice, and the pace is a lot quicker than your average card game, so you can rattle through three rounds in double-quick time if you keep your eyes open. Always trying to stay three steps ahead of your opponent is of vital importance so watch their cards, keep an eye on the discard stack in the centre, and of course make sure you don’t spread your hands too widely – concentrating on a few suits at first is the key to early victory and glory.

    The beauty of Lost Cities is that it’s so tough when you first start out that when you do start to win rounds and rack up those (rather tough and daunting) achievements, you realise that you’re completely and totally addicted. That sugar-rush-like “just one more go” feeling becomes par for the course and even though there’s not really any massive visual pay off for winning, there’s the feeling that your strategic brain has at least had a proper workout.

    Lost Cities is available on the Xbox Live Arcade for 800 points and it makes a more than refreshing change from soulless twin-stick shooters and naff old arcade conversions.

    Score: 7/10

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    • I think this game is one of the best pc games I have played so far. It is because of the nice graphics. But unfortunaly no pc game is better than Call Of Duty MW 2 on xbox, so I am returning to the now ^^ Maybe I will play this game tomorrow sometime.