Review based on Windows 8 version
|Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: Microsoft Studios
Download Link *
Release Date: April 17th, 2014
The game is based around a man named Professor Flintlock, an explorer who trained a young girl, but seems to have disappeared. You play the game as his companion a good five years later. Once again you’re on the hunt for treasure and the truth of what happened to him. As you continue your quest you happen upon various allies on board for gold, as well as some enemies in your way who try to prevent you from getting it.
Much of tale is told through text and illustrations that appears almost at random. For the most part it hits before the stage you actually want to play. Since there’s no actual dialogue or voice overs, the audio boils down to the music, and for the most part it’s a watered down theme that suits the environment similar to that of Zuma. It’s nothing impressive, but it gets the job done well enough.
This game is rather colorful, and most of what’s on screen appears to be hand drawn. While not exactly an anime style, it borders that kind of look with each character, all the while having a pretty standard backdrop of the appropriate setting. Of course the things you shoot at also share that similar cartoonish visual appearance, though only sticking to fairly basic designs for the obstacles and destructible objects.
While the game looks and sounds like some kind of Indiana Jones themed Zuma entry, the actual game play is ripped right off of Peggle. You move your mouse (or drag your finger if using something with a touch screen) left or right to aim the gun in the upper center of the screen to the blocks, chunks of wood, or whatever objects that need to be destroyed in order to clear the stage and reach the goal. The goal is always determined by some kind of challenge, such as disarming a trap at the bottom of the screen by knocking a boulder loose, or destroying guide stones, which are grey blocks with white writing. This seems simple enough, but even these basic controls are surprisingly stiff, especially with the mouse where you sometimes have to move in the direction you want up to three times to get all the way to one side of the screen. Oh and let’s not forget sometimes you have to click or touch the screen to fire the ball due to some weird delay when you move the trigger at the top while aiming.
You also need to collect the three keys in each level to open the locked gates in your path in order to progress the game itself. As you continue the story, some stages will offer you pieces of map, or additional treasures you can collect for bonus experience. These points build up to medals you can award your crew, which is unlocked through story progression, to give them additional powers like a scatter shot or laser targeting.
To play a level, your ship needs fuel. Each level requires a certain amount of fuel in order to play or replay it. You are given one hundred fuel, but that gets eaten away quickly. This leaves you stranded and waiting for the ship to refuel, which takes fifteen hours. You can also spend eighty red gems, which you can buy with real money if you’re so inclined. You do get so many of them when you start, though one stage does make you spend some to learn about skill boosts, which is a rip-off in the end. These can also be redeemed for things like boosts to power ups and extra balls if you need them to finish a stage properly.
There’s also the random moments where you can’t get past the on-screen directions. Sometimes you will be given hints as to how to complete a stage, or notifications about new things you unlocked. The problem is sometimes they won’t clear the screen, so you have to restart the whole game. There’s also moments where a level will end early on the last ball, or just claim you didn’t reach the goal, making you replay the stage and spend more of your precious gas in order to move on.
It’s easy to see why Secrets and Treasures: The Lost Cities only carries fifty gamerscore points to it. The game itself isn’t difficult, but it takes forever before you can actually finish it, making you wait insanely long periods of time before your ship is completely refilled, unlike most games on the Windows 8 or Windows Phone devices by Gameloft, the biggest pay-to-play proponents on the marketplace. Thankfully if you’re in it for points, those achievements are kind of easy to unlock if you have patience.
Other than that, there’s very little to this game to even appeal to a casual gamer. The story is weak, the controls are rough unless you have touch screen capabilities, and even then it does seem to have problems. The stages aren’t too hard, or remotely engrossing either. Secrets and Treasures: The Lost Cities is clearly designed to eat up your cash. Unless you’re willing to invest a good amount of time in this title, or have an Xbox tag you won’t mind adding some points to, you’re just better off playing Peggle or Peggle 2 instead.