Game Reviews

The Mysterious Cities of Gold: Secret Paths

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The Mysterious Cities of Gold: Secret Paths

I absolutely loved The Mysterious Cities of Gold when it aired in the UK towards the end of the '80s.

There was a slightly off-kilter and, yes, mysterious air to it, partly born of its joint French and Japanese conception. It felt alluringly exotic to a curious seven-year-old more accustomed to American cartoons.

It also has to be in contention for the 'best cartoon theme tune ever' award. It was even catchier than Thundercats.

Now the series has been belatedly renewed, and there's a brand new iOS game tie-in to accompany it. Will this new format inspire a new generation of adventure-loving kids?

Familiar feeling

We'll spoil the mystery straight away and say probably not. The Mysterious Cities of Gold: Secret Paths features a number of stylish touches, but it's simply too rote and too afflicted by gold fever to come through its quest unscathed.

In a nutshell, this is a by-the-numbers adventure puzzler filled with rudimentary switch puzzles and sequential tasks.

You take control of the three main youths of the source material, all of whom have their unique abilities. Esteban can use the power of the sun to activate mystical glyphs, Tao can read ancient stones and send his bird out to nab keys, and Zia can slip through narrow gaps.

Each level sees them teaming up - and frequently splitting up - to inch forward, opening doors for each other and combining to stand on switches. There are also guards to avoid in a number of stealth-lite sections.

Path well trodden

We've seen this kind of gameplay countless times before, of course, but there's no denying that it's been well-executed here.

Progress is brisk despite the endless toing and froing between characters, but the real star of the show is the design and animation of the characters. From the core trio to the pirate grunts, it all moves like the cartoon it's based on, lending the world an uncommon feeling of depth.

It's a shame, then, that the between-level story scenes are hastily put together stills, each with a clunky line of exposition to inch forward the story.

A quick scan of the internet suggests that the English localisation process for the new series hasn't been completed yet, which might be to blame for this jolting workaround.

Plight of the condor

The other major issue with The Mysterious Cities of Gold: Secret Paths is a depressingly familiar one. Its developers have simply overdone the payment model.

You get the first world (comprising half a dozen levels) for free, with subsequent levels costing 69p a pop. That's pretty steep for the amount of content, and a full game unlock costs £7.49.

For a simple - albeit well-animated - casual puzzle game, it's just too expensive.

If mention of that The Mysterious Cities of Gold theme tune had you regressing to your childhood, then The Mysterious Cities of Gold: Secret Paths might well be the game for you. You might even want to splash the cash on a few extra levels.

But for the rest of you, and those who don't exactly live in cities of gold themselves, it's a not-so-epic journey that's worth starting but not completing.

The Mysterious Cities of Gold: Secret Paths

An attractive and fun adventure-puzzler that simply doesn’t justify the high price of its levels with its generic gameplay, even if you're a fan of the cartoon