I’ll start off by saying, I’ve never seen the original anime that this game is based on. I actually did not know of its existence until I stumbled onto this interesting game. I might actually want to watch the 80’s anime, the game made it seem quite interesting. Because of this, I’ll be unaffected by the “nostalgia factor” that many people had when they saw this game. Anyways, I’ve seen a lot of people purchasing this purely out of nostalgia, and learned about the show because of it; now, onto the review!
I was slightly disappointing by how the game played out. The game essentially combines puzzle elements with some scavenger hunting mechanics. That’s the entire game in a nutshell. The basic concept of the game is not that hard to understand. You’ll find yourself switching between the three main characters, Esteban, Tau, and Zia. Each character has their own special ability used for certain puzzle mechanics found scattered throughout the levels of the game. Each of these skills will have to be used in a certain pattern in order to complete a level. This ultimately results in the player wandering around looking for an object that pertains to a character’s ability, like a crack in a wall, which Zia can slip through.
The levels can easily be traversed with a free-roaming camera, marking each character with an icon and allowing you to figure out the solution to a puzzle from an easier perspective. The problem with this style of gameplay is that switching between the characters feels like a chore. You have to operate all three characters separately, each being used for their ability. Throughout the game, you pick up these “parchments”, which act as collectibles scattered throughout a level. Collecting them all gives you a gold medal at the end of the level for finding them all. The problem with this is that some of the parchments are color-coded, allowing only certain characters to pick them up. This can be a nuisance when you have one character standing on these parchments, unable to pick them up, and the actual character needed to pick them up on the opposite side of the level, awaiting their orders from the player.
The puzzles can be a bit shallow sometimes. There was one instance where a series of pressure plates were laid out in front of me, and three of them had to be activated to open the next door. Above these plates was a plaque that only Tao could read. Reading it tells you what plates to stand on, usually in the form of a riddle, which is nice, but some of them were a little too easy for my tastes. Along with the parchments that can be collected, there is a treasure chest hidden in each level. Finding the chest unlocks an illustration, just another bonus collectible to find.
It’s also worth mentioning that I ran into a game-breaking bug twice. I had to press a button to open a door, and upon pressing the button, it showed the door opening, then immediately closing. I thought I had messed up somewhere, but upon exiting and restarting the game, the door stayed open and I could continue with the game. This happened to me in the first and third worlds. Both occurring near the end of the level, which was quite annoying, having to restart the level.
The game’s graphics were awesome. In-between levels, cutscenes would play with the style of the original anime and leaves me wondering if these cutscenes were actually in the anime themselves. I’m sure fans of the original show would appreciate that. The animation for the characters was smooth, but could be clunky at times, especially when walking across platforms that can be turned with a lever. Overall, the art style was very charming and I really liked it. Although not memorable, the music was great and fit the theme of the game well.
The controls were simple, but had a few flaws in both keyboard + mouse and controller. One of those flaws was the fact that the right analog stick was used to navigate the free camera over the map. Normally, this would be fine, but upon hitting the right analog stick, even slightly, you’re taken away control of the characters and moved into freecam view. Sometimes my finger would brush the right analog stick and completely stop the motion of the game. There should have been a button to press before-hand to activate this camera, then it could be controlled with the left analog stick, which would feel more natural. The other flaw was switching between characters on the controller. The left and right bumpers were used to switch between the characters, but instead of scrolling through the characters like on keyboard and mouse controls, each character was tied to one bumper and you had to press the correct bumper to switch to them. I would have preferred a scrolling method, like the keyboard and mouse controls, were left bumper could be “previous character” and right bumper could be “next character”. Because of this, I often found myself switching to the wrong character several times.
The game’s story followed closely to that of the anime, I was told. However, the game’s version of this story was, in a sense, rushed. The cutscenes would jump around really quickly and did not help me understand the story as much as the actual gameplay had. The characters were introduced quickly, with some not being introduced at all, leaving me clueless as to their motivations and personality. The story was also very generic to me, but I wouldn’t immediately put the blame for that on the game, considering it is based on an 80’s anime.
I can see how people would purchase this out of nostalgia, or the appealing graphics, in my case, but other than that this game cannot be truly enjoyed. It is very simple, with its fair share of flaws, but it still provided an enjoyable experience for me and will surely do so for fans of the original show.
I should also mention that the game abruptly ended for me with the following message:
Congratulations! You just finished the first 20 levels of “The Mysterious Cities of Gold: Secret Paths!”. The remaining levels will be available very soon, after the end of the broadcast of the animated series on French television. The game will then update automatically.
I will update my review if these last few levels change my opinion in any way, when they’re released.
You can buy “The Mysterious Cities of Gold: Secret Paths” here.