The Mysterious Cities of Gold made its début in 1982 as a French-Japanese anime; the series consisted of thirty nine episodes and after its conclusion it went on hiatus, only to be acquired in 2012 by a French production company. The revived series is scheduled to run for three seasons and picks up right where the original left off, including the same three leading characters; Esteban, Zia and Tao. Earlier in the year, Ynnis Interactive created a Kickstarter project for an official game based on the anime; the Kickstarter was successful, and the finished product has arrived in the form of The Mysterious Cities of Gold: Secret Paths. Cubed3 follows Esteban, Zia and Tao on their first interactive adventure, but is this title worthy of a Gold Award?
The Mysterious Cities of Gold: Secret Paths is a puzzle-adventure game where players take control of the three leading characters, each of which has their own unique abilities. Esteban can summon and control special switches with his sun medallion, Zia is able to squeeze through tight gaps in walls that are impossible for the others to get through, whilst the last member of the group, Tao, can use his knowledge of the Mu civilisation to translate tablets inscribed in the ancient language and can also send out his trusty parrot to swipe useful items from pirates, such as keys.
Each level consists of a large area, inspired by locations seen in the revived show, which contain a variety of different puzzles. These are usually fairly simple, requiring the gamer to utilise the three different characters in order to activate switches and open doors, allowing them to progress further into the level. Once reaching the exit of a level, usually there is a beautifully animated cut-scene shown - something also pulled directly from the show. As progress is made, new elements are introduced, which aren't exactly complex either, but add a little bit of variety. For example, stealth elements appear early on in the game that kind of feel like the stealth sections found in some Legend of Zelda games, albeit a lot easier. For instance, when pirates spot the character, a yellow dotted line will appear and the pirate will stare at the character as the line slowly turns to red, and only once the line has become red will the pirates be able to catch them.
Contained within each level are collectibles that are purely optional but grant a greater percentage and final score. The most common come in the form of different coloured scrolls, each indicating what character can collect them. These don't actually do anything aside from counting towards one of three optional level objectives, though. Each level has the same three challenges: obtaining all of the scrolls in the level, finishing a level in a certain amount of time and getting captured less than a certain number of times.
There is also one chest hidden in each level, which unlocks a piece of concept art when opened. Again, hunting for these chests is completely optional, but it does add some extra play time for fans of the series that want to fully experience every piece of content included.
Two control methods are supported in Secret Paths: players can either use traditional analogue stick and button controls or they can make use of the GamePad's touch screen to control characters and perform other actions; both control methods work just as well, so it all comes down to the player's personal preference.
Sadly, there are only 20 levels at the time of writing, but Ynnis Interactive has stated that 10 more additional ones are on the way, which they held off on including in the game's current version due to the additional content containing potential spoilers for those that watch the show. On a positive note, however, the developer has also stated that these levels will be released as part of a free patch that will also include additional languages and the names of people who supported the Kickstarter campaign in the credits. Ynnis aim to have the patch live sometime during December and Cubed3 will keep readers updated.
Simple puzzle mechanics, such as stepping on switches to open doors for other characters, squeezing through tight spaces with Zia, coupled with some relatively easy stealth sections in which players must sneak past pirates and other enemies.
Cel-shaded character models that are fluidly animated. Although the backgrounds are quite static, they represent the show very well. The cut-scenes are beautifully crafted and made up of footage from the show, further pleasing fans of the series.
The game features a lot of music from the current season of the show, most notably the theme song. Other than that, the sound effects are pretty generic and the English voice acting can be a little dull in parts.
There are currently 20 levels for players to complete and whilst the game isn't finished at this moment in time, 10 additional levels will be released free of charge once the current season has finished airing, bringing the total to 30.
The Mysterious Cities of Gold: Secret Paths is a good game that stays faithful to the source material. It's hard to recommend this to anyone other than fans of the show and younger players who may find some challenge in the puzzles contained within the game. Whilst it is slightly disappointing that only two thirds of the promised content is available at the time of writing, the 10 remaining levels will be delivered to players as part of a free update after the current season, due to the developers not wanting to reveal any spoilers. Whilst this is a fairly easy game, with simple puzzle mechanics, it is still worth checking out for those who enjoyed the show when they were younger and those that are enjoying the show's current run. Once the added content becomes available, perhaps an extra point can be added to the final score.