Crispy Gamer

Live Ware: Lost Cities

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It looks like Microsoft realized that most Xbox 360 owners would be too busy playing Grand Theft Auto IV this week to bother downloading any new games on Xbox Live Arcade. Why else would the company choose to not release any new titles on April 30? Despite the lack of new games, there is plenty of new downloadable content.

There are four new two-player co-op maps available for Army of Two in the SSC Challenge Map Pack. The pack will run you 600 Microsoft Points. If your gaming tastes lean more towards epic RPGs, the 200 MSP Triple Bonus Pack for Lost Odyssey grants you three new items to enjoy: the Memory Lamp, which lets you replay previous event scenes; Shattered Bond, a device that "will bring back the memory of a forgotten dream;" and the oddly-named ring, Killer Machine.

For the past few weeks, there have been a few new chess sets to download for Ubisoft's Chessmaster Live. This week's new Rayman Raving Rabbids set gives the game a dose of humor. Replacing your boring pawns and rooks with those weird rabbity creatures will cost you 150 MSP.

Virtual musicians have a lot to play recently. The 500 MSP Def Leppard Track Pack for Guitar Hero III features three of the band's songs, but the big news is that the first full album for Rock Band has been released. Judas Priest's nine song album, "Screaming for Vengeance" is now available for 1,200 MSP.

If you're absolutely dying for new games to play, two new Xbox Originals have been added to Xbox Live Arcade. For 1200 MSP, you can download Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Chaos Theory and the somewhat overlooked Metal Arms: Glitch in the System.

Lost Cities

Developer: Sierra Online Shanghai

Publisher: Sierra Online

Price: 800 Microsoft Points

Originally appeared on: N/A

RECOMMENDATION: Try It

The success of Uno on Xbox Live Arcade has unsurprisingly resulted in the release of other card and board games on the service. What is surprising, however, is the absence of games that would be instantly recognizable to American players (like Monopoly or Clue) and the influx of relatively obscure German games like Catan and Carcassonne. Lost Cities is the newest European import, and the card game on which it's based has won the 2000 International Gamers Award and the Meeples' Choice Award (don't worry, we've never heard of them either).

Lost Cities is a two-player card game, where the goal is to play your hand to rack up the most points under the pretense that you are embarking upon multiple expeditions through five, um, lost cities. Yep, this is yet another Xbox Live Arcade title that tries to spice up a card/board/puzzle game by tacking on an Indiana Jones-esque motif! To be fair, the original card game came out in 1999, so it's not necessarily following the same trend as, say, TiQal.

Each player is dealt eight cards, each of which is one of five colors. In addition to special Expedition Cards, the remaining cards are numbered 2 through 10. Every time a card is played, you must draw another so that you always have eight in your hard. The row of cards laid out in between the two players represents the five lost cities (one for each color of the cards). To set out on your expeditions (i.e. to play your cards), you simply place a card of matching colors below each city. Ideally, you will place Expedition Cards first, as they multiply the value of your individual piles when the round is finished. These cards can only be played before you use any numbered cards, so you want to use these right away.

Once you've used up your Expedition Cards, you begin playing the numbered cards. You don't have to place sequential cards in each city, but you can only play a higher numbered card on the card that's currently on the table. Since the values of each card on the table counts towards your final score, you want to play as many as possible.

Strategy comes into play when you have to manipulate your hand when you get stuck with a hand full of high value cards at the start of the game. You don't want to play those cards right away as they stifle your score, so clever sacrifices must be made. The game's scoring system also plays into your strategy as it actually costs points to start each expedition and to place Expedition Cards. Each of your cities will have a negative score once you start playing cards, forcing you to play enough cards to work your way back up out of the hole.

The rules may sound complicated, but the game features a brief tutorial that does a fantastic job of explaining everything. After a couple minutes, you'll be ready to dive into your first match. Like Uno, Lost Cities has a very large "luck of the draw" factor that will turn off some people, but it's still an easy-to-learn card game that's great for passing the time. Also, like Uno, it's a fun, simple game to play with a friend online. The 800 Microsoft Point price tag seems a bit steep, but if you're a card game junkie, it might be worth it.