Lost Treasures Of Alexandria's release on the DSi Shop comes as something of a surprise. That's because it's the first game in a short while to break the trend of poor Match-3 games to which the service has been cruelly subjected. In fact, this latest game rectifies many of the issues that plagued publisher MSL's other recent efforts and — much to our wonderment — is actually pretty good fun.
Variation is essentially the key ingredient in this new and improved recipe, as the developer has made some excellent decisions when it comes to the core gameplay mechanics. For example, you are traditionally restricted to swapping only two tiles at a time in most Match-3 games; Lost Treasures of Alexandria does this, but also incorporates a rotating swap feature, as found in games like Hexic. The game constantly shifts the focus between these two styles of gameplay, and it does a very good job of keeping you engaged.
On top of this, other minor gameplay tweaks come into play at various points throughout the game. One of the most successful of these is the delayed match feature. In this instance, gems won't immediately clear from the board when matched, presenting you with an opportunity to add to the string and rack up an impressive combo. Meanwhile, you are able to earn free moves as you play; these enable you to swap gems without having to make a match and, therefore, you can create four or five gem matches. Purists might view this as a cheap addition, but it really does improve the pacing of the experience.
This is because Lost Treasures of Alexandria's stages use a goal system where you have to achieve a certain score, as well as acquire so many types of matches. At times, this proves to be very testing, especially when you're tasked with lining up four of the same type of gem. This goes hand-in-hand with the game's relatively fast-paced gameplay. In other Match-3 games such as Jewel Quest 5 - The Sleepless Star, the game limits you to only making one swap at a time, meaning that you have to wait for a match to fully clear before you can start the next. Thankfully, this isn't the case in Lost Treasures Of Alexandria, and thus it is much easier to rack up a good number of combos.
Another welcome addition is the implementation of a decent power-up system. Much like the core gameplay itself, these are quite varied and each one serves a specific purpose. For example, the fire power-up clears the board of a certain type of gem, whereas wind facilitates the swapping of two separated gems without having to waste multiple free moves. They're useful and help tremendously in terms of pacing when you get stuck.
While Lost Treasures of Alexandria may be a vast improvement over other recent games in the genre, it's by no means perfect. The title's overall presentation is generic and uninspired, and it's difficult to take a genuine interest in the cliched story. Moreover, it could be much more exciting from an audiovisual point of view. It's not a huge criticism, as it is still a very playable game, but on the surface it looks hardly any different from other Match-3 games. On the plus side, the available screen space is used effectively, meaning that swapping tiles isn't fiddly for the most part. The only time this sort of problem emerges is during the rotating swap stages, where the touch screen doesn't always recognise swipes. Naturally, this proves quite frustrating when you're frantically trying to line up a combo.
In a saturated genre of clones, Lost Treasures of Alexandria is a welcome breath of fresh air. The title successfully mixes the core elements of the Match-3 genre with other non-traditional elements to create a varied and entertaining experience. It's by no means the prettiest game, and the touch screen input could do with a bit of tweaking here and there, but if you're looking for a fun puzzle game to sink a few hours into, then Lost Treasures of Alexandria is well worth your money.