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Game Review

When first hearing the title Age of Empires: Mythologies, it would be reasonable to expect that this video game is all about building majestic kingdoms or exploring, in-depth, the storylines of ancient myths. But in reality this is a sphinx of a different color. This top-rated game for the Nintendo DS is something closer to a stretched out chess game—reshaped to include ancient armies and a few mythological creatures.

Turn-based real-time strategy games like this one are becoming fewer and farther between on the PC and most next-gen consoles. But on Nintendo's DS the genre is doing quite well. The mini-screen format, easy two-button control and pass-around capability of a handheld seem to fit this kind of game like a hand in glove. (Or maybe a hand in gauntlet works better in this case.)

Knight Takes Mummy
The game lays the mantle of legendary hero on gamers' shoulders and gives them command over the ancient armies of either the Egyptians, Greeks or Norse. Each of these battle groups have their own strengths, specialized movements and a variety of attack units—such as the Egyptians' camel cavalry or the Greeks' Hoplites.

Gamers can also send in powerful Pegasuses or creepy bandage-wrapped mummies to fill out their ranks. And after gathering the troops, gameplay involves plotting out moves that will take advantage of a given map's terrain and hopefully outmaneuver the powerful enemy.

A single player mode takes one stouthearted strategist through three lengthy campaigns. Or you can get three friends to join you, passing the DS back and forth as you go. If everybody has a DS, you can link up for Wi-Fi play.

There's more to do here than just trying to outflank the enemy's force of scorpion men, Medusa-type creatures and Cyclops giants, however. Age of Empires takes the strategizing a bit further and has gamers establish a base camp and balance out an economic system along with their battlefront play.

Building barracks or stables, for example, gives you the opportunity to produce or enhance various units. But harvesting food and digging for gold can be an important use of a turn, as well. Raising shrines and temples can generate mythological god powers that impact the whole world. The choices are many, and they give the game a depth and detail that will keep strategy-lovers grinning while they plot out their next half-dozen moves in advance.

Is the Next Sandal Going to Drop?
Are there hidden negatives behind those temple walls? Not really. The whole mythologies thing is limited to a number of Clash of the Titans-style fanged or fire-breathing beasties and some vague Greek god-like powers that heal or plague the battlefield. Spirituality is kept light and fable-based in the game's storyline. That doesn't excuse it, but it does relegate it to the background for the most part.

As far as the good vs. evil brawls are concerned, battles between units are shown in close-up and end with the defeated force blinking out of existence. But no horrors of war are in evidence.

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Episode Reviews

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