The Lost City of Malathedra

Posted by Gustavo Calvo-Simmons.
First posted on 10 April 2009. Last updated on 17 July 2010.
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The Lost City of Malathedra
Culuco Island is shaped strangely like another island of certain pirate fame!
The Lost City of Malathedra
What clues can Rebecca find in Jonathan's room about her father's disappearance?
The Lost City of Malathedra
Rebecca questions Ethen about a fake treasure map, but Ethen has his own agenda when offering help to Rebecca.
The Lost City of Malathedra
Murray is a salesman with an unhealthy obsession with explosives.
The Lost City of Malathedra
Rebecca explores deep in the caves at Malathedra.

Inspired by classic adventure games to the likes of Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis and role-playing games to the likes of Chrono Trigger, The Lost City of Malathedra from EDI (Ethereal Darkness Interactive) Games is an indie game title that evokes many fond memories of the early days of the adventure genre. The graphics' retro look is refreshing, and the gameplay's classic point-and-click style is easy to catch. It is a game that can be recommended to gamers who have once been frustrated by similar games of yesteryears but now want to relive the gaming experience of a classic era.

At the outset, the isometric views used in The Lost City of Malathedra already parts ways with the now standard 3D graphics used in most contemporary adventure game titles. As an "old school gamer" myself, the homage paid to the retro graphics of early adventure and role-playing games is a plus and adds extra value to the enjoyment of this game. As touted by the developer, the isometric view also helps with the scene exploration, giving you (the player) a better perspective when exploring the game world. Moreover, you can more easily visualize details of the game's puzzles from a top down perspective of a 2D space than from a first person perspective of a 3D rendered world.

Much like the fabled island of Altantis or the lost continent of Mu, Malathedra is a lost city that attracts dream adventurers and explorers seeking old treasures, fortune, and fame. As you enter the inner part of Malathedra, you cannot help but feel like Howard Carter stepping in the tomb of Tutankhamun for the first time. It is an eerie but yet fantastic sensation as you explore the forbidden city, except that the city is probably less (or may be not) dangerous than the tomb of a pharaoh.

As an adventure gamer, I am drawn to the many attractive but also few negative design elements in The Lost City of Malathedra. The option to play the prologue is a typical example of my mixed reaction to this game. In the prologue, you play as archaeologist Jonathan Wolfe, father of Rebecca Wolfe (who is the main protagonist of the game). The prologue exposes you to a series to easy puzzles and acclimatizes you to the game's interface. It is very short and ends just as the story gets started. It is unclear why the developer chooses to also cut short the narratives in the prologue which, in the end, offers little information to you about the history of Malathedra and the motivation behind Jonathan's obsession. As such, there is no real necessity (or incentive) to play through the prologue before beginning the game proper. Once you begin, you switch to take on the role of Rebecca, who quickly discovers that her father has gone missing near Culuco Island in the Caribbean and that his disappearance is linked to the forbidden city of Malathedra.

As a clear throwback to classic adventure games, the gameplay in The Lost City of Malathedra will be instantly familiar to many gamers fond of the genre. You point and click to trigger interactions between different characters and scenarios in the game. In my opinion, the intentionally retro graphical look is a definite draw. It feels like playing a classic adventure oldie from the late 1980s to the early 1990s. Credit must be given to EDI Games for taking the initiative to develop its own game engine (known as S3Engine) that is used to create The Lost City of Malathedra. This gives the developer full control of its graphical style and scripting for the game. The classic isometric view will also appeal to many gamers fond of the graphical style from classic role-playing games. Having this said, the game is not technically innovative. Controls are simple and include only 3 possible actions: speak, grab, and see.

The storyline in The Lost City of Malathedra is quite catchy. You can easily imagine Rebecca to be the next Lara Croft, who has the same thirst for adventuring but without the same acrobatic skills.

An element that falls short in The Lost City of Malathedra is the music. Though the score is beautiful, there are not enough pieces for the scenarios such that you will hear the same music repeating itself quickly within a short timeframe. There is also no voiceover in this game.

The puzzles in The Lost City of Malathedra are quite hard to figure out, and yet solving them is quite addicting. Some puzzles are clearly inspired by those in classic LucasArts games, while other puzzles are completely original. As expected, your progress in the game is entirely dependent on your ability to solve these puzzles. Getting stuck on the simplest puzzles will mean getting stuck in the game very early on. An example of this is a puzzle in the prologue whereby you will need to interact with a set of crystals to open a door that leads to Malathedra. I do not want to spoil this puzzle for you; suffice to say that your adventure will be off to a rocky start (and a quick end) if you are not fast enough and not smart enough to recognize the hints needed to solve the puzzle.

In the end, The Lost City of Malathedra is a decent indie game that will offer a few hours of fun, particularly for fans of old classic adventure games. Even though the gameplay may look strangely familiar, especially if you have played Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, there is enough new twists in The Lost City of Malathedra to make this budget game title worthy of a play.

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