We have Persian rugs to decorate our homes and Persian cats to “decorate” our rugs, but what do we really know about Persia, specifically the Persian Empire? For most, the answer’s “not much.” In brief, Persia is known primarily as Iran today. The Persian Empire, however, was actually a series of historical kingdoms that ruled the Iranian plateau and parts beyond. What’s the significance? Well, the development of that ancient empire plays out in Cradle of Persia.

A sequel to Cradle of Rome, this latest twist on the match-three genre is based on the historical realms that made up the “old” Persian Empire. It offers a lone, story-based mode of play that spans seven multilevel kingdoms with a ranking system similar to that of its predecessor. Basically, the higher your point score, the more prestigious your title. In essence, you build your empire one structure and one kingdom at a time as you advance through a series of progressively more challenging levels.

Nonetheless, in deference to Cradle of Rome, combos are not created by the typical match-three swapping of adjacent tiles. Instead, play consists of grouping three or more identical tiles by clicking on the first and dragging the selection. The chosen tiles disappear, adding points to your score, and are replenished by adjoining tiles that slide into place to fill the newly-created void. But, it’s not just about breaking tiles. You need to destroy all the marble plaques on a level, too, breaking the tiles resting upon them in the process. Once you remove all plaques, the level ends. Simple enough, right? Well, it would be if you weren’t also fighting the clock.

Plus, like its forerunner, advancement in Cradle of Persia is based on collecting resources and bonuses (the tiles you group). Resources, specifically gold, supplies and food, allow you to purchase buildings that, in turn, provide greater resources and bonuses. Among the game’s structures you’ll find a city, spring, farm, bridge, wharf, harem and more. Grow your empire and available resources increase in value, replacing those of lesser worth. For instance, fish only provide five units of food apiece while apples are worth seven. Milk increases the value to nine and so forth. Lumber, likewise, is valued at five, while bricks up the ante to nine units.

Bonuses also play a significant role. You start with dynamite and, as your empire expands, add a magic wand, lightning, hourglass and others for a total of eight in all. Further, each bonus has four power levels. As you create combos, the levels increase, as does the damage inflicted. For example, one bolt of lightning will break five tiles on the playfield. Two bolts break 10, three break 15 and four break 20. Once employed, however, a bonus needs to be refilled before it can be used again, starting at level one. Thus, it pays to save bonuses for when they’re absolutely needed. Magic runes appear, as well. Maneuver these special tiles close enough to combine, and the current level is instantly completed.

Of course, with bonuses comes the antithesis – obstacles. Already mentioned are marble plaques, but there are others including chains and boxes. Each of these obstacles requires one or more matches to clear. Moreover, some levels have sections that are blocked by walls you need to obliterate, via a match or two, thereby clearing a path for tiles to enter. It’s similar to the gameplay in Cradle of Rome, as well as highly reminiscent of Big Kahuna Reef.

Strategy plays an important role in Cradle of Persia, too. Taking your time to clear a level allows you to maximize your resources and refill your bonuses, while finishing a level quickly provides a time bonus and the opportunity to play an extra bonus refill round or to simply replenish a resource. Special events add to gameplay also with a variety of achievements available to increase your point total and provide other less obvious benefits. For as simple as it is, this game offers a good deal of depth.

If you’ve played Cradle of Rome, you know what to expect when Cradle of Persia arrives. Particularly, more of what made its precursor so much fun (and your day much less productive) – a high level of visual and audible panache, strategic gameplay and one-more-level addictiveness. Just don’t compare it to an ornate Persian rug. Instead, view it as a flying carpet. Gorgeous to admire while offering a highly entertaining ride!