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Cleopatra's Fortune is an arcade puzzle game, with a rare Playstation port, released in Japan only by Taito. (You know, the Space Invaders and Bubble Bobble people.) In Japan it was called just "Cleopatra Fortune," and that's the name it's known as in MAME, where it is emulated by driver cleopatr.

It's one of the Tetris-style games that used to be so very common, and still get the occasional release. Of course Tetris-style means it's a falling block puzzle, with pieces falling one at a time into a bin. The player moves the pieces left and right with the joystick as they fall, accelerate them by pushing down, and can rotate them by pressing a button. Where they hit the floor of the bin, or land on other pieces already placed, they stick, and a new piece enters the bin. A little window to the side reveals the next piece(s) to fall (just the next one in Cleopatra's Fortune). As the pieces accumulate in the bin, the player must place each one so that it matches certain arrangements with other pieces, at which time all the blocks that matched the arrangement are removed from the bin, points are scored, and any pieces resting on those fall closer to the ground. The player must do this often because if the bin fills up to the top the game is over. Generally over time the fall of pieces accelerates, and depending on the game other things may get harder as well. Many Tetris-style games are distinguished from each other only by the superficials (graphics, sound and presentation) and by the patterns that remove pieces, and Cleopatra's Fortune doesn't fall too far from the tree.

The pieces that fall are all combinations of up to seven different kinds of things, all either 1x1 or 1x2 squares in size. There are both sizes of "block," stone slabs that function a bit like the inert pieces in Tetris, 1x1 "Gems," 1x2 "Sarcophaguses" (I'll call 'em "Tuts" here because I don't feel like remembering to spell sarcophagus too many times), and both 1x1 and 1x2 "Mummies." There's also a very rare "Pyramid" block. Although the Mummies and Gems are animated, neither "do" anything during the game. Like all well-behaved Tetris-like blocks, they stay where they land until cleared by the player. The different objects that make up a falling piece fall as a unit, but when they land if any of them are unsupported the continue falling. People who've played Nintendo's Tetris 2 or will get the idea, except that the player has no control over the individual blocks once they split apart. Since some blocks are larger than 1x1, it's possible for pieces to be caught on one edge of a wide piece, like in Dr. Mario.

There are three ways to clear away pieces. First, if any of the four primary types of piece are lined up so that there is a straight horizontal line from one side of the seven-space-wide bin to the other, those pieces are cleared away. Parts of each piece are allowed to stick out of the line if they're big, and the jutting parts get removed too. This is the only way to get rid of the blocks, which don't score well. The other pieces earn pretty good points for doing this, usually around several thousand, but unless you're really planning for it it doesn't happen too often. Much more common is "entombing" those other pieces. You do this by burying them completely in blocks, so that they're completely surrounded. The sides of the bin help out here by counting as if they were blocks. All you have to do is to make sure the pieces are completely covered on all sides. You can bury many blocks as one unit, and can even include empty spaces. You just gotta make sure it's impossible to trace any line from those buried pieces to the top of the bin without going through a block. A solid horizontal line of blocks across the bin would do it for any non-block pieces under them.

Here's an attempt to get the idea across using ASCII:

*       *
*       *
*       *
*       *
*     ##*
*   ## +*
*    ##T*
*#    #T*
*T# # #+*
*+ #M# +*

#: Block, +: Gem, T: Tut, M: Mummy.

According to what I've told you so far, each of these three surrounded groups of objects would be cleared out, and the blocks resting on top of them would fall. However, there's one thing I haven't told you yet: Mummies only clear out if they're entombed in a group with at least one Gem or Tut, so actually group 2 wouldn't get cleared. All you need is one of either in a surrounded group to clear out however many Mummies.

The third way to clear pieces is to use a pyramid, which tend to appear every ten or twenty-or-so levels and clear the whole board of all of whatever type of piece they land on, be it block, Gem, Tut or Mummy, then disappear. Pyramids are thus very much like BigPuyos and Carbuncles in Puyo Puyo, or Fairies in Pac-Attack, in that they are awarded are specific intervals in order to help clear out any mess the player might be in at the time.

Every eight-or-so pieces that fall increase the game's level. The game speed tends to increase steadily until a level multiple of ten is reached, at which time the speed goes way down for a while. The overall speed continues to increase however – when the speed goes down, it's always faster than it was at the previous slowdown. The game gets really fast the two levels before slowdown time, but often a pyramid appears as the first piece after the slowdown occurs. Also, as the game level increases the pieces get funkier. For about the first two levels of the game the only piece that appears is the 1x1 block/Gem. Then the game throws in the occasional 1x2 block, then Tuts start appearing, then weird mixtures of 1x2 blocks and Tuts that are difficult to use. Approaching Level 40 brings up a warning (in Japanese) that Mummies will soon begin appearing. Around level 50 or 60, I believe, you start seeing weird Gem/Small block/Small Mummy pieces that are exceptionally difficult to handle.

Points are scored for clearing lines (much more for Gems, Tuts and Mummies than for blocks), for entombing many pieces at once, for combos (when a line or entombing vanishes from the screen, if the pieces that fall form another line or entombment then the new points are multiplied by the combo level), and for clearing the entire screen of pieces. This is called a "Perfect," and earns 5,000 points times the level number plus a cute anime-style graphic of the game's title character. In the first ten levels Perfects are almost trivial to achieve, and it's not hard to get ten or so by level 30 if you're really shooting for them. They get very difficult later on, but are worth a lot more points to compensate: a level 50 Perfect would be worth 250,000 points.

One interesting thing is that the game actually has an ending. Completing level 99 brings up an ending screen with credits and graphics, and the game ends regardless of how well the player was doing.

The weirdest thing about the game is the anime-style artwork of Cleopatra. According to these images (ignoring the attract sequence), Cleo was an incredibly perky, super-deformed queenie who barely looks adult, let alone capable of tempting Greek authority figures. She sits on the left side of the screen in the cutest possible rendition of ancient Egyptian Queen wardrobe, with a severely lopsided skirt and a headdress complete with what looks to be, seriously, a plush cobra-head, and spins around, jumps, shouts and cheers as the player earns combos. When a Perfect is scored, one of several possible large images is displayed showing her off to almost fetishistic detail. Two of the pictures show her cuddling a stuffed mummy doll. If the player manages to earn sixteen perfects in one game the game starts displaying pictures of her in Japanese schoolgirl uniforms, swimsuits, and at around the twenty-first perfect, a Playboy bunny outfit. Oooooo-kay, I wonder what was the intended audience for this game....

In case you're wondering how I know all this, yeah, I admit it, I actually went and earned twenty-seven perfects in one game. (My score was over three million.) Breezily overlooking any questions as to why I might want to do this, I mention that it helps that the gameplay is really good. This currently ranks as my favorite Tetris-style puzzle game after the original and Puyo Puyo. I don’t find it to really be all that hard until about level 68, and it's seriously possible, with practice, to complete it on one credit. It's one of those many goofy Japanese games that never really got a chance in the U.S. In particular, the surround-the-objects gameplay reminds me slightly of almighty Rampart (on which I've already spent too many words describing here). I recommend it, though you might not want to let your friends know you're playing it. It's, how should I say this, slightly embarrassing.

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