It's better than the average match-three puzzle game, but not by much.
Cradle of Rome is a puzzle game originally for the PC made by GameHouse, which has also made games such as Text Twist and Feeding Frenzy. It tries valiantly to be like Puzzle Quest (Bejeweled with a twist), but it is not nearly as intriguing as Puzzle Quest's RPG elements, and its being a very barebones PC port doesn't help.
Cradle of Rome's twist is that you must build up Rome by gaining resources and building structures that range from simple farms to the Colosseum. The goal of each level is to match three of a kind on each blue square on the playing grid before time is up. This doesn't clearly tie into the building aspect; the puzzle gameplay and the theme are disconnected. The match-three gameplay is made more complex by obstacles such as locks that prevent you from moving certain items on the board until cleared in a match.
While it doesn't do much to evolve the simple gameplay mechanic of matching three of a kind, collecting specific items to build up your resources is a cool feature. There are three different resources in the game: money, food, and building materials. You have to acquire a certain amount of each resource in order to build a structure, which then unlocks more abundant resources or new power-ups. The power-ups, which are not permanently consumed when used, range from a hammer that breaks one blue square to a star that removes every instance of a specific resource. These are integral in beating the later challenging levels, which have differently shaped playing fields.
There are a hundred different levels to progress through in the quest to build the four Epochs of Rome. While it starts off very simply, the difficulty quickly ramps up as you're introduced to locks and unfriendly blue square placement. The challenge is not always kept up, though, as occasionally a later level will be much easier than the one preceding it. Also, Cradle of Rome is extremely linear–there are no branching paths.
The game only uses the touch screen, displaying a static picture on the top screen. The intuitive controls involve sliding two squares at a time using the stylus. There isn't too much to do when you finish the main game: the only other mode is just a means of replaying all the levels you've completed.
While nothing too original, Cradle of Rome isn't that bad of a Bejeweled clone. The difficulty gets brutal, but the game is relatively forgiving. If you're interested in a short, fun puzzle game for DS, you could do much better, but you could also do worse.