Adventure Time Card Wars Review
I really wanted to like Adventure Time Card Wars. Everything about the mobile game has greatness written all over it, but one little thing, one disturbingly simple feature, something so ridiculous that it nearly kills everything else that makes the game good. A great many times a feature, or two, will lower a games overall score because it just doesn’t work out in the way the developers intended, but in the case here with Adventure Time Card Wars, the said implemented feature is worse than almost any game breaking bug i’ve ever experienced. But, lets start things off with the positives and leave the deal breaker for the end so you will feel like I did when I started playing the game.
Adventure Time Card Wars is a collectible card game in the same vein as Magic The Gathering or Pokemon with an extremely simplified battle system. While this may turn off many CCG players from picking up the game I think it’s a great way to incorporate the whole CCG thing for a much younger audience. I was never one to get into the Magic scene or any card game beyond some hands of poker from time to time. Fans of the show are youths and the developers tailored the gameplay so that it would be really easy to pick up and learn. I liken it to those old Hero Quest board games that helped a great many people move onto the more in-depth Dungeons & Dragons. If this leads players of Adventure Time Card Wars to pick up a real and fully fleshed out CCG, then I can get behind that.
Playing the game is a fun and simple affair. You are assigned a Hero card to be your player avatar within the game. You start out with Jake the dog and will over the course of play gain new hero characters by unlocking them or beating them in battle. You have a deck of cards filled with unit cards, magic cards and building cards that can all be used in play. Each hero can only have a certain amount of cards in their deck and can add more by upgrading your hero after earning enough points in battle. You can build your deck, picking and pulling out cards as you see fit like any other CCG, but a really neat feature is the ability to craft new cards from a number of cards you already own. During the course of the game you will earn card blueprints that you can use to craft new and more powerful unit and building cards.
Gameplay is easy as pie. You progress along a map meeting new characters to do battle with. One thing that’s important to note before going further is that the game offers no sort of multiplayer option. I am by no means a fan of online multiplayer, as you can tell from my usual writings, but the whole CCG format is based on competition with other people. What’s the point in collecting a ton of cards if you can’t put them to use against others? Before the battle begins you get to choose four landscape cards to place on your side of the board.There are a number of available choices like Corn Fields, Useless Swamps, Blue Plains and more. These landscape cards will dictate which of your units can be placed on the board as some units require a certain landscape card to be on the table for them to be placed. You are then taken to the playing portion of the game.
Your cards are randomly chosen from within your deck and you are given a set number of points that can be used to put your various cards into play. After your opponent lays down their cards a battle phase will be initiated with any characters in each of the four available lanes attacking or defending. You are permitted to have a total of four unit cards in play at any given time and four building assist cards that provide some sort of player buff, this is of course if you have enough battle points to play them. Battles are decided by an in-game spinner feature that the computer will initiate the spin, and if you are attacking or defending you must tap the screen to halt the spinner in the green or bright green segments. Stopping on the green segment means either a hit or a block and landing on the bright green segment, which is considerably smaller, deals a critical hit or a parry/attack maneuver. The green area of spinner pie chart will vary depending on the unit being played and their strength or defense in relation to the opponent unit. The object of each match is to eliminate the enemy units on the board and then have your units attack the opposing hero unit directly. When the opposing player is reduced to zero heath you win the match. Along the way many units will drop chests that you can open after the match ends. These may reward you with new cards or in-game cash and so on. That’s the core of the game and offers younger player and those, like me, who have never experienced a CCG a really fun time.
The audio and visuals in-game are really fantastic. Characters are very well modeled with lots of little details and care put into their mannerisms and facial expressions during a battle. The game boasts a fully voice cast from the original voice actors which is an amazingly nice touch that helps draw the player in. There is a lot of fan service in Adventure Time Card Wars and not just in the audio department. The units you earn throughout the game are all based and lifted right out of the television show making it exciting when you earn a new card. Everything up to this point in the review has been pretty fantastic, but this is the point where everything sort of losses steam and leaves you, like it did me, with a bad taste in your mouth.
Microtransactions. Microtransactions will be the death of the mobile games industry if things keep up the way they are. Listen, I completely understand that developers and publishers need to make money from a project and when said project is free-to-play I rarely have any issue with it. The problem with Adventure Time Card Wars is that you already have paid for the game and without shelling out more money you will find advancing in-game a difficult task. When you get started on the map screen you will see a little heart meter at the top of the screen that reads something like 6/6 Full and a red jewel on the top right of the screen. You earn red jewels by playing and winning battles or you can purchase some from the store, with real money, to unlock special chests within the menu. Fine, no big thing as these are all optional things, the problem hits when you lose a match and are asked to spend a jewel, which I had already blown on unlocking a random card, to continue the game. I already paid my money so why is the game trying to lock me out from even playing it? I don’t want to sit and wait twiddling my thumbs until the game “allows” me to try again. But, and let me say that’s a big BUT, things get much worse. The heart icon is there to let you know how many matches you can play at any given time. Each match requires you to give up some hearts to enter into battle, usually two, and if you run out of hearts, which will happen if you intend to play for any extended periods of time, you will have to wait for the click to count down until your hearts begin to refill.
This is a ludicrous feature made even more crazy with the game flat-out telling you to buy some heart refills, FOR REAL MONEY, to allow me to continue to play the game that I already purchased. I get that micro transactions are here to stay, even in some paid retail games but never have a seen a game that one has already paid for lock you from enjoying it on your own terms without shelling out more and more money. Look, there are other games on in the App Store that also offer you the opportunity to buy stuff after you’ve already bought the game in the form of DLC or in-game tokens, but these things were almost never required to enjoy the game on your own terms. You know if you are playing a Tiny Tower clone or something along those lines there is going to be periods of waiting while the world does its thing, but those aren’t action heavy games and are geared with longer casual play sessions. Adventure Time Card Wars is a collectible card game that limits the amount of matches you can play. Could you imagine play Magic The Gathering at some tournament and every few matches being told to just sit and twiddle your thumbs for an hour before you can play again? Or how about loading up Skyrim and seeing a pop-up that tells you every time night falls in-game your must wait twelve real world hours before you can continue on your adventure.A game that should offer the player instant gratification is ultimately ruined be denying you the very thing you wanted. Adventure Time Card Wars could have very easily been not only a good mobile CCG but had the potential of being the best Adventure Time licensed game to date. I really wanted this to be the Adventure Time game that I loved, you can tell as this review is now well over 1,600 words for a mobile game, but whoever it was that decided to implement the pay-to-play system nearly ruined everything. If I could tell the developers one thing it would be to drop the ridiculous pay to play system and just let people enjoy the really fun game you crafted.