Developer: Kung Fu Factory
Price: $3.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad Mini Retina

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Controls Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★½☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

Card Wars – Adventure Time is a tale of two wildly different emotions coming from the same game. Its core game is excellent, top-notch stuff. But the free-to-play aspects that surround this $3.99 purchase do a lot of damage to an otherwise amazing title.

CardWars-3Taking direct inspiration from the “Card Wars” episode of Adventure Time, this card battler (appropriately enough) has players building decks and taking on other characters in battles. Players play creatures and buildings with different stats and effects on one of the four lanes, each with its own environment type that affects what can be played there. Each turn, the player chooses what cards to play, what cards to floop (meaning which special abilities to activate), and then to battle to try and take out creatures and to attack blank squares to hit the other player’s HP directly. Last one standing is the Cool Guy.

The core game is so much fun: the battles are simple but have a fantastic amount of depth in the way that each card encourages its own strategy for use. The system for being able to land critical attacks or miss is a simple (and optional) addition that really spices up the combat. As well, the familiar atmosphere and characters, with original voice work by the show’s official actors, is an amazing touch to this game. On its own? Adventure Time Card Wars is amazing.

But then, the drama started.

The elephant in the room is the energy mechanic. The whole game is structured in Candy Crush Saga style where there’s level-based progression but it’s managed by a hearts counter that drains every time a battle is started – with more hearts earned for completing three new levels, but more needed to fight battles. Gems can buy more hearts, but they’re also used to buy more rare cards and are only earned in certain circumstances.

CardWars-7For a $3.99 game, this is honestly a pretty big problem in that it makes it possible to not play a game that the player has paid for and wants to play. It’s a brutal misapplication of the mechanic, too – energy systems exist in games to prevent the player from playing too much so that they don’t get bored and thus want to come back. This just throws a brick wall in front of the player, flustering them for wanting to play more of the game they’ve bought. However, given the ability to jump in for lengthy sessions even with the hearts system, it’s hard to say that I personally was ever really bothered by it – in actuality it was a lot more annoying in a philosophical sense for existing.

So really, while the core game is unquestionably great, Card Wars – Adventure Time‘s enjoyment is pretty much exclusively based on whether the player can accept the free-to-play mechanics in a game they paid $3.99 for. That this great game is saddled with such an albatross is disappointing, but really? It doesn’t ruin the game, it’s just a noticeable stain on its shirt.


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