Version Reviewed: 1.16
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 5
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
Stardock Entertainment has jumped into mobile with Dead Man's Draw, a deck-building card game that slowly reveals its depth to the player in layers, like an onion. It's fun and easy to play, but it's mostly a solo experience at this time, an unfortunate omission from a game perfectly suited for it.
While the use of numbered cards in specific suits may not make it feel like something in the realm of Ascension at first, this is by definition a deck-building game. The player and an opponent have a pile of 50 cards, numbered from 2-7, to draw from. Each card corresponds to one of 10 suits. At the start, the only difference between suits is that players only get scored for the highest card in each suit that their deck has. Players draw cards one at a time, with the ability to add all cards to their deck and end their turn at any time. If two cards of the same suit are drawn, the hand busts and all cards drawn go into the discard pile.
However, what Dead Man's Draw does is to introduce special abilities for each card as they come along, with a variety of effects on one's deck and hand. For example, the cannon cards allow players to discard one card from the opponent's hand. The anchor cards allow for all cards drawn in a turn before the anchor to be saved in case of busting. The tentacle card has a negative effect, forcing players to draw two new cards, putting them at a high risk of busting. These and the abilities of all ten suits steadily unlock throughout the early portion of the game.
Eventually, players unlock special traits that can be used on a limited-time basis, and this is where the coins that players earn comes in: they can buy more opportunities to use the traits, like having the cannon take out all the cards of an opponent's suit instead of just one. They have a minor effect on gameplay, but could help to tilt the scales.
This way of steadily introducing complexity to players in the Plants vs. Zombies mold, where the game lets players actually play the game to steadily understand its complexity, is definitely a great way to go about things. It's much preferred to the usual method of trying to shove everything down players' throats with tutorials and the like, because players get to actually play the game while learning it! Dead Man's Draw's gameplay is set up to be simple fun that one can sit back and enjoy without feeling stressed out, but with actual strategic elements that come into play. That it only features single-player campaigns and local multiplayer, lacking any kind of multiplayer option like Ascension or even Ben 10 Slammers is disappointing because it would be a great fit for this game. Hopefully it comes along in an update.
While the lack of multiplayer is a glaring omission that really hurts this game, there's still lots of fun to be had with Dead Man's Draw, especially if multiplayer is a feature added down the road.