App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
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I mentioned the existence of Hothead Games' Kard Combat a few weeks back, but now that it's seen a pretty significant update (and 148apps has begun to cover freemium titles), I figured it was time for a full-fledged review. So how does this quick-and-dirty card battler hold up now that its second decimal has risen above zero? Quite well, actually.
As I've mentioned previously, Kard Combat is a kind of "lite" CCG (Collectible Card Game) with a comparatively small library and an increased focus on fast, strategic battles. There's a basic narrative involving mages vying for the top-spot in the tower by fighting each other one-on-one all the way up, but it's little more than a backdrop. The real focus is on the duels, which are generally simple with a set of randomly chosen cards (taken from a player's stock) available throughout the whole match and constantly charging magic "pools." More powerful cards take more magic to summon, some cards inhibit an opponent's cards, etc...
Once the basic concept of "place one of the cards that isn't blacked-out in the play field" is grasped, there's a lot of little nuanced strategy to master. Steamrolling over a low-level AI enemy might work at first, but tougher mages (and online players) are nowhere near that easy. To really have a chance it's vital to plan ahead. Use spells to buff cards, save that big nasty one for the right moment, try to keep an opponent's cards blocked so that they can't do direct damage and above all learn to lose with dignity. Because it will happen. Especially online.
Yet as fun as all of the surprisingly intense duels can be, I can't help but lament the "half-access" this freemium title grants its users. Each of the eight (recently up from four) mage types and their varying strategies is fun to mess around with, and there's bound to be one that fits each player's preferred strategy, but they can only be used for a handful of tower floors and a couple of single player challenges apiece. In order to access the rest of their campaigns (and by extension unlock all of their cards), players will have to pay. Thankfully multiplayer is still available for non-paying users, but I feel like those who've taken the plunge are at a distinct advantage with more (and better) summons at their disposal.
Even as nothing more than a gimped-but-free distraction, Kard Combat is still a lot of fun. Provided players have the ability to play online, anyway. All things considered, $3 (or $6 with the four expansion mages) isn't a bad price to pay for what's on offer but players looking for an awesome freebie might be a bit disappointed if they never dabble in the multiplayer mode.