App Reviewed on: iPhone XR
User Interface Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
The App Store is filled with an abundance of deck-based roguelikes these days. I'm sure that's true of other game marketplaces, too, but there's nothing quite like having a huge selection of deep turn-based strategy titles in your pocket at all times. The latest game in this mold is Card Hog, a dungeon-crawler that takes inspriation from some pretty well-worn territory at this point, but still manages to offer a reasonably new and exciting take on the genre.
For anyone who doesn't know what a deck-based roguelike is, Card Hog reinterprets the action of a dungeon-crawler using a deck of cards that you can modify and customize over the course of a play session. This deck always contains the pig avatar you play as, plus environmental features like caverns, spikes, and open fields, but the gear you equip and the enemies you face are variables you can control to a certain degree.
Card Hog creates a "dungeon" by displaying 12 cards from the deck at a time in a grid. This creates the play field and represents your hero's surroundings. One of these cards is the pig itself, who you can swipe in a direction to move onto nearby cards, which will then react according to context. For example, moving onto a weapon will equip it, and moving from there toward an enemy will cause you to safely attack it with the weapon you equipped. If you don't have a weapon equipped, moving onto an enemy will hurt your pig while defeating the enemy. The ultimate goal of Card Hog is to survive as long as possible while defeating bosses and ever-more challenging creatures that appear in your deck.
The basic goal of the game remains constant, but Card Hog comes packed with three modes that offer distinct twists on the deck-based dungeon-crawler formula. Dungeon Loops appears to be the standard way to play, and offers opportunities to duck into towns across crawls to spend currencies on card upgrades or deck modifiers. In these towns you can also take on bounties to defeat enemies for bonus items and rewards. Endless Crawl is a more basic mode that simply asks you to survive as long as possible as the difficulty gradually increases. And finally, there's a Zombie Survival mode, which puts you in a smaller grid and adds mechanics that emulate a crafting survival game.
In addition to these modes, Card Hog has a ton of individual cards to unlock and discover, as well as different pigs you can play as, all of whom have different starter weapons and distinct abilities. This well of variables ensures that almost no two games of Card Hog will ever be alike, despite the fact that every game involves swiping between cards in a fight for survival.
All of Card Hog's depth and variety comes in a convenient portrait-mode package that's easy to bust out at a moment's notice. It also has a great set of system options to adjust the game's frame rate, how often it auto-saves, and color scheme, allowing you to tune the experience to your exact liking.
My only problem with Card Hog is how long it can take for any given session to get interesting. When you start a run from scratch, your moves seem inconsequential for dozens of swipes, if not more. It takes just a smidge too long to get through these early stages into grid layouts that start demanding you plan and think about moves. This isn't a huge problem, as there is always a satisfying deep end of Card Hog at the end of these early stages, but it's mildly annoying that you have to invest time to get there every time you restart.
The bottom line
Card Hog is a well made card-based roguelike. Nothing about its mechanics will surprise you too much, but it offers up a satisfying amount of depth and variety, particularly considering the asking price. Just know that you'll have to invest a bit in it each time you play to unlock its full potential.