Vulgar Knight
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Cardpocalypse Review

Love game intuition, play the cards with spades to start

The Cardpocalypse review is upon us, and only schoolgirl Jess can rescue us from our inevitable demise, equipped with a nicely cut deck of Mega Mutant Power Pets. And no, she’s not a magician.

I’m not too fond of card games other than Snap! and Uno. I just don’t understand the rules most of the time, but after a pleasant tutorial, Cardpocalypse, from Gambrinous and Versus Evil, is surprisingly good.

It’s a card-based game that’s accessible to chumps like me, where you take on many schoolchildren in a game of Power Pets, winning and trading bigger, brighter cards for the ultimate deck. But there are sidequests too; solving playground politics and getting involved in the kind of antics kids get up to that doesn’t involve fire or the internet.

Cardpocalypse Review – PC via Steam

We join our hero as she starts her first day at Dudsdale Elementary School. Despite her reservations of someplace new and having to meet new people, the kids are very accommodating and instantly introduce her to the world of Cardpocalypse cards.

Cardpocalypse - Mega
All hands on deck. Source: Screen capture

They show her how to play and even give her a couple of cards to start with, and before recess, she’s addicted to the game, as was yours truly. At every opportunity, Jess and her new friends spar in the game, winning or losing new cards to build up a customisable deck.

Naturally, the adults on campus don’t like the disruption. After an altercation with the school bully, Jess gets pinned with the blame for the cards being banned by the school principal. FOREVER!

Once again, the kids are far more understanding than Jess had expected, but the appearance of a strange ooze means that this card game may still play a role as the mutants come alive.

Them Be The Rules

Jess can roam around the school grounds in a free roam option, hitting up classmates to perform a sidequest, trade cards or have a good natter. But predominantly, this game is about building a custom deck of cards to thwart your enemies.

Let’s see if a non-card playing gamer can explain the rules. Each deck has a Cardpocalypse champion that is the centre of your deck. These champions are placed face up and each round, your goal is to chip away at the health of the other champion. Once at zero, the match is one.

However, that would be all too easy, and frankly, boring. So, each round, you have the option to pick out a card of minions to play that includes anything from defenders to buffs. If you play a defender, the enemy has to attack them before your champion, so a great way to prolong your survival. 

Cards have health and attack points, and the minions can be hard-hitting but have relatively low health, so you don’t keep them long. Also, you can’t just place these cards however you like as you have to ‘pay’ for them with pet food, awarded each round – the further the game progresses, the more food you start with.

Cardpocalypse - Wolfgang
Wolfgang. Source: Screen capture

Custom Super Ultra Mega Mutant Power Pets

You can build up several custom decks that are distinguished by one of four factions (they’re determined by which champion you use):

  • Woofians – dogs
  • Meowtants – cats
  • Sinissers – reptiles
  • Pipsqueaks – rodents

Each deck consists of 20 cards, and you can only commit to a game if the spaces have been filled. Decks can be whatever you choose based on style. Defenders are a given, but as each card you play has to wait until the next round for an action, cards with a ‘charge’ ability can attack immediately.

Just speaking with other kids can unlock new cards, completing their tasks or perhaps trading cards (that even has a gauge on fairness: who’s getting the better deal) with unwanted cards or snacks, means you can kit out a pretty enviable deck.

But it doesn’t stop there. You can also create your own cards with the assets from other characters. Quite possibly my gaming weakness; any sign of customisation and I’m instantly locked in, and the Cardpocalypse creations don’t disappoint if you like the aesthetics – reminiscent of a particular card-collecting game.

Cardpocalypse is so much like Chinpokémon, an episode from season three of South Park, and one of those Saturday morning kid commercials for the latest toy from Mattel. 

No Grown-Ups Allowed

Anyone who’s been a kid before, and I’m assuming that’s about 17% of you unless you skipped those cutscenes, will immediately identify with just how fun it was to be a kid around this age. Playground politics in the game are so naive and sweet that it puts our grown-up problems under the microscope. Why am I worried about mortgage payments when I could be choosing my own adventure in a paperback or climbing up a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g?

On that basis, Gambrinous has tapped into my inner child, and I’m sure many others too. I’m not sure if this will have backfired for their design for Cardpocalypse, but it was the story and overall atmosphere that stood out most for me. Already biased about card games, I enjoyed customising my decks, and it was so easy to get into a trap of playing ‘just one more game’.

Cardpocalypse - Vortex
Vortex. Source: PR

However, the way Jess interacts with her fellow students, solving their very child-like issues, and responding with quips I have been guilty of or on the receiving end is oozing with charm, as is the beautiful presentation, and goddamn catchy theme tune. Cardpocalypse gameplay was on the basic side, but still challenging and that’s what makes it all moreish. With the Out Of Time DLC set during Jess’ final day in her first week, you’ll get more time to play Power Pets.

Cardpocalypse Review
7.5 / 10 Verdict
Pros
  • Captures the playground atmosphere perfectly.
  • Charming story and presentation.
  • Lots of customisation options.
  • Cons
  • A little repetitive (yet addictive).
  • The card game occasionally broke the tempo.
  • The presentation caught my attention before the actual card-based gameplay, but since delving into Jess' world, Cardpocalypse has been a wave of nostalgia, and the card aspect really addictive. Perhaps not in the same league as Gwent, but if you're after a light-hearted game with whiffs of childhood memories, give it a go.
    Rating

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