Developer: Kevin Mikles
Size: 152 MB
Platform: iPhone & iPad
Bardcard takes the classic memory-based card game of Pelmanism (aka Concentration or Pairs), and surrounds it with roguelike systems such as random encounters and permadeath.
As you tackle each dungeon level, picking out pairs of cards will initiate fights, secure treasure, introduce you to helpful quest givers and shopkeepers, and uncover useful equipment.
Each failed guess will sap your precious energy meter, which can be restored by finding food, while fights will deplete your life meter. Fights are tackled in classic turn-based RPG fashion, with a hidden roll of the dice as well as any equipped status-imbuing weapons and armor determining the damage incurred.
While game over means game over, certain elements persist in between runs. From filling in your quest journal to permanent equipment and helpful familiars, success in one run will enhance your chances in subsequent ones. You’ll also permanently level up your character’s base attributes, which makes future runs easier and thus longer.
You’ll also encounter dungeon elements that require specific items to make use of, from sending a helpful weasel familiar into a mysterious hole in the wall to offering a piece of pie to a hungry character.
It all contributes to a game that gets far more involving and downright interesting than its simple memory game concept might initially suggest. After several runs through Bardcard, the chances are you’ll be as hooked as you would be with any RPG or adventure game.
Like Dicey Dungeons before it, the streamlined gameplay loop that sits at the very heart of Bardcard’s action makes it feel native to mobile, even though it’s not. You could quite easily knock out a few floors in between bus stops, and just as easily lose a couple of hours to the game whilst sat on the couch.
The presentation is suitably basic, but with a pleasing level of artistry that nods to classic games of the ’80s, with period-appropriate two-tone pixel art and a crunchy, bleepy soundtrack.
Bardcard’s story is pretty disposable, but again perfectly in keeping with its nostalgic choose-your-own-adventure vibe. Starting out in a retro arcade before delving into a fantastical underworld, it’s pure G-rated direct-to-video stuff, and all the better for it.
Bardcard is a game that wears its depths lightly, hiding a surprising number of systems and tactical considerations behind a simple game of memory. In short, it’s another brilliant mobile roguelike.