Size: 366 MB
Platform: iPhone & iPad
After several fruitful years spent branching out with clever card-based puzzlers like Miracle Merchant and Maze Machina, developer Arnold Rauers (aka Tinytouchtales) has returned to the game that made his name.
While the world and even the basic Solitaire premise of Card Crawl Adventure will be familiar to any Card Crawl fanatics, however, this is a very different beast. It’s a richer, deeper, and more expansive experience, but also far trickier to get a handle on and less of a pure joy to play.
You’re still looking to get through a mixed deck of bespoke playing cards containing enemies to vanquish and weapons and spells to vanquish them with, but the route to doing so is far twistier.
Each run presents you with successive randomly dealt 3×3 grids of cards. Tap two or more adjacent or diagonal cards in sequence, and you’ll bind them into a single battle. Any weapons will combine their value and attack any enemies for that amount, while any special modifiers such as elemental effects will also be applied.
Many cards will require some of your limited strength points to play. Run out of strength, and the cost will come out of your health points. Naturally, there are item cards that restore those meters, as well as special items that confer various bonuses.
Occasionally you’ll encounter merchant cards or others that provide extra cards and weapons. There are also special mission cards that grant treasure rewards if you fulfill the requirements, such as selecting a certain number of cards within a sequence, or drawing out a specific path shape.
After so many enemies are defeated, a boss card will be dealt into the pack with extra hit points and special attacks. Defeat them, and it’s on to the exit to scoop up the spoils of war.
We’ve crammed a lot of explanation into the review so far, but believe us when we say we’re leaving plenty out. There’s a lot more to Card Crawl Adventure than the original game, which is both a blessing and curse.
On the one hand, we can imagine losing ourselves to the game for protracted stretches of time rather than the odd Card Crawl dip. There’s enough here to sustain that sort of obsession.
However, in our early hours with the game we struggled to grasp the finer points of the battle system and terminology, despite several runs through the tutorial. Indeed, the very fact that we felt the need to run through the tutorial so many times is an indication that either the game’s systems are a little convoluted, or the onboarding process isn’t quite there. Perhaps a bit of both.
It helps that the initial dungeons are fairly simple to navigate, as does Tinytouchtales’ perpetually inviting visual style. It really is a charming world to do battle in, with a cast of motley characters who do lovely things with the old fantasy archetypes.
We look forward to exploring further and properly getting to grips with Card Crawl Adventure’s slightly knotty systems, even as we find ourselves pining for the simple brilliance of its all-time-classic predecessor.