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Review: Wildfrost is a cool and collected deck-builder

Developer: Chucklefish
Price: $6.99/£6.99 [Free demo]
Size: 809 MB
Version: 1.1.2
Platform: iPhone & iPad


Quite a few games have followed the lead set by 2019’s Slay the Spire, though none have quite matched the majesty of the original roguelike deck-builder. Wildfrost is one of the better efforts, and it’s now available on iOS. It’s the perfect pick for anyone who has managed to wring Slay the Spire dry.

There are a couple of things that Wildfrost does to distinguish itself. For one thing, it plays quite differently to Slay the Spire, valuing battlefield positioning as much as cunning card combinations.

Positioning is key on the two-lane battlefield

Every round starts by deploying your leader card, selected from a random selection of three before every run, onto a two-lane battlefield. This card must be protected at all costs.

Alongside this leader card can be placed up to three companions, as well as faithful pets and special items. The rest of your gradually accrued deck is made up of cards that can attack or defend directly, heal your heroes, or apply some other special effect.

Shops let you buy special cards and items

Where you position your hero cards matters here. Most enemies will only be able to attack the first card in a row, but you can reposition these cards at will, and even pull cards out of the firing line and back into your deck.

Just as crucial is Wildfrost’s counter system. Each hero and enemy card has a little symbol that counts down to when they get to attack. There are various cards that can speed up the former and slow down the latter.

Choose your path to each boss showdown

Each game of Wildfrost, then, is about the considered manipulation of the field in front of you, minimizing exposure to the enemy’s most damaging attacks and maximising your own offensive potential. It lends the game a distinct flavour, even though its source of inspiration is never less than blatantly obvious.

If there’s one overriding criticism, it’s that Wildfrost can be a seriously exacting game. It might well take a number of attempts before you make any sort of progress, and a particularly tough random level can stop you in your tracks early on.

Beating bosses grant you powerful rewards

While the game itself doesn’t quite match the distilled genius of Slay the Spire, the quality of this conversion exceeds its inspiration in every way. It looks superb, with an expressive cartoon art style that looks beautifully crisp even on a compact iPhone display.

Wildfrost on iOS also performs impeccably, as you might expect from a simple card game running on an iPhone 15 Pro. Still, the provision of multiple frame rate options, including a full 120fps, is impressive.

The muncher lets you get rid of less useful cards

More importantly, the game’s touchscreen controls are nigh-on faultless, lending a sense of precision but also a certain forgiveness for those sloppy mis-presses. That’s something the Slay the Spire iOS conversion suffered with early on, and still hasn’t wholly solved.

It all adds up to a brilliantly brutal yet impressively slick roguelike that takes up the Slay the Spire deck and deals it out in a lively new way.