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iPad  header logo

Card Wars - Adventure Time

For: iPad   Also on: iPhone

Embrace the Dweeb

Product: Card Wars - Adventure Time | Publisher: Cartoon Network | Format: iPad | Genre: Card/ board game, Film/ TV tie- in | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
Card Wars - Adventure Time iPad, thumbnail 1
Who doesn't love a bit of Adventure Time? Well, me. At least until I watched a couple of episodes in preparation for this review and fell for it like everyone else.

One of the episodes sees protagonists Jake and Finn engaged in a thinly-disguised Magic: the Gathering pastiche called Card Wars. It's alleged to be 'super complicated' and looks incredible, with card plays activating monsters and buildings on a holographic board. Perfect material for a mobile spin-off game.

Husker Knights

Except that what you get isn't really like the episode at all. It looks the part, with nicely-rendered cartoon graphics featuring characters from the series and monsters from the game, but it's actually a pretty simple affair where you have to occupy four lanes with your summoned creatures to stop the summons in the opposite lanes getting through and damaging the player directly.

There are spells and buildings, but they take a back seat to the monsters. They have variable attack values and combat is handled with a spinner that you've got to stop in the right area to hit or block when attacking or defending.

You can also pay from your pool of magic points to 'floop' them for a special power, and there is a pig.

That's probably enough, right there, to have fans of the series rushing for the App Store. But you really need to wait, and finish reading the review.

Wandering Bald Man

The first thing you need to know is that in addition to being simple, it's also fairly shallow. On the surface it looks like there's a lot of moving parts: you can play different characters with different powers, level them up, edit your deck, and forge new cards.

IAPs explained
Cash in Card Wars buys inevitably-named gems which can then be spent for various bonuses.

As you'd expect, one is to purchase cards for your deck, and you can also use them to increase the number cards you can store (although this shouldn't be limited in the first place). Spending one will refill your life points and hand of cards if you lose a match.

The final use is to refill your energy meter and allow you to continue playing if you've depleted it through repeat plays.

You get a few gems free, and you can earn one by replaying a level three times and completing all the challenges, but if you get into the game that's not likely to be enough.
You'll need to do all these things to progress through the single-player campaign across the map of Ooo.

But if you're a veteran collectible card game player, looking for synergies and combinations to test out and experiment with, you'll be disappointed. This game is mostly about packing your deck with the meanest monsters you can field.

However, while it's a little lightweight, there's no denying Card Wars is pretty fun to play. You're challenged to work through tactical options on what to summon and what to floop, and it's packed with little jokes from the TV series.

Best of all, it has that indefinable, wriggly little itch that makes you want to try one more turn, one more game, one more hour before you stop.

So it's a crying shame that the game stops you doing just that.

The Pig

In among all the card game mechanics you were expecting is one you probably weren't: an energy meter. Once it runs down to zero you either have to stop and wait for it to refill, or pay real cash to continue (see IAPs explained).

At first, this is no big deal unless you want to play for extended periods. But after a little while, battles start to cost more and more energy, and the lack of it really starts to impact on enjoyment of the game.

That'd be fine in a free title, but this is a paid app and it feels grotesquely unjust that playing time should be limited.

It's a shame, really, that what would otherwise be an amusing time-sink has been sullied in this manner, not least because the other freemium bolt-ons seem relatively fair and well-judged.

You can just grind instead of paying up, and since the game is fun, and repeat plays of a level offer new challenges and loot to encourage replay, then on balance grinding is marginally more pleasure than pain.

But the pleasure drains out of the experience alongside your depleting energy meter. Big fans of the series, and anyone with the patience to wait for free refills, can have a fair amount of fun here, but the addition of a paid timer brings the whole thing down.
Card Wars - Adventure Time
Reviewer photo
Matt Thrower | 17 February 2014
A light but fun and well-presented game that struggles under the weight of gratuitous IAPs
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