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For: iPad   Also on: Steam

Street Fighter anti-turbo edition

Product: Yomi | Publisher: Sirlin Games | Format: iPad | Genre: Card/ board game, Fighting, Multiplayer, Strategy | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
Yomi iPad, thumbnail 1
There are lots of tabletop games based on popular video games, but mostly they settle for simply being set in the same world with the same characters, rather than trying to replicate the actual play.

But Yomi is different. Yomi is a card game that tries to mimic the actual back and forth of an arcade fighting game. Confusingly, it's now come full circle with an iOS version which is a mobile game of a card game of a video game -almost certainly a world first in genre-blending.

You might imagine that the ultra-fast twitch gameplay of fighting games would translate poorly to the more cerebral world of the tabletop. But, as usual, you're dead wrong.

The basis of most one-on-one brawlers is reading your opponent and then trying to second-guess them in a rock-paper-scissors style challenge, only much faster and with more buttons. It's this principle that Yomi builds on.

Each fighter has a hand of cards corresponding to moves: attacks, throws, blocks, and dodges. These have different speeds and damage effects. Both choose and reveal a card in secret with attacks beating throws, throws beating blocks and dodges, and blocks and dodges beating attacks. If both players pick the same type, fastest wins.

Whoever got the move through can then build their damage by playing other cards to make a combination, so long as they have sequential numbers or particular combo effects like "Linker" or "Ender".

The victim, meanwhile, can block the combo with a Joker or bluff in the hope the attacker won't pump too many cards into the combo for fear of losing it.

It sounds moderately complex, and it is. There's a litany of other circumstantial rules, and to add to the learning curve the game comes with ten fighters, each with its own deck and special power which means they all play completely differently. There's another ten you can unlock with an IAP. It all adds up to massive replayability.

The classic fighting game match-up of ... bull versus ... fish-thing

Sadly for those uninitiated into the vagaries of detailed card games, the tutorial doesn't do the best job of explaining things. And if you want to look something up for clarity, forget it: there are no rules included. You'll need to track down a copy online.

After this shaky start things improve considerably. Yomi is a peculiar game, but it works fascinatingly well as a strategic exercise. Success demands a good understanding of the character you're using and a fine grasp of hand management, as you try to build combo-able cards without sustaining deadly damage in the process.

Of course, you'll never get the chance to use your carefully collected moves unless you can get off the initial attack in the chain. Since cards are played blind, there's a strong element of luck here, but it can be partly ameliorated via card counting. But only partly - so every card down is a moment of pure lip-biting, fist clenching terror.

If you play the physical version of the game regularly, you'll come to understand that choosing these first cards, as well as bluffing to block combos, involves a lot of reading your opponent. Just like in a real fighting game, which is very clever design.

Bringing all-new meaning to the phrase 'bearded dragon'

However, this aspect of the game simply doesn't translate to mobile. There's a perfectly good online mode for playing games against friends, but if you can't see them it's almost impossible to read them.

And while the two AI levels and the Survival mode against the computer are challenging enough, without a human opponent the bluffing aspects become little more than random chance.

There's still plenty of fun to be had with the meatier parts of the game, though - certainly enough to make Yomi worth your while. The taut experience of playing the card game has been embellished with an excellent interface and a suitably convincing overlay that makes it look like a real fighting game.

And since all those buttons and sticks don't translate terribly well to touchscreen, Yomi is probably the closest thing iOS gamers will ever get to the thrills and spills of an arcade brawler.
Reviewer photo
Matt Thrower | 28 April 2014
An unusual and engaging strategy game that loses just a little vitality played online
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