Card games and handheld devices go together like cheese and onion on chips or insanity on Gary Busey’s brain. It’s a genre which feels perfect for that kind of hardware, a feat that Yu-Gi-Oh! Nightmare Troubador realised early on as the Nintendo DS life-cycle began. Since then, we’ve seen the idea expand and culminate with Blizzard’s superb Hearthstone: Heroes of WarCraft going mobile.
And there’s clearly a market for it, as just about everybody wants a piece of that pie as we’ve got everything from Gwent to Solforge making a splash on mobile devices. Dozens of copycats which are all using a familiar model of free-to-play hooks and simple gameplay mechanics to set up a lucrative system for the card game fanatic on the go.
And then there’s Skylanders: Battlecast, which is both digital and physical in its approach to games. While you don’t have to drop a single coin on actually buying any of the many, many cards available for this cards-to-life game, that option is there. It’s a two-pronged approach of microtransactions and actual cards to get stuck into, yet it manages to not feel exploitative at all.
Battlecast is also Skylanders leveraged to the max, in a manner that doesn’t feel like one of the countless Hearthstone knock-offs available on the market right now. It’s more turn-based RPG than card game, liberally borrowing ideas from Hearthstone such as a stock of power gems every turn to set up attacks, counters, spells and gear equips. There’s a marvelous system at play here, that should be complex enough for the younger family members to start with before more intricate strategies start popping up in more challenging matches.