There’s something charming and endearing about looking at a zombie turtle called “Rigor Tortoise,” that has been made better by a child’s stickers that improve its stats, only to kill it moments later with your own “Rabbit Foot” card. The Rabbit Foot, of course, being a foot with a rabbit face and ears on it. It’s silly things like these that you are treated to when you play the upcoming RPG, Cardpocalypse, from the Irish studio, Gambrinous.
In Cardpocalypse, you play as a young girl named Jess as she navigates her elementary school, solving the childhood problems of her peers and stopping an evil invasion of demons from taking over our world. This is all done by playing the in-game children’s card game, Power Pets, which is essentially Hearthstone but with zany mutated house pets as cards. Taking place in Jess’ school over the course of a week, your time will be spent between rolling around exploring the school and combat.
No other game I encountered on the show floor gave me as many chuckles as this game did. The personality and charm that has been put into this game easily make it one of my favorites of the show. I loved that the main character, Jess, doesn’t let her disability hinder her and that it isn’t a focus in this game. When I asked Colm Larkin, the game’s director, what the decision was behind making the main character be in a wheelchair, it was that members of the team had simply wanted to do it. Every child, girl or boy, disability or no, play games too. One thing that struck me particularly strongly was when Colm mention how at that age, kids may notice things like being in a wheelchair, but five minutes later it’s forgotten and kids go back to be kids. Kids playing games, having fun, and dealing with their own problems.
In place of swords and spears, you will be taking a card out of Yu-Gi-Oh’s deck, doing battle on the card battlefield, saving the world by playing a children’s card game. Decks are composed of a champion, and then cards that match the champions faction, and neutral cards (lore-wise, these are the rejects that none of the factions wanted). Cards all have a power, toughness and cost value, and most cards have additional effects or abilities as well. If you are familiar with other collectible card games (Magic, Hearthstone, etc) then you will recognize the similar effects. Some act as defenders, preventing creatures from hitting anything else until they are dealt with, or will kill an enemy regardless of how much life they have. Rather standard CCG fair.
Resources are much more in line with Hearthstones system as opposed to Magic The Gathering’s. Each turn, your resource max total will increase by one, refilling each turn. Each pet has a specific value of this resource that it costs to summon them. It’s a system that lets even new players focus on just making a fun deck and playing and not worrying so much about an including figuring how much mana to include.
What makes Cardpocalypse different from Hearthstone is the sticker system that allows you to change a number of aspects of both the individual cards and the rules themselves that you play the game with. With stickers you win from card matches or find around the school, you can increase the power, defense, life, change or modify abilities, and even the name that is on the card. A feature that will be in the final release that wasn’t in the build I played will allow you to even adjust the rules of the game itself, letting you bring pets from various factions together in a single deck for example.
I renamed a rat card to Carl and invested stickers to make him stronger than anything else in my deck. This personalized touch to the card made it more special than any of it’s other mutant furry friends. Colm explained that the thought behind this mechanic was that kids like to put stickers on their things and make it their own. I get it. It’s a simple thing, but it works and creates that connection extremely well. I now get a bit better, Yugi’s bromance like devotion to his Dark Magician card in the show.
Applying this system would prove almost an impossible task in the multiplayer scene and so Cardpocalypse will remain a single player only experience. At first, I was slightly saddened to hear it, but there are so many other digital card games you can easily get your online fix elsewhere. Being single player just makes this game more fun and unique to enjoy.
I had an absolute blast playing through this game and meeting Colm, and want to desperately see more and the rest of the 240+ cards that will be in the final title. There is no firm release date as of yet, but the team is aiming for a later 2019 release.