Review: Missile Cards20 Jul 2017 0
Review: Missile Cards
Released 27 Jun 2017
It’s time for another genre mash-up! This week’s attempt at performing the fusion technique comes to us from Nathan Meunier, a freelance writer based out of New York who has written for just about everyone in the gaming press, plus also putting pen to paper on a number of his own books about getting into freelance writing and self-publishing.
Somehow he’s found the spare time to create Missile Cards, a turned-based card game that is structured through a tower-defense objective. You can read more about Nathan’s work here, where he also writes about the facts and figures behind launching a game, which always makes for a fascinating read.
As noted, Missile Cards has a couple of moving parts to it. A conveyor belt is constantly churning over three types of cards: hazard, defense, and utility. The hazard cards, once dropped off the side of the belt will appear on the right hand side of the screen in the main area of action. Each hazard card has a number, which represents the amount of firepower you need to take it down. Every time some form of action is entered on the screen, the hazard will drop down by one tile. At the bottom is your base, split into several sub-bases and a core central base. A sub-base can take two hits before you’re finished, but if the main base is destroyed it’s an automatic game over. This leads to numerous scenarios where it may be better to leave your far-left sub-base to the mercy of a +4 asteroid, as you only have a +2 rocket and can see a +2 asteroid on the way. You only have a finite amount of defense cards to use, so sometimes it’s better to leave a more powerful card in the deck and hope it comes around when needed.
The aforementioned rocket makes up one of the defense cards. Each card has a number which represents the damage they can cause, but it also correlates to how much AP it costs to bring them into play. To the right is an AP bar that charges with each turn. Do you grab those two 4+ rockets wiping out your entire AP bar, or just grab the +2 turret to be cautious? These cards once put into play also need to be charged before they can be used. A +1 defense card will need to 2 charges and so on. Batteries will occasionally appear on the belt for the purpose of charging your ammunition up, but a lot of the time they turn up when they’re just not needed.
On top of that, the utility cards also cost AP, and they tend to be pretty useful. The most common card is the scanner. When a hazard is destroyed it leaves behind one unit of gold that fades away after four turns. You can use a scanner to grab any gold laying around, which is used to purchase additional utility cards in between rounds. Scanners can only be used once and they also take up one of the four slots needed for defense cards - so how many do you keep hold of? Do you try and wait for a bunch of asteroids to appear so you can try and collect as much gold in one swoop? Perhaps you do, but then another bunch of overpowered rocks appear and you’re now desperately trying to re-equip yourself again before being blown to smithereens.
The gold collected is used between rounds to purchase additional utility cards. These range from doubling the value of gold to repairing sub-bases. Some of the cards feels more circumstantial than tactical, but the game in general plays heavily into the luck of the draw, which may frustrate some.
Missile Cards aesthetic is clearly indebted to the Commodore 64/NES era, but where a lot of games only feel like they are playing tribute, here, Meunier nails the presentation. This mostly comes down to the music that sounds so accurate I wonder if Meunier ripped out a NES APU and programmed it in. The minimal animation the game has to offer all looks smooth and everything on show is pleasing to the eye.
DO NOT go into a game without looking at the tutorial, otherwise you will be poking and prodding and getting nowhere fast. It takes roughly two rounds to clock on to the rules and mechanics, but before you reach that hurdle the game feels as obtuse as throwing a child into a game of Risk.
Missile Cards is difficult partially because of game design and partially because of sheer luck. You think you’re sorted with a complete deck of +4 rockets only to see they’ve been wasted on +1 asteroids. Things get particularly rough in the later levels when you have to contend with nukes that take twice as much firepower and hacking cards that delete one of your active cards from play. By that point some of the charm gets stripped away and the whole thing becomes a chore - particularly with no ability to speed up the conveyor belt. After a few hours it does feel like you’ve seen everything the game has to offer. Compounded with the brick wall in difficulty the game throws at you, Missile Cards struggles to find replayability.
It’s simple mechanics (once understood) and controls make it a perfect fit on an iPhone or iPad. The game is a standalone purchase with no online functionality. An average game takes no more than 10 minutes, so whether it is for commuting or to kill time at lunch, you’ll get a week’s worth of gameplay out of it - more power to you if it sticks around any longer.