Cryptozoic Entertainment and Penny Arcade have teamed up to make an iOS version of Penny Arcade’s board game, Penny Arcade The Game: Gamers vs. Evil. As a huge Penny Arcade fan and someone who’s always looking for any kind of asynchronous (see also: turn based multiplayer) gaming goodness to play on the go, grabbing a copy off the iTunes store was a no brainer…but was it worth the $5?
Let’s break it down.
Penny Arcade The Game: Gamers vs. Evil can be played with 2-4 players for any one match. Every player starts with a deck of a dozen resource cards preselected based on your hero, which can be anyone from Gabe and Tycho all the way to Jim Darkmagic and the Scout Master from the Lookouts series of PA comics. Players draw six cards on their turn filled with a variety of resource cards used to purchase more powerful community cards in the center of the table. Instead of the typical colored mana, as the game is a Penny Arcade joint, your two separate power sources are derived from cardboard tubes and quarters (not kidding). The goal is not to damage your opponent, but instead build a deck that is worth more “victory” points by the end of the game. Should I use my resources this turn to purchase one larger, more valuable card, or should I buy two lesser cards allowing for more variety and special attacks against my opponents? On top of the deck building purchases, you can play cards to conduct a “PVP” attack against opponents, which usually result in giving your opponent the “PAX POX”, which is a card that goes into their deck which takes away from their final score.
PHAT BOSS LEWTS
At the far right hand side of the community cards sit two eight card piles of “boss” cards that require large amounts of resources to purchase, but their purchase can instantly tip the scales to your favor with large victory point and resource building abilities. Once the boss cards start getting purchased, the game starts picking up speed dramatically; if the other player doesn’t also start getting the necessary resources to purchase boss loot cards, then the game ends pretty decisively.
As soon as I got through the beautifully drawn menus and fired up a match, I immediately recognized the format. I’m not sure which came first, I’m not sure who is mimicking who’s format, but Penny Arcade The Game: Gamers vs. Evil is strikingly similar to another iOS async collectable card game, Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer. As I was playing the game for the first few runs, I couldn’t help but wonder, “I wonder if the Ascension folks know about this game…”
Boy, It Sure Would Be Nice…
Maybe because my brain immediately went from “collectible card game”, I was immediately interested in going into some kind of deck builder to hone my cards. However, because the game operates on building a deck as you’re playing the game, so you don’t even get to choose which hero you get to play with unless you turn on the pre-game “randomizer” which only allows you a choice of two random heroes. However, you can peruse all the cards in the card library, which is highly recommended given the speed of a multiplayer game. You can slow the card animations and game speed down to a crawl, but I would have appreciated a stop button. Much too often, cards would fly around the screen, and by the time I’d figured out he’d played six cardboard tubes and three quarters, the next player would be dropping their cards.
As I said when I started, this game is drenched in Penny Arcade lore and content. If you don’t know your Catsby from your Cardboard Tube Samurai, then you obviously are not going to have as much fun as a Penny Arcade fanatic is, drawing cards based on various comics the boys have slapped together throughout the years. Fortunately, the Penny Arcade fan base is fairly deep and I had no problem finding matches to play against other PA fans. The match making interface is simple to use and effective, and the game happily chirps at me when it is my turn in a match. Game lengths can be set between 15 minutes to 21 days, and there’s a clock above your name which ticks down you’re inactive; this keeps people from going AFK from their iPhone for a month without making a turn. I do enjoy the giant scoreboard showing your win/loss ratio when you’re making a new match.
Was it “Werewolf with a Top Hat” Fun?
There’s something about this style of card game where despite the game looking and feeling like a collectable card game, it ends up feeling like a game of poker. You get a hand of cards, and while there’s a smidge of strategy involved in which cards you purchase, there really aren’t a lot of card combos or deep strategy here. Everything is randomized (with the aptly named “randomizer”), but it takes away a lot of feeling of being involved with the game. Your cards fly into your hand, you push the “Play all” button, all the cards are played and you’re looking at how many resources you have. You buy cards, then it’s the next guy’s turn. Back and forth.
This is a tough sell; I’m not getting that same feeling I had when I was entrenched in Hero Academy; when my move came up, I jumped onto it. Here, with Penny Arcade The Game: Gamers vs. Evil, I just don’t have that desire to start up another match. There are Game Center achievements, but for most players, they’re a non-issue. It’s competent, looks pretty as hell, has a lot of production value, is a loving homage to the Penny Arcade universe, but as a game, I feel too detached from it, even as a big Penny Arcade fan
Check out the game over at Cryptozoic Entertainment’s website for Penny Arcade the Game: Gamers vs. Evil!