Sword & Poker in Review – Straight to your Heart!
Peanut Butter and Jelly, Abbot and Costello, Oprah and cupcakes; Some things just GO TOGETHER.
Such is the case with Sword & Poker, an epic jumble of two unlikely bedfellows: The hardcore RPG, which relies completely on player skill and gear, and the lighthearted poker (but-not-really-poker) mechanics of luck and pattern recognition.
In the interest of full disclosure, Sword & Poker is perhaps my favorite game currently on the App Store. I have likely put more time into it than I have into all my other apps combined, including email / social networking / instant messaging, etc. While I will attempt to be as objective as possible, do not expect me to completely overlook its flaws and laud its achievements.
Sword & Poker is the Japanese, best-selling title released in – oh, who cares? It’s got accolades out the whazoo.
The music for Sword & Poker gets the job done beautifully, paying homage to RPG classics such as Ocarina of Time and the Final Fantasy series which isn’t surprising considering the game’s Japanese origins. The same can be said of the fight music itself, which also borrows heavily from FF random battle symphonics. Yes, I said “symphonics”. From the crisp flicking of your cards, to the “thud” your enemies make as you encounter them, to the clinking of your coins (your “health” is measured by how many coins you have) as they are discarded, battle effects merge seamlessly into a fantastic experience.
What is there to say about the controls? They are perfect. Touch-and-drag for the cards, touch for menu options, etc. Everything registers promptly and properly. It could be played with two hands or with a single finger. There is no timer, so how fast you wish to make inputs is up to you.
One word: Brilliant. Imagine playing poker against a D&D “Game Master” who decides to change the order of the cards halfway in. There’s a skill for that. There’s a thief-style ability to steal cards directly from an enemy’s hand. You can paralyse your opponent, drain their life, silence them from casting spells, and pierce through their shields for the killing blow. The combinations of special weapon abilities and skills is truly mind-boggling, and the RPG min/maxers who wish to take on the DEEP dungeon (yes, there are levels and bosses even after you “beat” the game) will have to master combos.
You start the level with a certain number of “recharge” coins that can be used (between fights) to fully heal you, but they are limited – and they provide a considerable bonus to your loot if you can complete the level without their use. This loot is then exchanged for classic RPG fare: better weapons with better stats, better shields, and a larger coin purse (read: health pool). The weapon selection and shield selection are unique and varied enough to pass muster – you will sometimes prefer a lower-level weapon to its superiors due to a different status effect it inflicts. Sword & Poker slowly introduces special abilities/combo moves as you beat each level. Every level consists of multiple paths through opponents leading either to the end of the level, or a boss fight.
The replay value from the previously mentioned “extra levels” is excellent and there is a pass-n-play multiplayer mode that allows you to take on your friends. Unfortunately, you cannot use pre-loaded profiles for combat, but if you were given the option to use your maxed-out character against some hapless noob, I doubt you’d have many repeat challengers.
S&P is not a graphical powerhouse, but then, it shouldn’t be. The visuals are crisp and detailed. The only possible gripe I have is that some of the monsters are re-skins of lower-level creatures. However, as the focus is on the cards themselves, skins matter very little. Indeed, re-skinned enemies are the only aspect of the game lacking the quality that oozes from everything else.
Sword & Poker is great for the casual poker player or the RPG fan. For the person who enjoys RPGs *AND* cards? Sword & Poker is your soul mate. Best of all – there’s a lite version! If it tickles your fancy, take the leap. A paltry $3.99 doesn’t come close to paying for all the hours of fun this game promises.
iTunes: Sword & Poker
This review was brought to you by TouchMyApps' secret operative Jerome Darnell.