There’s an awful lot of TCG-style card battling games on mobile, which makes it all the more difficult for a new one to find an audience – especially without an established licence to draw attention in the first place.
It’s refreshing that this is the approach that Cards, The Universe and Everything (CUE for short) is taking though. Rather than slapping on a licence and limiting the audience just to fans of that particular franchise, CUE instead features cards drawn from the worlds of science, nature and history. Pitting sharks against constellations or dinosaurs against Egyptian mummies sounds great in theory, but does it work in practice?
Surprisingly, it does. Though CUE is essentially a card battling game, it feels more like a tug of war; a struggle for power rather than a direct face off between characters. Players play up to three cards in a turn, paying for them using their available Energy (with unused Energy carrying over between turns). Each card has a Power rating that can be modified by other cards or the arena that the current round is taking place in; after three turns, whoever has the most Power wins. Win three rounds and it’s an overall win, with coins and experience doled out as a reward.
Simple, right? It sure is. Very easy to get into, but – as with all TCG-style games – there’s quite a bit of depth here that isn’t apparent at first. You can construct your own decks and – with tons of categories of cards, along with lots of combos to discover, there’s lots to experiment with on this side of things.
The content provided on the cards is superb, too. With lots of great photos of actual creatures, places and things in general, along with a bold, bright and appealing colour scheme, everything looks wonderful. The facts on the reverse of the cards are both educational and often very wittily written too; there’s plenty to discover and learn about, with lots of interesting nuggets of information on each card (shout out to the Sharknado bonus given by the Tornado card too).
A full game – even if you go five rounds against a particularly well-matched opponent – doesn’t outstay its welcome, but one issue I have come across is the matchmaking; particularly when you’re learning the ropes, it’s very disheartening to come up against opponents with ten times the experience – and therefore a much larger, more powerful selection of cards – and get completely annihilated. It could be that – having only launched in December – it’s yet to find a stable audience; hopefully, it’s moving in the right direction. All signs certainly point that way; we’re now a few months since it was released and more than 50,000 downloads are shown on Google’s Play Store (so this doesn’t count the iOS release’s download figures).
Another issue I had was with deck construction; it’d be great to have a lot more filters and visibility of the cards when building a deck – but with only 15 cards in a deck, it’s less of an issue than for games with larger deck sizes.
There is, of course, the spectre of in-app purchases to consider too. It’s unavoidable for a game of this nature; free to download and with a wealth of cards available, the expectation going in is that there will be booster packs and in-game currency to be purchased. It’s not too egregious, though – and I’ve managed to hold my own against most opponents without having to spend anything (yet!). That said, with the quality of the design and the thought that’s gone into the game, I don’t begrudge purchasing the odd pack here and there – it certainly doesn’t feel anywhere near predatory or manipulative, as many mobile games do. There’s a lot of opportunity to build up in-game currency through battling and daily challenges too, which will enable players to purchase packs without spending real money. Along with this, there’s a trading system so that duplicates or unwanted cards can be traded with other players, which does take some of the sting out of purchasing packs and getting duplicates.
And yes, there’s more Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy references contained in the game, aside from the title. It’s a nicely designed, well presented TCG that seems to be building up some great momentum. CUE has just the right amount of strategy to be satisfying without being overwhelming and is a great title to play on the go. Reportedly made by a very small team, CUE is an impressive achievement; I’m keen to see it evolve and build on its current success even further.
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