Developer / Studio: Gambrinous
Publisher: Versus Evil
Genre: Indie, RPG, Card Battler, 2D
Official Site: http://cardpocalyp.se/
Release Date: Epic Game Store and Apple Store (9/19/2019), Xbox, PS4, and Nintendo Switch (12/12/2019), and Steam (2020*)
Let’s face it my fellow 90’s kids, we are getting old. Yes, we may still feel younger than our peers, but the Grim Reaper is counting the days until it can get its hands on us. For many ’80s and ’90s kids, the ’90s was a great time to be alive. Now two decades later, we are still benefiting from what the ’90s gave us. Don’t believe me? Here are just a few things that happened leading up to the 2000s: The Simpsons, Gameboy/Gamegear, The PlayStation, Nintendo 64, Pokemon, Digimon, Doom, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Films, Yu-gi-oh, and Magic the Gathering just to name a few things. Gambrinous’ Cardpocalypse sets out to remind gamers of their ’90s roots and give 2000’s babies a glimpse at what made the ’90s so great.
Cardpocalypse is an indie RPG Card Battler set in the 1990s. The game was developed by Gambrinous and published Versus Evil. Cardpocalypse was released on the Epic Game Store and Apple Store on September 19th, 2019; it later released on Xbox, PlayStation 4, and the Nintendo Switch on December 12th, 2019. The game has been announced to release on Steam sometime in 2020 but no official release date has been announced.
Cardpocalypse is the story of Jess, a paraplegic child who is the new kid at school. On the first day of school, Jess bonds with some of her classmates over Mega Mutant Power Pets (Pokemon meets Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). On her first day at Dudsdale Elementary, 10-year old Jess accidentally gets the most popular card game in school banned after a classmate fails to follow through on a bet; this creates conflict and things at school will never be the same. After Jess shoves Bruce, a weird goo shoots out covering the school.
As a punishment for the violence, the card game is banned and the children’s deck is taken. Rather than abiding by the rules, the children have created an underground card-battling club. At the end of the second day, one of Jess’s friends goes missing, creating panic within the school. The children learn of Jacob’s disappearance and things continue to get weirder when mutants from the game invade the real world’ it is up to Jess and her friends to save Jacob and the world. The game takes place over a week but a lot can happen during that time.
At the start of the Cardpocalypse, the player has the option of choosing between Campaign Mode or Gauntlet Mode. Gauntlet Mode has the player compete against random decks with the difficulty increases after each match. The player is rewarded with two new cards following each match and can get free stickers and change the rules of the game.
If you have not played the game before, we recommend starting with the Story Mode. The player has the opportunity to create three save files so going through on Story mode or Challenge mode. Story Mode allows the player to skip battles after a loss. In Story Mode, the player starts with more food making it easier to play cards. The more difficult option is Challenge Mode. In Challenge Mode, there are no bonuses and the player cannot skip any battles.
In Cardpocalypse there are five classifications of cards: Neutral, Woofians, Meowtants, Sinissers, and Pip Squeaks. Each deck must have at least one deck leader. Each deck leader has their unique abilities and a 2nd ability that triggers when the player falls to 15 health. At 15 health, the deck leader goes Mega and can swing the momentum of the game. The player starts with 30 health and 1 food. Food is the game’s equivalent to mana. Each deck is comprised of 20 cards and if the player runs out of cards to draw they take three damage.
On the first day of the game, the player starts with a deck of neutral cards. As the player completes side quests, story missions, and battles, they can obtain new cards. The player can check their trapper keeper to look at the map to see what quests are available or side missions are active. They can also see what stickers they have collected and modify their deck.
Cardpocalypse’s Deck Building
Outside of the five classifications of cards, there are two types of cards in the game: normal summons and mutations. Mutations are similar to trap cards or counterspells in Yu-Gi-Oh. For normal summons, there are 12 different card type abilities excluding cards that gain a bonus based on mutations. The 12 different card types are lethal, deploy, revenge, defender, swarm, charge, stun, morph, hiding, pacificists, ambush, and hungry. The game does not explain each type directly but by examining each card, it is easy enough to figure out.
Cards can also be obtained by trading with other characters; in those trades, the player must offer cards or candy to negotiate a deal. In these trades, the player can get stickers or rare cards. The game features three rarities of cards: Common, Rare, and Legendary. Early in the game, the player does have the opportunity to create their unique card if they complete a specific side quest. In the game, there are Challenge Battles that have different rule sets than the normal game. If the player can complete the challenges, better rewards are offered in comparison to the main game.
Change the Game in Cardpocalypse
Throughout Cardpocalypse, the player receives Stickers to modify their cards. These stickers can change the attack, health, cost, special abilities, rename the card, and change the card’s ability for each card. This is rather important as the game progresses so the player must choose wisely. Once a sticker is placed it can not come off.
During the third day, the player is introduced to the rule change option in the game. After key moments, the player must choose between three options that change how the game is played. Depending on how the player has built his deck, these options can give them an advantage, so choose wisely. The ability to choose what rules get implemented makes each person’s playthrough unique; this system makes it so the game can be replayed in a variety of ways. While playing through the game, we did notice that as the rules changed, the game’s AI took longer to make decisions; at times, this processing even caused the game to crash.
Audio/ Graphics/ References. Oh My!
Cardpocalypse may not have state of the art graphics or an orchestra composed soundtrack but it does set the mood for the game. The game’s graphics feel like they came straight out of a ’90s children’s cartoon and the cards look like they were designed by children or teenagers. The game reminds us of early South Park because of its crude humor. The game’s audio feels like it is from a’90s cartoon as well with each deck leader having their theme song and cards making noises when they attack.
The game features a lot of pop culture references from the ’90s; to avoid lawsuits, the team modified the art so that it would still pay homage to key franchises. Here are just a few of the pop culture easter eggs we found:
Peter Rabbit, Green Eggs and Ham, Where’s Waldo, Spider-Pig (Simpsons) The Cat in the Hat, Paddington Bear, The Giving Tree, Lavar Burton Reading Rainbow, Brain on Drugs associated with cards, TMNT, Toy Story, Legos, Dunce Cap, Star Wars (Space Wars), Beanie Babies, Simpsons Writing on a chalkboard, Read Yoda, Club Penguin, Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego, Quake, 90’s S, The golden Idol From Indiana Jones, Crocodile Dundee, Bob Ross, Iron Giant, Power Rangers, and Calvin & Hobbes
Verdict: When I first was introduced to Cardpocalypse at PAX East 2019, I was highly critical of the game. At the time, I was used to AAA titles and did not understand the game’s appeal. Who needs another card battle. Now over a year later, I see how foolish I was. Cardpocalpyse is not about being the best card battler out there; instead, the game aims to reunite pre Y2k gamers with a simpler time. The first day did drag on a little but as soon as the plot thickened, we were hooked. The game has a cheesy plot but it reminds you of the wacky plots of so many cartoons from that era; at the end of the day, it is a nice escape. The card game is easy to understand and offers a variety of gameplay options.
Cardpocalypse is available on the Microsoft Store for $24.99. A copy of the Xbox One version of the game was provided for review. If you are missing the ’90s, Cardpocalypse is worth picking up.
- Easy to understand card battler
- A '90s nostalgia-inducing story
- Ability to change the Rules to make gameplay different
- Fun art
- Rule changes can create unfair matches
- Changes in the game makes the AI take longer to decide on moves
- No online gameplay