The collectible card game seen the fourth season of Adventure Time has made it into the real world, both as a physical card game and an app.
Luckily, it won't take you two hours to learn the rules.
Freshly released on iOS from Adult Swim, Card Wars — as seen in the episode of the same name — is one of those totally algebraic nods to geek culture at which the show excels.
And, given how complicated it was on-screen, it's surprisingly easy to play. Each round, you're given four lanes, which you fill with environment cards. Then, you have to place an appropriate unit in each of those environments — Corn Creatures in cornfields, for instance. Each unit has base attack and defence stats, and a special power that can be activated each turn by hitting the "Floop" button.
But you can't just deal out cards and boosts willy-nilly. Each action you take costs magic points. As you level up, you get more magic points and can take more actions per turn, or deal out higher-level cards.
Once your actions have been made, you and your AI opponent take turns attacking and defending. This is done using a spinner, with wedges for hit, miss and critical hit (or defend, fail and critical defend). You tap to stop the spinner, and where it lands determines which action you do — obviously the "critical" wedge is the smallest slice of the pie.
You can also collect cards to boost your deck, either winning them in-game, crafting them or buying them with gems. These, it needs to be noted, can be purchased for a pretty high rate — one gem is AU$0.99 — but it's certainly not necessary to buy them, and we played quite happily for some time without having to make an in-app purchase. It certainly seems to be optional, and for that price, it would want to be.
The other thing worth noting is the heart system. This is similar to the evil mechanic seen in Candy Crush Saga. Each round costs you a heart to play, and hearts take 15 minutes to regenerate. If you run out, you have to stop playing — or purchase a heart using the unusually pricey gems.
This was certainly not enough to make us stop playing, but it did make us think a little less of the game. As we have noted before, IAP should be used to give you something, not hold your game for ransom. It seems especially egregious on a game that costs AU$4.49 to download.
Nevertheless, there's a lot of fun to be had. You can unlock and play as a variety of characters from the show, with original voice acting, which is pretty fun, as is Jake taking you through the tutorials. We just wish that Cartoon Network had been a little less greedy with the IAP.