iOS Roundup: Kard Combat, GlowFish, Pocket Academy

July 18, 2011

This week, we’re looking at a card game co-designed by the creator of Magic: The Gathering, a school sim from Kairosoft and an adorable aquatic platformer.

Kard Combat (Universal): Hothead, once on our radar largely for their work on the Penny Arcade games and, more recently, the DeathSpank titles,has taken lately to releasing lots of smaller projects on the iOS platform. Kard Combat, their latest, seems to combine Magic: The Gathering‘s element-based mechanics with Mortal Kombat’s aesthetic. By that, we mean they did exactly that. The campaign is a tower of increasingly-difficult opponents, everything is dark and bloody and full of glowing eyes, and yeah, for some reason we have a bunch of unnecessary K-for-C substitutions. Oh, and they hired Richard Garfield, Magic‘s creator, to co-design the gameplay. (We’d be impressed if he hadn’t guest-starred like this more often lately.)

The game’s a little more formulaic than Magic, though, with your entire small deck available at any point. (It’s more of a custom spell set.) What’s here is fun, but it’s a bit rough, and the derivative visuals hurt us a bit. Oh, and they do the free with in-app purchases thing. Yeah, it’s one of those.  3/5

GlowFish (iPad): MumboJumbo’s new title is an aquatic platformer that is best described as flOw meets Sonic 3D Blast. (Okay, there are probably many, many better ways to describe it.) You play as this little water creature (yeah, the guy in the icon over there), collecting these little helpless things and navigating enemies and obstacles along the way.

The controls include virtual buttons, but thankfully the team knows those don’t work very well, so they are used only occasionally to change modes or use special attacks. Most of the time you’ll be using the virtual stick, which is the new-style, smooth type that centers where you sit your finger and has just the right amount of sensitivity.  The game’s gorgeous, even by MumboJumbo standards, and the whole experience is just pleasant. Check this one out.  4/5

Pocket Academy (iPhone): We were enamored with Kairosoft’s first American release, Game Dev Story.(If you don’t have it yet, we’re making sad faces at you right now.) The followup, Hot Springs Story, took things in a more traditional sim direction with building placement and client happiness, but we loved the return to form with Android-exclusive-for-now Grand Prix Story. Pocket Academy is another take on the Hot Springs style, though it does work a little better at explaining what actions are good and what are bad.

In the game, you build up a school, teaching a small-but-growing group of students and increasing your reputation and revenue. You have to balance long-term growth with increasing your current crop of kids’ knowledge, and you have to make them socially successful as well as academically. While it has the Kairosoft charm, it still feels a bit all-over-the-place, and we prefer the more traditional work. It’s still solid, though. 3/5