Earlier this year, the release of Marvel Trading Card Game for PC and PSP was fairly successful, but suffered from expensive digital card purchases and clunky game progression. Now, with the release of the DS port, Konami has tried to put together a simpler, more straightforward title. The team at 1st Playable Productions added in a more traditional online multiplayer that doesn’t require buying virtual packs, and a touch-screen interface that seems a natural fit for the genre.
The game is based on Upper Deck’s VS. System card game, which plays like a faster version of Magic: The Gathering. The charm lies in its use of licensed characters, specifically many versions of comic book heroes like Spiderman and the X-Men. The rules are definitely designed for real-life play, though, and come off as clunky and tedious in electronic adaptations.
Marvel TCG feels less polished than the other versions, but still captures the comic book spirit. The game controls book-style, which is an interesting design decision. On one hand, this allows for the left screen to show a large version of the current card. Sadly, this screen wastes quite a bit of space, and even simple cards require scrolling to read the rules text. The touch screen feels like a compromise between having cards large enough to touch comfortably and allowing for more cards to fit, and the result is just uncomfortable and awkward.
The single-player game is passable. Marvel‘s two campaigns, Hero and Villain, each last at least six or seven hours, and playing through them unlocks increasingly powerful cards, so it isn’t overly tedious.
All in all, Marvel Trading Card Game for the DS is a faithful adaptation of the card game. Maybe it’s too faithful, because the title would benefit from a bit more simplicity. Regardless, it’s hard to argue against leaving things the same. Mostly, though, this game suffers from high expectations. With publisher Konami experienced in making card game adaptations like Yu-Gi-Oh and developer 1st Playable fresh off making sleeper hit Puzzle Quest, this title had the potential to be great. As it is, it will leave store shelves in a month or two as quietly as it entered.