May 31, 2007

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Marvel Trading Card Game, (PC/PSP/DS)
Konami, 2007
By Glenn Given production@hippopress.com

The name says it all. Itís a card game with X-men and stuff.

The Spidey affiliated half of the Vs. system collectible card game finds a new home on PCs and portables with mixed results. The opportunity to have nearly immediate access to such a large library of cards with which to formulate the the CCGís trademark complex strategies. Players construct a deck of cards using various teams of marvel heroes and villains and go head to head laying out their card armies and KOing their opponents resources and characters. This in turn reduces the store of endurance points that each side starts with. The goal of course is to bring your opponent down to zero endurance and proclaim your nerd dominance.

In comic stores and tournaments across America the Vs. CCG has been honed into a tightly designed bout of craft and tactics. And this translates quite well to the handheld and computer. The tap and touch DS controls in particular lend themselves well to the play style. It all seems so promising. Unfortunately the Marvel Trading Card Game has a couple of big problems. The gameplay is quite complex and sadly the in game tutorials do a horrible job of preparing you for exactly what you are expected to do. In story mode you fight an increasingly difficult series of card battles against various themed decks, often with special rules in play for boss battles. Pretty standard, but the one-two combo of cataclysmically bad tutorials and manual, and punishingly hard AI difficulty will quickly disillusion your average player. A sad state of form denying function considering the craft and depth that lies beneath.

But, stick with it. There are hundreds of online resources that you can use to familiarize yourself with the intricacies of the system to compensate for Konamiís poor instruction. Once youíve bagged a few opponents and gotten the feel for the pacing youíll quickly start building a stock of cards with which you can further customize your deck. Having more options for deck building really helps get past the initial difficulty hump and makes facing online players over WiFi a tad less embarrassing. Fans of the card game will either enjoy the newfound portability of their hobby or deried the loss of half the card sets. Like I said, itís a mixed bag. If the other half of the cards were present, if the tutorial made a lick of sense or if the AI didnít dominate you so completely this would be a must have. But flawed as it is itís only a C+ ó Glenn Given