I have a steam library full of action packed games and a Switch that has a plethora of games with endings not seen just yet. With all of these at my fingertips, I would have never guessed that one based on solitaire would be able to capture and hold my attention for as long as Deck ‘Em does.
I walked into this experience ready to be met by a screen full of cards with no personality and a sluggish gameplay loop. Instead, I found an experience that blew my expectations out of the water and had me ready to start a new game immediately after each run.
While Deck ‘Em is based on solitaire, there is no requirement to know the card game in order to engage with this new twist on an old classic. There is a short tutorial that you are able to play through that goes over what to expect over the course of the game, as well as the effects of each card and how to win. You are given a series of four cards to work with during each round. There are champs that will do damage to your character and if your health drops down to zero then the match is over.
You have a few offensive cards that reduce the attack of the champs or shuffle them back into the deck, and some defensive cards that will either recover health or block incoming damage. When blocking, if the champ’s attack is equal to or less than the number on your blocking card, then your character takes reduced damage. As you progress through each round, you will accumulate money that acts as the score for each match. There are twelve rounds in each match, and it is up to you to determine what to do with the hand dealt to you and when. There is also the option to store a card for later use, but this might mean you have to risk taking extra damage or missing out on a moment to heal.
While the goal to survive the full twelve rounds might sound like a simple task, there is enough challenge here to keep things interesting. =I found myself falling into a fun loop that kept me coming back for more. There were some rounds where I made it through with enough health to sit back comfortably, while others left me scrambling with hardly any health attempting to get back on my feet. This usually meant I had to approach the next round with a little more caution, as well as being aware of the order in which I used each card. There were often moments where I clicked the wrong slot and had to watch my progress for the match go down the drain.
The money you earn counts as your score for that match and that’s it, there is no cash shop to spend the money on. It serves as a way to show how well you did in that match, but the interesting thing is that you are able to bet that money at the start of a new match. If you make it through all twelve rounds then your score doubles but if you lose a match, it gets reset. There were times when I had to really think about whether I wanted to risk losing my highest score just to try to do better, or if I wanted to put it on the board and start fresh. This was an interesting way to use a scoring system to encourage me to play better and more efficiently. Even when things started to get rough around rounds five and six, I was ready to strap my gloves back on and get back in the ring since I knew my score was at stake.
Since the game has such a simple set up and approach, there were hardly any moments where I found things to be overwhelming or confusing. Each time I lost a match, I was able to pinpoint where I went wrong and never felt like the game was cheating me out of a win. There was one thing that did seem inconsistent, and it pairs with the way damages works. I could not figure out what the formula was to negate damage and what caused reduced damage. There were multiple instances where the champ did less damage than the number on the block card, but I still was taking damage. I could not figure out what I was doing wrong, and this was after multiple matches as well as replaying the tutorial to see what I could have missed. This is one issue that continued to show up during each play through, so I was reminded about this inconsistency frequently.
Deck ‘Em is a game that takes pride in what it looks to accomplish. It is a small game and understands that there is no need to overcomplicate things, the tutorial does a wonderful job of explaining how to progress through each match and how the game plays. The cards used in each match have a simple illustration to help show what it does without having any complicated descriptors on them, which makes the design simple and easy to read at a glance. With a small amount of cards to utilize, there is no need to worry about memorizing a lot of information, which means gameplay is easy to grasp after a few matches. Everything that is done with this game is done in a way to make it easy to pick up and hard to put down. Matches are short and to the point, so I often found myself playing when I was trying to pass the time without getting too in-depth with something else. Overall, This is definitely a fun little game to pick up and really nails the simple card game aesthetic that it shoots for.
- Easy to pick up and play without having to play a lengthy tutorial.
- The designs of the cards are both playful and informative, with the necessary information up front, so you can make a move without having to search for more information.
- Works on the Steam deck, which makes it the perfect game to play when it’s time to kick back after a long day.
- There is only one song in the game and it can get quite repetitive
- Blocking is explained in a way that sets you up to expect one thing, but the results are not always consistent.
Xavier grew up playing classics like Final Fantasy, Legend of Zelda, and Silent Hill, so the indie scene has been full of love letters for him.
A perfect day for him includes hours of grinding out levels and exploring creepy hallways in scary games.