Card of Darkness is a Fun, Frustrating, and Addictive Mobile Puzzle RPG

With the release of Apple Arcade, mobile games might finally become actual games, instead of cheap cash grabs by developers. The monthly subscription price, however, only makes sense if the games included are worth your time and (more importantly) your money. Think of it like Netflix: If the movies and shows you could stream weren’t appealing, why would you continue paying for the service?

In case you didn’t know, you can start a one month free trial with Apple Arcade. Then, if you want to keep playing all the games you gain access too, of which there are literal dozens, you can pay $5 a month to continue to do so. Seeing as the games are free for a month, I thought I’d jump in, try out a handful, and see if the service was worthwhile.

The first game I played was Card of Darkness and I barely played anything else.

A randomly generated card-based sorta dungeon crawl, Card of Darkness has all the hallmarks of a Jason game: cute artstyle, ridiculous mashup of cards and any other genre, and the sort of addictive gameplay that makes you just keep coming back for more. The game starts simply enough, throwing you in with a few simple rules and enemies. Then the complex trappings show themselves, and the game is no longer fully strategic, but also based on luck. And then you realize the game isn’t squarely luck based, but rather risk-reward, skill based, and a tiny bit of luck.

And then you realize it’s 2am and you still haven’t gone to bed.

The basic premise of Card of Darkness revolves around your character clearing a path to an exit. Obstructing your goal are stacks of cards. Each stack of cards can contain any number of enemies, treasures, weapons, or spells. You won’t know what’s next unless you deal with the card on top. And you won’t know what the pile next to your face-up pile looks like until you clear said face-up pile. Oh, and if you decide to start wearing down a pile, you’re committing to completing the pile: You can’t exit a level if you’ve left any cards on a pile you’ve previously taken a card from.

Take that, mix in some light RPG elements, enemies that play with the way card stacks work, and a healthy dose of “just one more try” and you’ve got a mobile game that has it all.

Card of Darkness lends itself perfectly to long play sessions and quick bursts alike. It’s incredibly satisfying to finally overcome a level after repeated attempts. Likewise it’s damn frustrating when you’re playing the same level over and over again because your luck just doesn’t come. Seeing as the stages are all randomly generated based on a pre-determined set of possible cards, there are some rounds you literally cannot win. But getting past those, there’s a lot of fun to be had with the game.

I’m done with the game now, having spent a dozen hours with the game, overcoming the many boss battles, and discovering a new hatred for the status effect “Curse”. While playing Card of Darkness I did dabble with some other titles available in the Apple Arcade initial lineup, but found myself repeatedly coming back to this little gem. If you enjoy casual RPGs, the art style of Pendleton Ward of Adventure Time fame, and games you sometimes can’t stop playing, Card of Darkness is definitely for you.

Here’s hoping the rest of the lineup available in Apple Arcade is just as strong as this first game. Have you played Card of Darkness, or any other titles available? Which has been your favorite so far?


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– Jason J

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