I was sent Deck ‘Em as a review code. While I am grateful for the opportunity, I won’t let it sway my opinions. This will be my honest review of the game.
Deck ‘Em is a boxing-themed solitaire-like card game for PC and IOS. This review will be on the Steam version.
If you enjoy playing solitaire, you are better off playing that instead. I don’t think the added boxing quirk and quirky art style are enough to make Deck ‘Em! A more meaningful experience than solitaire. While I didn’t hate the game, the RNG and gameplay loop made it grow stale quickly. I could only play this game in small bursts before losing all interest. Deck ‘Em! is a game you pick up while waiting in line and possibly never pick it up again.
The game loop is simple. At the beginning of each round, you draw four cards with varying abilities. Some will heal your characters, some will hurt them, and others will reduce the damage done to them. The goal is to survive the 52-card deck, or at least 10 rounds without dying. The problem is, sometimes the RNG can be terrible. I died a few times during the first round because I only drew high-damage cards. I like the idea of having a first-round knockout, but there is no system to get better as you play where you can achieve your own. There is no variation in the gameplay. You draw cards and try to pick the order that will get you to the next round. You can argue that solitaire suffers from similar issues, but at least the win conditions in solitaire are fairer.
You choose from three different characters, but the choice doesn’t matter. You start with the same amount of health and draw from the same deck. It would be cool if the choice were mechanical as well as cosmetic. It would be interesting if each character had its own unique deck and stats. Maybe one fighter starts with less health, but hits faster and applies poison damage. There could be a beefy character with a lot of health that hits hard but burns through his deck quickly. Changes like this wouldn’t complicate the game too much and would add some variety to the loop. It would also be interesting to go against different fighters with different abilities and stats that way you aren’t always pulling from the same deck. I don’t think RNG does enough to add variety to the game.
There could also be an exhaustion mechanic. They could work like poison counters in magic, where once you get 10, you lose. There could be characters that cause exhaustion with their attacks and abilities. Cards could also have an additional exhaustion cost that you could pay to deal more damage. For example, a card could do three damage, or you can take 1 point of exhaustion and deal six. The loop would then become one where you have to manage your health and stamina to survive the rounds.
The game has a currency mechanic that doesn’t affect the gameplay. You can win money if you last ten rounds and bet the money you win. Nothing happens when you lose it all and can’t spend the money anywhere either. It would be nice if there were a shop where players could buy characters, decks, or cosmetics. This would give players something to work towards and make the betting more meaningful. I get that the goal wasn’t to make a deck builder, but a bit of variety would have been nice.
I play a lot of card games, so my disappointment with this loop was understandable. It is a very casual experience, and a game you pick up when you have 5 minutes to kill. One thing to note is that this game crashes a lot in windowed mode, so make sure you go into the settings and make it full-screen. It wasn’t on by default for me, but turning on this setting fixed all the performance issues. It is a free app, but I still think solitaire is better. It isn’t a bad game, but it isn’t something you’ll keep coming back to unless they make some changes to the gameplay loop. You can wishlist the game on Steam or download it on IOS.