I remember when Reigns first came out back in 2016 and it kind of blew everyone’s mind that someone would take the simplistic binary left/right swiping of Tinder and create an entire game around it. I mean, so many games are just a series of yes and no choices anyway, and the actual motion of swiping left or right on your phone’s screen is weirdly satisfying, so it makes a lot of sense that it all came together to create a phenomenal mobile game. But… what about up and down? Are we so cruel as to forget two of the cardinal directions!? I’m left wondering if that was the inspiration for Veralomna’s Cardara!
In Cardara! you’ll start a journey amongst a vast grid of cards all laying face down. You can swipe left or right to move to either of the cards next to you, or–finally!–you can move up or down to move to those cards too. Under the cards you’ll find all sorts of things that you might find in your typical roguelike or RPG. Chief among those are enemies, but there are also special cards that grant you unique abilities or equipment, or other types of cards that can alter the game in some way. But mostly it’s enemies. Battling is automatic, and if you move to a card and encounter an enemy you’ll take turns whacking each other until one of you has no HP left. Hopefully it’s the other guy.
The cards surrounding you are not typically revealed until you move to them, which makes Cardara! feel almost like a gigantic game of Minesweeper mixed with a roguelike. Also, like Reigns, and like many roguelike games, the end can come fiercely out of nowhere even if it seems like things are really going great for you. Dying a lot is all part of the fun, and Cardara! has a really neat ForestPass system (don’t call it a BattlePass) that gives you tons of carrots on sticks to chase after and helps you feel like even the quickest of deaths still counted for something. There’s also a massive store where you can buy all sorts of upgrades for your character, making each new run feel maybe just a bit more promising than the last.
If a not-BattlePass and in-game store sound scary to you, don’t worry, Cardara! is a paid game with no IAP. All that progression and upgrading need to be done the old-fashioned way, by actually playing the game over and over. It’s a great concept. I’m surprised that it’s taken this long for somebody to open up the Y-axis to an adventure with Reigns-like controls, and I’m equally surprised at just how compelling those additional directions can make a game like Cardara! Easily worth the few measly bucks its asking for and an absolutely perfect fit for a mobile game.